Edward Snowden (The Guardian via Getty Images)
Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
NSA leaker Edward Snowden sought help at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong two days before flying to Russia then got stuck at Moscow airport when Cuban authorities refused to allow a connecting Aeroflot flight to land in Havana if he were aboard, the respected Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Monday.
The newspaper cited unidentified sources in Snowden's circle and the Russian government for details on the former defense consultant's bizarre journey and extended stay at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
Citing a Russian government official, Kommersant said Snowden appeared at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong on his own initiative two days before his flight to Russia. It said he showed consulate officials his Aeroflot ticket to Havana via Moscow and appealed for their help under the international convention on the rights of refugees.
The 30-year-old former defense contractor has been charged under the U.S. Treason Act for revealing information on the National Security Agency's surveillance and data-gathering networks. He has defended his action by saying he was trying to "correct this wrongdoing."
If true, the story about seeking help from Russia appears to be at odds with comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin two days after Snowden landed in Moscow on June 23.
Putin said at the time that Snowden's choice of travel route and his request for Russia's help had come as a "complete surprise." This was interpreted as referring to his arrival in Moscow, but Putin did not specify.
Snowden had a reservation (seat No. 17A) on an Aeroflot flight the following day to Havana. He had intended to go from there one of the Latin American countries, Bolivia or Venezuela, who were willing to grant him asylum.
Snowden's onward travel one Jun3 24 seemed to certain that several reporters booked their own passage on the same flight. But Snowden never showed up.
He was left stuck in the airport transit area until Aug. 1 when Russia granted him a one-year, temporary asylum.
Kommersant, quoting several unidentified "informed" sources, said Cuba, citing U.S. pressure, warned Russia that it would not allow the Aeroflot flight from Moscow to land in Havana if Snowden were on board.
A source identified as someone "close to the State Department" confirmed to the paper that Cuba was among a number of countries that had been cautioned not to provide assistance to Snowden.
On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said it would have no immediate comment.
Snowden has not been seen in public since June 23, although he did appear at a closed meeting in mid-July with a group of human rights activists.