A lawyer for US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has denied reports that the fugitive had stayed at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong before his arrival in Moscow, according to an interview published on Saturday.
"Edward told me that he never visited any diplomatic
missions and that all this is inaccurate. He never had any talks with our diplomats while in Hong Kong," Anatoly Kucherena told the Kommersant newspaper.
On Monday Kommersant, citing a source close to Snowden, said that he had spent several days at the Russian general consulate in Hong Kong before boarding an Aeroflot flight to Moscow in late June.
A Western source confirmed the information to the newspaper, adding that the West thought it was possible that Russian authorities had invited Snowden to come to Russia.
And a source in the Russian government confirmed to Kommersant that Snowden was at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong for two days until he left for Moscow, but said he had turned up uninvited.
In the interview published on Saturday, however, Snowden's lawyer said that "he and his friends stayed at a hotel there... He understood he is being chased, so he moved often."
Snowden ended up spending more than a month in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow until Russia gave him asylum. The move led to a new crisis in ties between Moscow and Washington.
President Vladimir Putin had said Snowden arrived in Russia uninvited and would leave as soon as possible. He also has said that the former NSA contractor is welcome to stay as long as he stops leaking US intelligence.
Kucherena said that Snowden's passport had been blocked "while he was flying here (to Moscow)," which is the reason he could successfully leave China but not Russia.
Snowden has not been seen in public since leaving the Moscow airport on August 1 and his lawyer said he was in a "safe place," studying Russian and reading Russian literature.
"As far as I know he is not transmitting anything from here," Kucherena said.
He said he will decide on his next steps once conferring with his father, Lon, who is expected to arrive in Russia soon.