NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Asks Ecuador For Asylum

Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has arrived in Moscow - and appears to be heading to Ecuador.

The South American country announced it had received an asylum request from the former data analyst.

An Ecuadorian ministerial car was waiting at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport as well as a significant number of journalists trying to get a glimpse of Snowden.

He managed to avoid the crowds and is believed to be holed up in a hotel nearby.

Wikileaks claimed to be helping with the asylum request as he left Hong Kong.

The organisation said it was helping Snowden escape to "a democratic nation" and released the following statement:

Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.

Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.

Former Spanish Judge Mr Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Julian Assange has made the following statement:

"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people".

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been in self-imposed exile within Ecuador's London mission for almost a year in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden - where he faces accusations of of rape and sexual assault.

He recently said he would be prepared to stay for up to five.

Snowden, who is wanted by the United States after leaking details of the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance activities, had been living in a hotel in Hong Kong as Washington filed extradition papers to attempt to have him flown to the United States.

As his Aeroflot flight touched down in Moscow just after 1pm UK time, Reuters and Russian news agencies reported that his final destination would be Venezuela with a stopover in Cuba.

It was also claimed that Snowden would have to stay overnight in the airport as he does not have a Russian visa.