A former US spy agency contractor sought by Washington on espionage charges appeared on Wednesday to be still in hiding at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and the national airline said he was not booked on any of its flights over the next three days.
Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of secret US government surveillance programmes, then flew on to Moscow on Sunday, evading a US extradition request. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he was in the transit area of the airport and he had no intention of handing him to Washington.
"They are not flying today and not over the next three days," an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out on Wednesday.
"They are not in the system." Snowden has not been seen in public but Russian officials say he is at the airport, awaiting a response to an appeal for asylum in Ecuador. The logical route to be taken - and one for which he at one point had a reservation - would be an Aeroflot flight via Havana.
The choice of alternative flights, while the United States presses other countries not to take him in or to arrest him on arrival, would be limited. Putin denied Snowden was being interviewed by Russian intelligence and said any US accusations that Moscow was aiding him as "ravings and rubbish".
That prompted a new extradition demand by Washington, which said there was a "clear legal basis" to do so.
The row threatens to further fray ties between the United States and Russia, which have argued over human rights and Putin's treatment of opponents in a year-old third term and have squared off over Syria conflict in the UN Security Council.
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Writing by Steve Gutterman)