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Snowden's Flight To Russia May Not Have Been Such A Shock

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras

Did "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden really surprise Russian officials when he showed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on June 23?

Maybe not.

The Associated Press writes that, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, a Russian goverment official says that "Snowden appeared at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong on his own initiative two days before the flight, showed his Aeroflot ticket and asked for help."

The Washington Post adds that Kommersant also says Snowden, "spent several days living at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong" before his flight to Moscow.

The report raises questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Snowden's decision to go to Moscow was a "complete surprise" to Russian authorities.

Kommersant's reporting also sheds some new light on what happened on July 11 when there was much speculation that Snowden would be on a flight from Moscow to Havana. The AP writes that Kommersant:

"Citing several 'informed' sources, said that Cuba informed Russia that the Aeroflot flight from Moscow would not be allowed to land in Havana if Snowden were on board, citing pressure from the United States. 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 warned not to provide assistance to Snowden."

Snowden is the former National Security Agency contractor who The Guardian and The Washington Post say has been the source of leaks about NSA surveillance programs that they have reported about. He's been given temporary asylum in Russia. The U.S., which hopes to prosecute Snowden, wants to see him extradited. Snowden and his supporters say he's a whistle blower who has exposed wrong-doing.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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