Edward Snowden (The Guardian via Getty Images)
Anna Arutunyan, USA TODAY
MOSCOW - Time may be running out for U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden to get out of Russia.
The former National Security Agency contractor has been holed up in the transit area of Moscow airport since Sunday, but Snowden may only have been given a Russian transit visa valid for three days, RIA Novosti cited a source close to the case as saying on Wednesday.
"Transit passengers who have a ticket for a connecting flight and documents necessary to enter a third country can get a Russian transit visa," the source was quoted as saying. "If Snowden has these documents, then he has the right to apply for a transit visa right in the airport, in the consular point, and could well have done that."
RIA Novosti reported that Snowden had booked two tickets for flights from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, on June 24 and 25, but did not board either flights. If he has not been able to extend his transit visa - assuming he has one, and that it is valid for three days - it may be about to expire.
It is not immediately clear what his legal travel status would be were his transit visa to expire. The U.S. has already revoked his passport and wants Russia to honor an extradition request.
On Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that Snowden had been given a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadorean government. Ecuador has confirmed that Snowden applied for asylum in the Latin American country.
"Cancelling Snowden's passport and bullying intermediary countries may keep Snowden permanently in Russia. Not the brightest bunch at State," WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed late Tuesday.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Snowden was in an airport transit zone at Sheremetyevo International Airport. "It is true that Mr Snowden arrived in Moscow, which was completely unexpected for us. He came as a transit passenger, so he didn't need a visa or other documents. As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a plane ticket and go wherever he wants," Putin said in Finland on Tuesday evening.
But even if Snowden doesn't have a visa, he could theoretically leave the country by paying a small fine, RIA Novosti quoted a Russian border guard as saying. According to Russia's Administrative Code, if a transit passenger's paperwork does not conform to Russian regulations, he faces a fine of about $30.