Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow

The NSA whistleblower flew out of Hong Kong two days after the US charged him with espionage.

Edward Snowden on the cover of the South China Morning Post. Photograph: Getty Images

Edward Snowden, who identified himself as the source of leaks about US surveillance programmes earlier this month, has left a safe house in Hong Kong and take a commercial flight to Moscow. Two days ago, the US charged him with espionage.

The Hong Kong government has confirmed that he had left of his own free will. The full statement:

The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR [Hong Kong special administrative region] Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr Snowden's departure.

Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.

According to the South China Morning Post, Snowden took a flight to Moscow, although that is not his final destination. There is speculation that he intends to seek asylum in Ecuador or Iceland.