Have Russians seized NSA whistleblower? Photo of empty seat reveals fugitive Edward Snowden FAILED to board flight from Moscow to Cuba

Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden today failed to make a flight from Moscow to Cuba, sparking rumours Russia may be about to hand him over to US authorities.

The intelligence leaker was scheduled to leave aboard flight CU 6150 at 2.05pm (11.05am London time) in seat 17A, and was expected to fly on from Cuba to Ecuador where he planned to seek asylum.

But as the flight departed Sheremetyevo Airport, a photograph emerged of his empty seat after an air steward told reporters it had been given to another passenger.

It is currently unclear if Snowden was seized at the last minute by Russian authorities after the White House said it 'expects' Moscow to extradite the fugitive spy back to the United States to face espionage charges on home soil.

But there is also speculation that the 2.05pm flight had been a red-herring and that he may have slipped past reporters and authorities to board a second plane.

It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be 'deeply troubling' if Russia or Hong Kong had adequate notice about Edward Snowden's plans to flee to a country that will grant him asylum and still allowed him leave.

'I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important,' he added.

His words were echoed by a State Department official in Washington who today urged all Western nations not to harbour the fugitive in a veiled warning to any country who fails to comply.

'The United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries in the Western Hemisphere through which Snowden might transit or that could serve as final destinations,' he said. 'The U.S. is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States.'

The FSB was earlier said to have ignored the request with sources saying it had no reason to arrest Snowden and that he was treated as an 'ordinary' transit passenger.

Ahead of the flight he was said to be in a VIP lounge at Sheremetyevo Airport having been accompanied there by British activist, Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks spokesman and former girlfriend of Assange.

There was speculation he is using a temporary Ecuadorian travel document after his US passport was annulled.

The flight was due to leave from the airport's Terminal D, and is due into Havana at 18.45 tonight.

'The Ecuador authorities could supply him with refugee documents or even grant him citizenship by issuing a passport or a special note,' said a Russian security source.

The Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patin Aroca is expected to gave a press conference at 1pm London time in Hanoi where he is on a diplomatic visit.

He is due to address the issue of Snowden's dipomatic status, and said earlier: 'We will make a decision... we are analysing it.'

The Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow declined to give any details.

'We make no comments and plan no official events on this issue', said a source.

Snowden was reported to have spent last night in an airside hotel at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, where he was met by the Ecuadorian Ambassador to Russia Patricio Alberto Chavez Zavala.

It was after 2am that the envoy left the airport refusing to answer questions.

Earlier there had been unconfirmed reports that Snowden had slipped quietly into central Moscow for the night in a move aided by the FSB secret service.

Reporters saw evidence of an FSB presence at the airport when Snowdwn's flight arrived from Hong Kong late on Sunday afternoon.

Moscow reports said the FSB had no reason to arrest Snowden and he was treated as an 'ordinary' transit passenger who spent the night in a basic 'capsule hotel' costing £40 to £72 per four hour stay

Many of the 'capsule rooms' are windowless.

He was is not on Interpol's wanted list and 'has not committed any crimes in Russia,' said a Russian source.

Last year Miss Harrison was forced to pay £3,500 to the courts after she had put up £5,000 as one of the people who provided sureties for Mr Assange’s bail conditions.

A WikiLeaks statement said yesterday: ‘Miss Harrison has courageously assisted Mr Snowden with his lawful departure from Hong Kong and is accompanying Mr Snowden on his passage to safety.’

Snowden has been charged with espionage after exposing Prism – a covert project run by US intelligence that snoops on Facebook accounts, emails and phone calls.

He has also detailed a massive electronic eavesdropping operation by Britain’s GCHQ called Operation Tempora. Snowden described it as ‘the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history’.

The US had made a formal request to the Hong Kong government for a provisional arrest warrant to stop him leaving the territory.

But relations cooled after Snowden claimed the US had hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies to access millions of text messages. Beijing said it was ‘gravely concerned’ about the allegations.

In a statement yesterday, the Hong Kong government said Snowden boarded a plane at Chep Lap Kok airport ‘on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel’.

It said documentation provided by America for the arrest warrant did not ‘fully comply’ with Hong Kong law.

Clearly irritated, the Hong Kong government also demanded ‘clarification’ on hacking saying it would ‘follow up on the matter’ to protect the legal rights of its citizens.

In the US, security chiefs were bewildered at how Snowden had been allowed to leave the Chinese- run territory because his passport had been revoked on Saturday.Keith Alexander, head of the US National Security Agency said: ‘This is an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent.

‘What Snowden has revealed has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies.’

Democratic senator Charles Schumer believes Russian President Vladimir Putin approved Snowden’s flight to Moscow.

He said: ‘Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States – whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden.’

He also suggested China may have had a role to play in Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong.
He added: ‘It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Downing Street this morning declined to comment on whether a plane carrying Mr Snowden would be allowed through UK airspace and said that the question of whether he has breached any laws was a matter for the US legal system.

David Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister believes that GCHQ is operating within 'a clear and robust framework'.

'GCHQ absolutely operates within the law,' said the spokesman. 'It is very important that it has operated and continues to operate within the law.'

The spokesman said that the questions surrounding proposed legislation on communications data - branded a 'snooper's charter' by critics - remained unchanged since the Queen's Speech last month.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg prevented the inclusion in the Speech of a bill to require internet companies to keep records of email and social media contacts and allow security services access to the data, but Home Secretary Theresa May has been pressing for the legislation to be revived in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Mr Cameron's spokesman said: 'It is very important that we enable the police and other agencies to stay up to date with technological developments.

'The Government is considering how best that is done and it will set out its position in due course.'

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