MOSCOW — Before American fugitive Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow in June — an arrival that Russian officials have said caught them by surprise — he spent several days living at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong, a Moscow newspaper reported Monday.
The article in Kommersant, based on accounts from several unnamed sources, did not state clearly when Snowden decided to seek Russian help in leaving Hong Kong, where he was in hiding to evade arrest by U.S. authorities on charges that he leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs.
The disclosure of the documents brought worldwide scrutiny of U.S. spying efforts and triggered a vigorous debate in Congress over whether and under what circumstances the government should gather data on phone calls and emails.
Snowden, 30, arrived in Moscow on June 23 and spent more than a month stranded at Sheremetyevo International Airport, with his U.S. passport revoked and Washington urging other countries not to accept him. On Aug. 1, Russia granted him temporary asylum, angering the United States. The former intelligence analyst is now living in Moscow.
Kommersant reported Monday that Snowden purchased a ticket June 21 to travel on Aeroflot, Russia's national airline, from Hong Kong to Havana, through Moscow. He planned to fly onward from Havana to Ecuador or some other Latin American country.
Kommersant cited conflicting accounts as to what brought Snowden to the Russian Consulate. It quoted a Russian close to the case as saying the former NSA contractor arrived on his own initiative, but a Western official also interviewed by the newspaper said that Russia had invited him.