Sergei Lavrov’s comments about fugitive US whistleblower deepen mystery surrounding his whereabouts
Russia’s foreign minister has said the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden never crossed the border into Russia, deepening the mystery over his suspected flight from Hong Kong.
“I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world,” Sergei Lavrov said.
In the last few days the word ‘treason’ has been mentioned. We have to ask who has betrayed whom?
“He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media,” he said during a joint press conference with Algeria’s foreign minister. “He did not cross the Russian border.”
According to WikiLeaks, which said it facilitated his travel, Snowden fled Hong Kong on Sunday morning to transit via Moscow to an undisclosed third country. He has applied to be granted political asylum by Ecuador, whose London embassy is currently sheltering the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Russian news agencies, citing anonymous sources, reported that Snowden had arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening and met Ecuadorean diplomats at Sheremetyevo airport while awaiting a Monday afternoon flight to Havana, from where he would travel to Venezuela. Snowden did not show up for the flight.
Passengers arriving on the Hong Kong to Moscow flight that was suspected to be carrying Snowden said they saw police activity and at least one black car drive up to the plane before they were allowed to disembark.
That fueled speculation that Snowden may have been whisked from the plane before going through passport control. Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman with links to WikiLeaks, told Reuters last week that he had readied a private jet to aid Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong should the Icelandic government grant him asylum.
The US has warned Russia and China against helping Snowden as it seeks his extradition to face charges of espionage for gathering and disclosing documents outlining US surveillance programs.
The White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that the US was working under the assumption that Snowden was in Russia.
Lavrov lashed out angrily at suggestions that Russia was involved. “We consider the attempts we are now seeing to blame the Russian side for breaking US laws and being almost in on the plot totally baseless and unacceptable, and even an attempt to threaten us,” he said.