Edward Snowden has rejected suggestions he was a Russian spy, saying in remarks published on Tuesday that he acted alone in exposing US surveillance programmes.
“This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd,” the US fugitive told The New Yorker.
In an interview the magazine said was carried out by “encrypted means” from Moscow, the 30-year-old said he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”
On Sunday two Republican lawmakers suggested the fugitive - who is in hiding in Russia - may have acted in concert with a foreign power, possibly Moscow.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, for one, told NBC’s Meet the Press talk show that he didn’t think “it was a gee-whiz luck event that (Snowden) ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB” Russian state security agency.
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC’s This Week that he didn’t believe “Mr Snowden was capable of doing everything himself.”
He added he could not say “definitively” that Russia was involved, “but I believe he was cultivated.”
Snowden received temporary asylum in Russia in August - a move that infuriated the United States - and is believed to be living in the Moscow area.
Before being granted asylum, however, he spent more than a month holed up in an airport there, a point he raised in the New Yorker interview.
“Spies get treated better than that,” he said.
The New Yorker also quoted Snowden as saying that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum and that he was “stopped en route.”
“I was only transiting through Russia,” he told the publication.
“I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana - a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in - but the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.”