A television screen shows former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport (Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva)
Edward Snowden was forced to stay in Russia after the US threatened Cuba with "adverse consequences" should the NSA whistleblower get on board Aeroflot's Moscow-Havana flight, Kommersant newspaper has learned.
Under US pressure the Cuban authorities informed Moscow the Aeroflot plane would not be able to land in Havana, a source told the Russian newspaper.
One of the sources close to the US State Department stated that Cuba was one of the countries whose authorities were warned of "adverse consequences" if it helped Snowden.
The paper also pointed out that Russian authorities did not contact Snowden or issue an invitation to take refuge on its territory; however, they were aware that he would arrive to Moscow en route to Latin America.
"His choice of route (to Latin America via Moscow), and his request for help were an absolute surprise for us. We did not invite him," an official source explained.
The paper also learned that before leaving Hong Kong, Snowden spent a couple of days at the Russian Consulate, where he even celebrated his 30th birthday. A source within the Russian government has confirmed that Snowden was not invited and contacted the consulate on his own initiative.
Reportedly, Snowden explained to the Consulate that he intended to seek asylum in one of the Latin American countries and presented his ticket to Havana through Moscow.
A source from one of the Western countries told the paper that the West thinks it is possible that "Russians contacted Snowden, by giving him an invitation through the Chinese, who were happy to get rid of him."
A protester carries two portraits of Edward Snowden during a demonstration against secret monitoring programs PRISM, TEMPORA, INDECT and showing solidarity with whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and others in Berlin July 27, 2013 (Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski) Snowden's struggle to safety
NSA whistleblower Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, was the one who leaked classified documents detailing massive electronic surveillance by the US government and foreign allies who collaborated with them.
Snowden left Hawaii, US, in May to go to Hong Kong, where he first went public about the leaks in a video interview to The Guardian. In the interview he also admitted that he feared for his life and would be seeking asylum in a country that respected freedom of speech.
After the leaks, the US charged Snowden with theft of federal government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful sharing of classified documents to an unauthorized person. The last two charges fall under the US Espionage Act.
Amidst mounting US pressure on both Beijing and the local authorities in Hong Kong to hand over the whistleblower for prosecution, Snowden flew to Moscow on June 23.
According to Kommesant's report, a WikiLeaks lawyer warned Snowden that the local authorities would arrest him due to mounting US pressure, but at the same time would not stop him if he tried to leave.
On June 21, Snowden bought a ticket to Havana via Moscow, which was on the same day the US had informed China that it revoked the whistleblower's passport.