A member of the Russia Duma tweeted out what appeared to be a big scoop about fugitive leaker Edward Snowden, and set off a flurry of news alerts that turned out to be naught. The tweet came from Aleksey Pushkov, a member of the Russian Duma and chairman of its Committee on Foreign Affairs (who is also considered a pro-Kremlin insider.) He "announced" that Snowden had accepted an offer from asylum from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, potentially launching a new round of international incidents in this long-running saga.
Here's what he said (translations via RT.com):
"Predictably, Snowden has agreed to Maduro’s offer of political asylum. Apparently, this option appeared most reliable to Snowden"
Shortly, thereafter, Pushkov deleted that tweet, leaving the whole internet in an anxious limbo, waiting for an explanation. Finally, he responded with this clarification.
"Info that #Snowden accepted Maduro's asylum offer came from "Vesti-24" newscast. Address your questions to them."
In other words, this Kremlin insider was just repeating something he saw on the news. Perhaps we could forgive him, since Pushkov is also a TV host himself, but it sounds like he maybe didn't even do that part right.
The Vesti-24 report @Alexey_Pushkov referred to was citing Monday Maduro statement. Maduro only said they'd received official asylum letter— Courtney Weaver (@courtneymoscow) July 9, 2013
So we're right back where we started, only with the likes of the Associated Press to AFP carefully walking back their hastily assembled stories. None of which addresses wether Snowden can actually "accept" something that he had to beg for in the first place. (It's not like he has a ton of option to pick from at the moment.) And even if he does take up Maduro on his offer, he's still stuck in Moscow's airport with no obvious way to leave the country or get to the other side of the world without getting caught. His last flight to Cuba had a dozen international reporters on board and he didn't even get on it.
So even the Russian MP had the scoop (which he didn't) it wouldn't have really changed anything, other than putting everyone on high alert for the Great Escape we've been waiting for, for weeks, and could still come at any moment. Everyone back to your stations.
Pushkov tweet and delete is a clever ploy to make all the journalists camped out in Sheremetyevo look at their phones while Snowden runs out— Matt Peterson (@mattbpete) July 9, 2013
Update 3:04 p.m.: Wikileaks began tweeting about the Snowden confusion later this afternoon. According to them, Snowden hasn't officially accepted an asylum offer from anywhere yet so calm down:
Edward #Snowden has not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela. The Russian law maker concerned has deleted the tweet.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 9, 2013
The states concerned will make the announcement if and when the appropriate time comes. The announcement will then be confirmed by us.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 9, 2013
And also, that the U.S. continues to do some prep work on their inevitable efforts to extradite him from wherever he ends up:
We can confirm that a US extradition request for Mr. Snowden has been served on Iceland. #snowden— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 9, 2013