MOSCOW — Moscow's main airport swarmed with journalists from around the globe Wednesday, but the man they were looking for, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, was nowhere to be seen.
The mystery of his whereabouts only deepened a day after President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden was in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport.
There were ordinary scenes of duty free shopping and snoozing travelers, but no trace of America's most famous fugitive. If Putin's statement is true, it means that Snowden has lived a life of airport limbo since his weekend flight from Hong Kong, especially with his American passport now revoked by U.S. authorities.
Adding to the uncertainty, Ecuador's foreign minister said it could take up to two months to decide whether to grant asylum to Snowden and the Latin American nation would take into consideration its relations with the U.S. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino compared Snowden's case to that of Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
"It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time," Patino told reporters during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, later in the day he said on Twitter that the decision could happen "in a day, a week, or, as happened with Assange, it could take two months."
Just four years before Snowden set off an international firestorm, someone using his screen name expressed outrage at government officials who leaked information to the news media, according to chat logs made public Wednesday by the technology news website Ars Technica.
"They're just like WikiLeaks," Snowden — or someone identified as him from his screen name and other details — wrote in January 2009 about an article in the New York Times on secret exchanges between Israel and the United States about Iran's nuclear program.
"They're reporting classified" material, he wrote. "Those people should be shot" in their private parts.
Joe Mullin, the technology policy editor at Ars Technica, based in San Francisco, said the chat logs suggested that Snowden "really had a change of heart" about the national security arena and the ethics of leaks. "There's no evidence in these logs that he's thinking about leaking something himself," he said.