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Fugitive Edward Snowden still at Moscow airport, says Russia's Putin

Edward Snowden is still inside the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday – the first official word on the fugitive's whereabouts in more than two days.

Putin said Russia has nothing to do with Snowden's plans, and appeared to pour cold water on demands from Washington to hand him over to U.S. prosecutors.

"As regards handing him in - we can hand over foreign nationals only to a country with which we have an agreement about handing over criminals," Putin told reporters at a press conference in Finland. "We do not have such an agreement with the United States."

Russia and the United States have cooperated on similar exchanges in the past, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at a briefing on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. has handed over “hundreds” of people in similar cases.

Confirmation of Snowden's location added to speculation that Snowden is seeking permission to fly to Cuba then onward to another country – most likely Ecuador, to which he has already applied for political asylum.

Meanwhile, he remains beyond the reach of American efforts to extradite him - placing a strain on U.S. relations with Russia, Ecuador, and China, where irate officials have denied they assisted his escape from Hong Kong on Sunday.

No one had bought a ticket under Snowden’s name for a daily Aeroflot airlines flight from Moscow to Havana on Tuesday, airline employees told NBC News before the plane took off. The next flight to the island nation 90 miles from the U.S.  is scheduled to leave on Thursday.

The 30-year-old former employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton was expected to be aboard a flight from Russia to Cuba on Monday amid speculation that he would stop there en route to Ecuador. The plane eventually left the airport full of journalists, but with no sign of Snowden.

Secretary of State Kerry earlier called on authorities in Russia to “do the right thing” and prevent Snowden from leaving Moscow.

“I’m not going to get in to the details of what I think is going on, but we hope that the Russians will do the right thing,” Kerry told NBC News in New Delhi, India, on Monday. “We think it is very important in terms of our relationship. We think it is very important in terms of rule of law. There are important standards.”

Asked whether he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama said on Monday that the U.S. government is “following all appropriate legal channels and working with all countries to ensure the rule of law is being followed.”

A former CIA and FBI official told the TODAY show on Tuesday that Russian officials have likely already spoken with Snowden, much as U.S. intelligence officials would if they found themselves in a similar situation.

“The likelihood that there’s either been no conversation with him or they haven’t downloaded stuff from his electronic gear is about zero,” former CIA director of counterterrorism Philip Mudd said.

Authorities in China have also pushed back against claims from Washington that they let Snowden slip through their fingers after the U.S. requested his extradition.

“The U.S. has no reason to call into question the Hong Kong government’s handling of affairs according to law,” China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying said at a briefing, according to Reuters. “The United States’ criticism of China’s central government is baseless. China absolutely cannot accept it.”

Sources familiar with the case have told NBC News that Snowden’s passport has been revoked – a move that would be standard procedure, a State Department spokeswoman said.

“As is routine and consistent with U.S. regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to have their passports revoked. Such a revocations does not affect citizenship status,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States. Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Mr. Snowden’s passport specifically,” the spokeswoman said.

The government in Hong Kong said in its statement that extradition documents presented by the U.S. did not satisfy the requirements set by the law in Hong Kong, and that Snowden left the country “through a lawful and normal channel.”

In an interview with Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post, Snowden said that he had taken his job with defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton so that he collect information on secret data-gathering programs conducted by the NSA. NBC News could not independently verify the report.

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA had hacked,” Snowden reportedly said in his interview with the paper. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

Snowden, who was fired from his job at the defense contractor, told the Post he collected documents showing U.S. hacking into computer systems in mainland China, and that he did not want to release all the documents he had gathered at once.

“I did not release them earlier because I don’t want to simply dump huge amounts of documents without regard to their content,” Snowden told the Post. “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists.”

Ecuador, which has provided refuge to Assange at its embassy in London, said on Monday that it was reviewing a request for asylum from Snowden. Foreign minister Ricardo Patino told reporters on Monday that Ecuador had been in “respectful” contact with Russia over the issue.

NBC News’ Jim Maceda and Ed Flanagan contributed to this report.


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