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Wikileaks fugitive Edward Snowden 'alive and well' says Russian lawyer despite death rumours and mystery tweet

A lawyer with close links to the Russian secret services has announced US whistleblower Edward Snowden is "alive and well".

A mysterious 64-character tweet appeared on Snowden's Twitter account and was then deleted, triggering speculation he had been kidnapped or even killed.

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, wanted in the US for spilling state secrets, currently has asylum in Russia granted by Vladimir Putin .

"I can authoritatively say that he is alive and well, he is living in Russia and is busy with his favourite work," said lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.

The lawyer, close to the secret services, did not explain how suspicious messages appeared on Snowden's Twitter account, or what they meant.

Nor has Snowden been seen in public.

But Kucherena said: "Again, we are seeing certain speculations about Edward Snowden.

"Of course, there probably are people interested in speculating on this matter who have been doing this for the last several years."

He claimed without further explanation that "the appearance of certain codes in his Twitter does not mean that he is in danger of some sort.

"This is an attribute of his work and there is nothing bad about it."

One message sent out on Snowden's account read: "It's time."

The second carried 64 characters of code. Both were then deleted.

In 2013, computer geek Snowden started revealing classified documents pertaining to mass surveillance practices carried out by US authorities around the globe.

The same year, Russia granted the whistleblower temporary asylum for one year.

In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year residence permit to live in Russia.

In the United States, he faces up to 30 years in prison on charges of espionage and theft of government property.

Kucherena has represented Snowden since 2013.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who helped Snowden to leak details of the secret US data, also said the whistleblower was fine.