Edward Snowden is following in the footsteps of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and seeking asylum in Ecuador.

WikiLeaks said the former National Security Agency contractor, who is wanted by the United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs, is heading to Latin America.

In a statement issued Sunday, the anti-secrecy group, which says it is giving Snowden legal assistance, said he is "bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks."

Ricardo Patino, the country's foreign minister, said on his Twitter account that his government has received a request for asylum from Snowden.

Snowden was believed to have landed in Russia on Sunday after being allowed to leave Hong Kong.

A U.S. official said Snowden's passport was annulled before he left China. Snowden's travel plans could be complicated — but not thwarted — by a lack of passport. The U.S. official said that if a senior official in a country or airline ordered it, a country could overlook the withdrawn passport.

He was on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday and was booked on a flight to fly to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials.

Snowden did not leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with the other passengers and was not seen by a crowd of journalists waiting in the arrivals lounge. Interfax reported that he was spending the night in the transit zone of the airport because he did not have a visa to enter Russia and had rented a room in a capsule hotel.

For several weeks Snowden had been in hiding in Hong Kong after he revealed information on the highly classified spy programs. 

The White House said President Barack Obama has been briefed on Sunday's developments by his national security advisers.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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