MOSCOW A senior member of the Russian parliament said Saturday that political asylum in Venezuela would be "the best solution" for Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who is on the run from U.S. authorities.
The comments by Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee of the state Duma, the lower house of parliament, came just a few hours after Venezuela and Nicaragua extended the first firm offers of asylum to Snowden, who has been holed up at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for nearly two weeks, and they seemed to reflect the Kremlin's increasing desire to be rid of him.
"Sanctuary for Snowden in Venezuela would be the best solution," Pushkov posted on Twitter. "The country has a sharp conflict with the United States. It will not be worse. And he can't live in Sheremetyevo."
In fact, the United States and Venezuela recently began talks toward reconciliation, progress that a senior Obama administration official said Saturday would end if Venezuela sheltered Snowden, as President Nicolás Maduro said he would, or facilitated his journey. The official cautioned other nations in Latin America, hinting that relations would worsen if they assisted Snowden.
Pushkov's comments typically echo the Kremlin's line and underscored a crucial point: Russia still has no intention of turning Snowden over to the United States or impeding his travel to any country willing to shelter him.
Still, even as the asylum offers from Venezuela and Nicaragua suggested that Snowden's sojourn in Russia might be nearing its end, getting to his final destination will not be easy.
The easiest route to Latin America from Moscow would take Snowden first to Havana, where he could then connect to direct flights either to Venezuela or Nicaragua.
But if he purchases a ticket for a regularly scheduled flight on Aeroflot, the Russian carrier, which Putin has said Snowden is free to do, would the United States go so far as to force down a commercial jetliner once it crosses into U.S. airspace, which is part of its normal flight path?
And even if the Americans are loath to force down a passenger jet, would Cuba, given a mild thaw in its United States relations, let Snowden pass through Havana?
If Snowden and his supporters try to arrange for a private jet, could his benefactors afford one big enough to make the nearly 16-hour flight without refueling, to avoid stopping in a country that would be likely to seize him at the request of the United States?
And if a private or government plane is sent to pick him up, would it face the same airspace restrictions that forced the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales to land in Vienna on his way home from Moscow last week?
Morales, still fuming over the diversion of his aircraft, said Saturday that Bolivia would also grant Snowden asylum "if he asked for it." Morales, whose openness to sheltering Snowden apparently led to the false conclusion that he had smuggled Snowden onto his airplane, said the decision on asylum was now intended as retaliation.
"As a fair protest" against the United States and Europe, "we are going to give him asylum if he asks us for it," Morales said in a Bolivian village, according to local media.