Putin: “Snowden first met with our diplomats while in Hong Kong.”
Perhaps the oddest part of the New Yorker’s Snowden interview article is where it addresses Snowden’s Hong Kong Russian consulate visit. Jane Mayer clearly thought the issue was worth raising in her piece, but instead of asking Snowden directly, she tosses the question to an ACLU legal adviser:
Some observers, looking at the possibility that Snowden was in league with the Russian government before taking asylum there, have pointed to a report in a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, that before leaving Hong Kong last June Snowden stayed at the Russian consulate. Snowden’s legal adviser, Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, denied that report, however, saying, “Every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to, because it’s false.”
In order to address Ben Wizner’s claims, I give you Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who in an early September interview with the Associated Press, brought up Snowden’s meeting with Russian diplomats in Hong Kong. Here’s video from the interview as presented by Russia Today:
PUTIN: “I’m going to honestly tell you something I never said before, though I’ve hinted, but I haven’t said it. Snowden first met with our diplomats while in Hong Kong. I was told about it and that he was an intelligence agency employee. ‘What does he want?’ I asked. The answer was that he fought for freedom of information. Fought with illegal activities in the US and violations of international law. I said, ‘tell him that if he wants to stay in Russia he has to stop any work that damages Russia / US relations. We are not an NGO, we have national interests, and we have no intention of damaging Russian / American relations’. And he said, ‘no, I’m a human rights activist and I urge you to join my cause.” I said, ‘no, we aren’t joining his cause. If he wants to fight let him fight on his own.’ So he just walked out and that’s it.”
The part I’ve transcribed begins at ~1:50.