WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after his failure to avoid extradition to face sex crime allegations.
The 40-year-old Australian went to the building in Knightsbridge on Tuesday afternoon and requested asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.
The South American country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said it was considering his request.
In a short statement, Mr Assange said: "I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito.
"I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for
considering my application."
The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after losing several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters, including film director Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety.
The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and
sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a
visit to give a lecture.
Mr Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.
He has until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the basis that he has not had a fair hearing from the UK courts.
A statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Mr Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.
"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito," it said.
"The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."
The Foreign Office said: "As Mr Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy, he is on diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the British police.
"We will seek to work with the Ecuadorian authorities to resolve the situation as soon as possible."
At a news conference in Ecuador, Mr Patino said that Mr Assange had written to the country's president, Rafael Correa, saying he was being persecuted and seeking asylum.