Vladimir Putin has thereby confirmed previous reports by the Kommersant daily as to how Snowden had ended up in Russia.

Speaking via his Russian attorney Anatoliy Kucherena, Snowden himself had denied any communication with Russian diplomats in Hong Kong.

"Mr. Snowden first showed up in Hong Kong; he met our diplomats," President Putin has said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One television and the Associated Press news agency. "It was reported to me that he was a secret services employee."

"I said, so what does he want? I was told that he fights for human rights, for freedom of information; that he fights violations of human rights in that area, including violations of legislation in the United States, and violations of international laws."

"To this I said, so what? If he wants to stay here in Russia, he can stay - but only if he stops any activities that would undermine Russian-US relations," the Russian president.

Speaking via his Russian attorney Anatoliy Kucherena, Snowden himself had denied turning to Russian diplomats in Hong Kong for help.

"Edward has told me that he had not visited any diplomatic missions, and that all these reports are not true," Kucherena said in an interview with Kommersant. "He did not enter into any communication with our diplomats when he was in Hong Kong. That is his position. He has no need to lie about this. There is no need at all for him to do that."

Speaking in an interview with Channel One and Associated Press, President Putin confirmed that Russia was ready to grant Snowden asylum.

"We cannot make an assessment as to whether Snowden has committed any crime in the United States. We are simply unable to do that. But as a sovereign state that has not signed any relevant agreements with the United States, we cannot take any other course of action than to allow him to live here in Russia."

Why Snowden has not left Moscow for Havana

The Kommersant daily has learnt that Snowden had contacted Russian representatives even before boarding the Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong to Moscow.

He initially planned to fly from Moscow to one of the Latin American countries via Havana – but he was forced to make an abrupt change of plans when Cuba said, after coming under US pressure, that it would not allow the Aeroflot plane to land if Snowden was on board.

First published in Russian by Kommersant

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