Snowden hidden from sight in Moscow airport

26th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Somewhere in Moscow's maze-like Sheremetyevo airport may be hiding the world's most sought-after man, Edward Snowden, but the airport does not give up its secrets easily.

Passing through passport control into Terminal E, the existence of a hidden side of Sheremetyevo beyond the Duty Free and aimless passengers is immediately clear.

Snowden is rumoured to have stayed around Terminal E -- at least briefly -- in a capsule hotel within the transit zone intended for travellers with long layovers between flights.

But a window gives a view down on to a marked presidential administration minibus, parked inside a "security zone" protected with barbed wire.

Just beyond is the VIP arrivals section where journalists congregated on Sunday, intrigued by the parked car of the Ecuadorian ambassador.

The envoy only emerged from the airport in the early hours after Snowden flew in from Hong Kong with documents said to have been provided by Ecuador, where he has applied for asylum.

Snowden's trail has gone cold since Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that he never left the transit zone, a vast area linking three terminals with pedestrian walkways.

Staff in one of the shiny new Terminal E's smoking rooms initially claimed not to have heard of Snowden, but then one said, "He's already arrived, hasn't he?"

Asked where someone could hide in the transit zone, another airport staff member shrugged, saying "only in the (capsule) hotel".

"We're not in the know. They didn't let us in on the secret," another staff member said, shaking her head.

The Vozdushny Express, or Air Express, hotel, which opened in May, would seem to be the perfect hideout, hidden behind a door decorated with a blue sky with its eerily quiet and neutral grey and blue interiors.

Receptionist Yevgenia showed a double room available for four hours for 2,300 rubles ($70), which despite the capsule name had windows.

Asked whether she had seen Snowden, she gave a practised reply: "We don't give confirmation," and added "no comment" when asked about a report that Snowden had spent a few hours there before checking out.

Where within the airport he could be now -- if he is not in the hotel -- is simply a mystery.

"There are no secret premises at the airport," an airport source quoted by Interfax claimed Wednesday. "But there are rooms used by crews and officials and he could be there, to avoid any unpleasant situations."

Sprinkled among the passengers were a large number of journalists, tapping on laptops, with Burger King their unofficial headquarters.

Some had been in the airport for almost 24 hours. "It's a needle in a haystack," said one British journalist, asked whether he had tracked down Snowden.

It seems it would be easy for the bespectacled 30-year-old to blend in with the other passengers, slumped in chairs or eyeing the stalls with souvenirs, some of which might tickle Snowden's political sensibilities.

He could buy a Vladimir Putin magnet (250 rubles or $7.5) and Che Guevara shot glasses (120 rubles or $3.5).

Transit passengers stretched out on grey carpets in the terminal, shoes kicked off and jackets balled under their heads.

Many said they had just read about the case as they waited in the airport but were not holding out any hopes of spotting Snowden.

Huma from Sweden, who was spending more than four hours in the airport while waiting for a flight to Dubai, sat on the carpet next to two sleeping companions, her makeup perfect despite the long wait.

Aware of the Snowden case, she said she could not see where he could hide in the transit area.

"How easy is it for him to get out?" she asked.

"You need to rush, finding him. He might be in the toilet," said Prashant who was flying onto his native India, sitting next to a fake fire in a smoking area.

"If I find him, I'll tell you."

© 2013 AFP

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