National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s original destination wasn’t Moscow. In fact, he ended up there by accident, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Kommersant, citing “informed” sources, says that Snowden’s original plan was to fly from Hong Kong to Moscow, then to Havana, Cuba, with the ultimate goal of arriving in Bolivia or Ecuador. Cuba, apparently under pressure from the United States, informed Russia that any flight bearing Snowden would not be allowed to land in the Caribbean nation.
It is unclear if Snowden sought help from Russia unprompted. He appeared at the country’s consulate in Hong Kong two days before his flight to Moscow, and Kommersant cites a Russian government official insisting that Snowden arrived there of his own accord; however, the paper also references a Western source, who says the Russians extended an invitation to Snowden through the Chinese.
Snowden was granted temporary asylum by Russia on August 1, ending more than a month of limbo in Sheremetyevo airport’s transit zone. He has since disappeared from the public eye, but the granting of asylum has chilled the already frosty relations between Washington and Moscow. Soon after Snowden received asylum, President Obama cancelled a scheduled bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September partly over the affair, though the White House also cited a lack of “recent progress” in the two nations’ bilateral agenda.