MOSCOW, June 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russia said on Tuesday that Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee wanted by the US for leaking state secrets, had not crossed the Russian border.
Snowden, who leaked details of a US surveillance program to newspapers in the US and UK earlier this month, was widely reported to have flown from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday, from where he was expected to fly – via Cuba – to Ecuador, where he has requested asylum.
“I want to say right away that we have nothing to do with Snowden, or with his attitude to the American legal system, or with his movements around the world. He chose his own route, and we found out about it – like most people here – from the media,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference.
“He did not cross the Russian border,” the foreign minister said.
Snowden, accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a representative of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, was being kept out of public view at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport transit area, according to an airport source who spoke to RIA Novosti on Monday after Snowden failed to get on a Cuba-bound plane that he had reportedly been checked in for. Staying in the transit zone of an airport would not constitute crossing the country’s border.
There has, as yet, been no confirmed sighting of Snowden in Moscow.
Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow considered "attempts to accuse Russia of breaking US laws and practically of being part of a conspiracy – and accompanied by threats directed at us – as totally unfounded and unacceptable."
His comments came in response to a warning made on Monday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Russia and China’s relations with the US would be damaged if it emerged that they had ignored extradition requests for Snowden.
Kerry said Snowden had betrayed his country and has to face the consequences, and it would be "very disappointing" if China and Russia had known about his plans to fly from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday.
China also rejected Kerry’s warning on Tuesday, saying that the US’s criticism of Hong Kong and Beijing over the affair was unfounded, inappropriate and unacceptable.
A White House spokesman said on Monday that Washington believes that Snowden remains in Russia, and called on Moscow to assess “the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.”
A Belarusian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman on Tuesday denied media speculation that Snowden had applied for political asylum there.
Updated at 3:00 pm with details of Lavrov and Kerry remarks