LONDON Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong and is heading for an unnamed "democratic nation" via Moscow, WikiLeaks said on Sunday.
The anti-secrecy group said Snowden had asked it for "legal expertise and experience to secure his safety" after the United States sought his extradition to face charges relating to his unauthorized release of secret details about U.S. surveillance programs.
WikiLeaks said Snowden had left Hong Kong legally and was heading for an unnamed country, using a safe route "for the purposes of asylum".
He is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks, the group said in a statement. He is due to land in Moscow later on Sunday, it added in an update on Twitter.
"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person," former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for the group's founder Julian Assange, said in a statement.
"What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people."
Assange, who has spent a year in Ecuador's London embassy resisting attempts by Sweden to pursue sexual assault allegations against him, was not immediately available for comment, his spokesman said.
He says he does not want to answer the allegations in person because he believes Sweden would hand him over to the U.S. authorities, who would try him for helping facilitate one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Alison Williams)