Russia has denied it had any involvement in the travel of fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and lashed out at Washington for accusing Moscow of assisting him.
‘We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor in his movements around the world,’ Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Tuesday.
Lavrov did not confirm or deny that Snowden had landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on a flight from Hong Kong on Sunday, as previously reported. But he insisted that he had never crossed the Russian border to exit the airport.
‘He chose his route on his own. We learned about it, as most of those present did, from the mass media. He did not cross the Russian border,’ Lavrov told reporters.
Sources quoted by Russian news agencies have said that Snowden spent at least Sunday night in a hotel located in the transit area of Sheremetyevo which would not have required Snowden to pass through passport control or have a Russian visa.
The White House had earlier called on Moscow to look at all the options available to expel Snowden back to the United States. US Secretary of State John Kerry had expressed anger over Russia’s apparent role.
But Lavrov slammed Washington and rubbished suggestions that Moscow was complicit in Snowden’s disappearance.
Attempts to blame Russia for breaking US laws and even complicity are absolutely groundless and unacceptable, he said.
He complained the accusations were accompanied by ‘threats’.
‘There are no legal grounds for such behaviour by US officials,’ he added.
Lavrov is the most senior Russian official to have commented on the Snowden affair since anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks said he had travelled to Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday.
He had been expected to travel on with Aeroflot on Monday to Havana but never appeared on the flight.
Lavrov gave no indication of his whereabouts now.