US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Wednesday failed to emerge from his month-long stay in a Moscow airport transit zone, despite expectations he had finally received permission from the authorities to enter Russia.
Hordes of media descended on Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after reports that Snowden, who has applied for asylum in Russia, had received the document allowing him to formally cross the Russian border.
But pro-Kremlin lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who has been helping the American fugitive with his asylum request and met Snowden today, appeared before the press without the world's most famous fugitive.
"As of today, this document (allowing him to leave) has not yet been given (to him)," Kucherena told reporters.
"This is the first such situation in Russia," the lawyer said, explaining the long-drawn-out legal process.
The confusion comes at a sensitive time for Moscow's relations with Washington, which wants to prosecute the former National Security Agency (NSA) employee on espionage charges for revealing a vast spying programme.
The White House said after Kucherena's comments that it wanted "clarity" on Snowden's status.
"No one has refused Edward anything but unfortunately the situation that has developed is really not standard for Russia," said Kucherena.
"You need to take into consideration our bureaucracy," he said, adding that the state migration service confirmed to Kucherena that the documents were "under consideration."
"He is here, he lives here. He is here at the transit zone," he said, adding that the question of when Snowden would leave the airport was so far "undecided".
Last week Snowden had applied for temporary asylum in Russia and was set this week to receive a document allowing him to formally cross the border while his asylum request was being processed.
Earlier in the day, all three Russian news agencies said that Snowden was set today to receive a document that would allow him to leave the transit zone where he has been marooned since arriving from Hong Kong as a transit passenger on June 23.
There was no explanation for why the plan appeared to have been thwarted at the last minute.