Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov found it necessary to explain the situation surrounding fugitive former U.S. intelligence officer Edward Snowden, who on Sunday arrived at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport from Hong Kong and soon disappeared from sight. The former agent of the U.S. National Security Agency did not cross the Russian border, the head of the Foreign Ministry said. Therefore, official Moscow has nothing to do with either Snowden or his movement around the world, Interfax quoted Lavrov.
According to unofficial data, the elusive American still remains in the transit area of the Moscow airport, and Russian security forces think about his detention. Sergey Lavrov, however, has not said anything on the subject. He only responded to criticism from overseas.
"We consider the attempts to accuse Russia of violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy, which on top of all that are accompanied by threats, as absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable," Mr. Lavrov said in Moscow. "There are no legal grounds for such conduct of U.S. officials," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow. According to the Russian minister, Snowden chose his route himself, and the Russian administration learned about the story from news agencies. "There are no legal grounds for such behavior of American officials," said the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In the United States, criticism in connection with Snowden's escape sounded not only against Russia, but also against China and Hong Kong, from where the former U.S. intelligence officer boarded an Aeroflot flight to Moscow's Sheremetyevo.
However, Beijing, like Moscow, has denied any involvement in the escape of Snowden, who managed to fly halfway around the world without getting caught by American intelligence agencies. "The U.S., without sufficient reasons, cast doubts on the legitimacy of the administration of Hong Kong. Accusations against the central government of China are also groundless," a statement from the Foreign Ministry of China said. The U.S. threatened earlier that any evidence that could be found to prove China's implication in the incident would cool their international relations.
"We believe this is a step back in the efforts of China and Hong Kong to build relations based on mutual trust with the United States," China responded to U.S. threats and suspicions.
Earlier, the United States, trying to prevent the escape of Snowden, revoked his passport and wrote an appropriate address to Hong Kong. The latter said, though, that they did not receive any documents from Washington, People's Daily said. Therefore, Hong Kong could not prevent the departure of the American citizen, the newspaper wrote. But The Wall Street Journal, for example, believes that Hong Kong's explanation was very shaky. According to WSJ, it is not about bureaucracy, but the contempt of the United States.
Sources of ITAR-TASS at the security service of Sheremetyevo Airport, where Snowden arrived from Hong Kong, said that formally Lavrov was correct. "According to our information, Snowden is still in the transit area. Formally, he has not crossed the Russian border. Most likely, he has not decided where to go next."
Earlier, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that Snowden was staying in a "safe place".
It was reported that the American would make another attempt to fly to Havana - from Moscow at 14:05 on June 25th. However, a source told Itar-Tass that Snowden was not registered for the flight.
It is worthy of note that Edward Snowden was traveling with Sarah Harrison, an assistant to another famous fugitive, Julian Assange. The woman had two tickets, but she did not use any, sources told Reuters. One of the tickets was for yesterday's flight to Havana, to which she was supposed to come with Snowden.
On Tuesday afternoon, Interfax said that Russian law enforcement authorities could detain the fugitive to investigate all circumstances of his arrival to Moscow, particularly, the legality of his passport.
"We need to verify the information of the American side about the cancellation of his passport," Interfax said. "In case he crossed the Russian border, he can be detained for a while for special investigation." In addition, the source added, "one should double-check the information saying that the Ecuadorian authorities issued a passport of a political emigrant to the former CIA agent."
Indeed, the U.S. authorities had revoked the passport of Edward Snowden, but in Moscow he did not have to pass the passport control, because he did not cross the Russian border. Reportedly, Snowden did not get the Russian visa, so he would not be able to pass the passport control without it.
Sergey Lavrov, when expressing his concerns about the "threat" from the United States, did not appeal to anyone in particular. It is possible that his words were addressed to the head of American diplomacy and senators. The head of the U.S. Department of State, John Kerry, who promised "consequences" to Moscow if Russia helped Snowden, was very ironic in his comments:
"I wonder if Mr. Snowden chose China and Russian assistance in his flight from justice because they're such powerful bastions of Internet freedom, and I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the question of Internet freedom since that seems to be what he champions," The Washington Times quoted Kerry as saying.
Thirty-year-old Edward Snowden, who served as a technician at the CIA, publicized evidence of the existence of two secret programs at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), to intercept phone calls and Internet correspondence through US servers. He made his confessions while in Hong Kong, from where he flew to Moscow on Sunday. From the Russian capital, he was supposed to go to Latin America, but did not show up for the flight.
The plane without Snowden, but full of journalists, flew to Havana. The reporters joke over their failure: "Snowden organized a press tour, but declined to take part in it." The American press has may serious questions to secret services of the country.
The Russian army dealt an irreparable blow to Kyiv and the United States, destroying a large ammunition depot in the Cherkasy region. More than 300 HIMARS rockets were destroyed there. And this is a major success, said Yury Knutov, director of the Air Defense Forces Museum.