Cuban U-turn stranded Snowden: report

Reuters, MOSCOW

Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - Page 7

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden got stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport because Havana said it would not let him fly to Cuba, a Russian newspaper reported yesterday.

Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking details of US government surveillance programs, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.

However, Snowden, who eventually accepted a year’s asylum in Russia after spending nearly six weeks at Sheremetyevo, did not show up for the flight, although he had been allocated a seat.

Citing several sources, including one close to the US Department of State, Kommersant newspaper said the reason was that at the last minute, Cuba told officials to stop Snowden from boarding the Aeroflot flight.

It said Cuba had changed its mind after pressure by the US, which wants to try Snowden on espionage charges.

Kommersant also said Snowden had spent a couple of days in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong to declare his intention of flying to Latin America via Moscow.

“His choice of route and his plea to help were a complete surprise to us. We did not invite him,” Kommersant quoted a Russian state source as saying.

The report could not be immediately verified.

Allowing Snowden to land would have put Cuba’s relations with the US at risk.

Ties between the US and Russia were strained when Moscow granted Snowden asylum. Following the row over Snowden, US President Barack Obama postponed a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for next month.