* Russia defies calls to send Snowden to United States
* Snowden not seen on Moscow-Havana flight
* Ecuador says Snowden has requested asylum there
(Adds Ecuador's foreign minister, U.S. Secretary of State)
By Lidia Kelly and Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW, June 24 Former U.S. spy agency
contractor Edward Snowden's whereabouts were a mystery on Monday
as Russia defied White House pressure to send him back to the
United States and stop him fleeing Moscow on his globe-crossing
escape from U.S. prosecution.
Snowden, whose exposure of secret U.S. government
surveillance raised questions about intrusions into private
lives, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday after Washington
had asked the Chinese territory to arrest him on espionage
The 30-year-old flew to Moscow as a transit stop before
heading elsewhere, several sources said. But reports that he
would fly to Cuba were put in doubt when witnesses could not see
him on the plane, despite heightened security before take-off.
Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of the WikiLeaks
anti-secrecy group, Julian Assange, said it was considering
Snowden's request for asylum and that human rights were it main
concern. There are no direct commercial flights to Quito from
"He didn't take the flight (to Havana)," a source at
Russia's national airline Aeroflot told Reuters.
As speculation grew about where he would go next - Ecuador,
Venezuela or Cuba at a later date to escape the crowd of
journalists aboard Monday's flight to Havana - Washington was
stung by Russian defiance.
Snowden's flight to Russia, which like China challenges U.S.
dominance of global diplomacy, is an embarrassment to President
Barack Obama who has tried to "reset" ties with Moscow and build
a partnership with Beijing.
The White House said it expected the Russian government to
send Snowden back to the United States and lodged "strong
objections" to Hong Kong and China for letting him go.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to
India that it would be "deeply troubling" if Moscow defied the
United States over Snowden, and said the fugitive "places
himself above the law, having betrayed his country".
But the Russian government ignored the appeal and President
Vladimir Putin's press secretary denied any knowledge of
Asked if Snowden had spoken to the Russian authorities,
Peskov said: "Overall, we have no information about him."
He declined comment on the expulsion request but other
Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to cooperate
with Washington, after it passed legislation to impose visa bans
and asset freezes on Russians accused of violating human rights.
"Why should the United States expect restraint and
understanding from Russia?" said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the
foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament.
Putin has missed few chances to champion public figures who
challenge Western governments and to portray Washington as an
overzealous global policeman. But Russian leaders have not
paraded Snowden before cameras or trumpeted his arrival.
Since leaving Hong Kong, where he feared arrest and
extradition, Snowden has been searching for a country that can
guarantee his security.
Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said during a
trip to Vietnam that Quito would take into account a U.S.
request about Snowden and is in "respectful" contact with Russia
about him. He gave no details of the U.S. request.
"We will consider the position of the U.S. government and we
will take a decision in due course in line with the (Ecuadorean)
constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty,"
Patino told a news conference in Hanoi.
A source at Aeroflot said on Sunday Snowden was booked on
the flight due to depart for Havana on Monday at 2:05 p.m. (1005
GMT). But a correspondent aboard could not see him and the seat
he was supposed to occupy, 17A, was taken by another passenger.
It was not immediately clear whether the plane had a crew
section where Snowden might have been concealed.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Putin had probably known
about and approved Snowden's flight to Russia, and saw "the hand
of Beijing" in Hong Kong's decision to let Snowden leave.
But taking the higher ground after being accused of hacking
computers abroad, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed "grave
concern" over Snowden's allegations that the United States had
hacked computers in China. It said it had taken up the issue
Some Russians have praised Snowden's revelations. Others
fear a new chill in relations with the United States.
"We are a pretty stubborn country and so is the United
States. Both are mighty countries, so I would say this has a
good potential to turn into a big fuss in bilateral relations,"
said Ina Sosna, manager of a Moscow cleaning company.
"I guess it would be best if they just let him move on from
Russia to avoid any more controversy over him being here."
Snowden was assisted in his escape from Hong Kong by
WikiLeaks, whose founder Assange said he had helped to arrange
documents from Ecuador. WikiLeaks said diplomats and Sarah
Harrison, a legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group,
Ecuador, like Cuba and Venezuela, is a member of the ALBA
bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that
pride themselves on their "anti-imperialist" credentials. The
Quito government has been sheltering Assange at its London
embassy for the past year.
Snowden, who had worked at a U.S. National Security Agency
facility in Hawaii, had been hiding in Hong Kong, a former
British colony that returned to China in 1997, since leaking
details about secret U.S. surveillance programmes to news media.
He has been charged with theft of federal government
property, unauthorised communication of national defence
information and wilful communication of classified
communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, with the
latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Alexei
Anishchuk in Moscow, Martin Petty in Hanoi, Sui-Lee Weein in
Beijing,; Andrew Cawthorne, Mario Naranjo and Daniel Wallis in
Caracas, Alexandra Valencia in Quito and Mark Felsenthal, Paul
Eckert and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Timothy
Heritage and Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Mark Heinrich and David