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Russia rejects any role in Snowden affair: foreign minister

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci in Mosc
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci in Mosc

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it would not accept any blame over former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's efforts to evade prosecution in the United States, and rejected accusations by Washington as "groundless and unacceptable".

"He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it ... from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a joint news conference with Algeria's foreign minister in Moscow.

"We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating U.S. laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable."

Lavrov's comments were the first by a senior Russian official since Snowden arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong on Sunday, starting a cat-and-mouse chase that has frayed ties between Washington and Beijing and threatened U.S.-Russian relations.

Washington has said it believe he is still in Moscow. He has not been seen by reporters at Sheremetyevo airport and is not known to have left the transit area.

An airport source confirmed to Reuters that Snowden had arrived from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon. He said Snowden had been booked on a flight to Havana on Monday but had not got on board. He did not say where Snowden was now.

President Vladimir Putin has kept silent about Snowden since his arrival and his spokesman has said the former KGB spy has no information about his whereabouts.

(reporting by Steve Gutterman, writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Timothy Heritage)

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