MOSCOW — It’s been nearly a week since NSA leaker Edward Snowden arrived, and several days since Russian President Vladimir Putin urged him to leave as soon as possible. Yet Snowden remains somewhere at the Sheremetyevo airport and out of sight.
So where could he be?
The small army of journalists camped outside the transit area hotel in Terminal E nearly 24/7 since Sunday has all but assured he isn’t in there. There’s no sign of anyone bringing food inside, for example. He hasn’t been seen in the business and VIP lounges, either, and it’s unlikely he’s shopping for bargains on booze and perfume at the duty free.
There are, of course, other options, including places that are not accessible to the public.
One option is that Snowden is squirreled away in an area only accessible to officials, such as the government-only Terminal A. Or perhaps he is in a diplomatic lounge. The Ecuadorian diplomats who are planning to escort him whenever he leaves can help him gain access.
And then there’s another intriguing option: what some passengers have called the Sheremetyevo Novotel “Prison” Hotel.
Passengers who arrive in Russia without a visa and have long layovers are able to book stays there in advance. They’re whisked away from the transit area, put on a special van, and driven out of the airport by a special gate off the tarmac. The Novotel is just a few hundred yards away.
There, they are kept in a special wing on the second floor under constant watch by Russian guards. They are confined to their rooms, except when they have to change money, but a guard comes with them for that as well. The only option for food is pricey room service.
One Norweigian passenger, who posted a review of the experience on TripAdvisor, described being on lockdown in the hotel.
“They take this responsibility very serious. The guards follows you everywhere,” the user Albo77 wrote, noting that while it sometimes feels like a “prison,” the hotel is equipped with wifi and international television channels, and breakfast is included.
When it’s time for the connecting flight, the process goes in reverse and the passengers are driven back by the guards.
There is no way to say for sure if Snowden is there, but it is perhaps one place that he could be hidden away from the press. Those who have visited the hotel to try and find that wing say they found no way to get in there.
But what about Putin’s comment that Snowden had not crossed the border? Technically, Snowden would not have actually crossed the border at passport control in order to go to the hotel, even though he is geographically outside the gates of the airport.
By all accounts of the hotel Snowden could theoretically stay there quite comfortably, though with a lot of restrictions, for a long time.