MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden got stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport because Havana said it would not let him fly from Russia to Cuba, a Russian newspaper reported on Monday.
Snowden, who is wanted in the United States for leaking details of U.S. government surveillance programmes, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
But 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 U.S. State Department, 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 United States, 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.
Reuters could not immediately verify the report. Allowing Snowden to land would have put Cuba’s relations with the United States at risk.
Ties between the United States and Russia were strained when Moscow granted Snowden asylum. Following the disagreement over Snowden, U.S. President Barack Obama postponed a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for next month.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Timothy Heritage