Bolivian President Evo Morales landed in his country late on Wednesday, railing against the U.S., after his flight from Moscow was diverted and forced to make an unscheduled stop in Austria, on Tuesday evening, over suspicion that Edward Snowden was on board the presidential plane.
Morales touched down at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, the seat of the Bolivian government, where he was greeted by a cheering crowd, including his cabinet.
“Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us,” Morales told supporters at the airport, CNN reported. “European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans.”
“I feel that it's an open provocation,” Morales said. “What I want to say is that they will never intimidate us ... because we have dignity and we are sovereign.”
Russia, on Thursday, condemned France, Spain and Portugal for diverting Morales’ flight, saying it can “hardly be viewed as a friendly step toward Bolivia or Russia,” in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.
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Morales’ plane, which was forced to land in Vienna after Portugal and France suspended the plane’s permit to fly through their airspace, was searched by Austrian authorities to confirm Snowden was not on board, before it resumed its flight to Bolivia through Spain’s airspace.
Earlier on Wednesday, Bolivia alleged that the U.S. was trying to "kidnap" Morales, adding that it has submitted a formal complaint to the U.N. over the incident, and would examine other legal avenues to prove that international law was violated in the way Morales was treated.
Bolivia’s ambassador to the U.N., Sacha Llorenti Soliz, said: “We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House. By no means should a diplomatic plane with the president be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country," Reuters reported.
The White House has not commented on Bolivia’s allegations, while the U.N. said in a statement that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was aware of Bolivia’s concerns and had called on the countries involved in the row to resolve it through discussion.
The U.S. has warned foreign governments against letting Snowden inside their territory, saying such a move could severely strain relations with the U.S. The U.S. embassy in La Paz said, late on Wednesday, that its Independence Day celebration on Thursday had been postponed.
Snowden, meanwhile, is believed to be marooned in the transit lounge of an airport in Moscow, since reaching there on June 23 on a flight from Hong Kong, with the help of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who arranged a travel pass for Snowden from Ecuador.