Edward Snowden, the invisible man

Just where is Edward Snowden? Fans of Where’s Wally?, the amusing collection of comic illustrations in which the young protagonist conceals himself within enormous crowds, would doubtless view the immense transit area at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow in a similar light. A good half-hour is required in order to walk from one end to the other of the three international terminals. The staff is aware of the name Snowden, but each one responds with the hint of a smile at the question, “Where is he then?” The American fugitive remains invisible, however.

Zagadka,” the Duty Free assistant says ironically, using a popular Russian term that translates as “mystery”. At the burger joint where American travelers can relax and watch a baseball game, the waiters also claim to have never seen the man in question. There has been no sign of Snowden in the shops either. In the countless departure gate waiting areas there is not lack of computer specialists with little round glasses who, in the public imagination, are starting to resemble the resourceful Wally. He, however, is nowhere to be found.

 

“That’s confidential information,” replies the serious but skeptical employee at the mini-hotel which offers pod-style rooms that are rented by the hour. The cost for a full day is at least 7,600 roubles (€180). Do customers sometimes stay for a few days? “Yes, that does happen: four, maybe five days,” he says. But what about 18 days? Behind the counter, the employee feigns distraction so as to avoid answering.

 

“No, no, I don’t know where he is,” says the policewoman responsible for checking passports at the transit area entrance. “We don’t answer those types of questions,” warns the security officer.

 

Ever since Snowden landed in Moscow on June 23rd on a flight from Hong Kong. He became the object of an international extradition request from Washington. The airport personnel has been asked the same question by dozens of journalists over and over again. When the story first broke, the larger press agencies sent reporters for updates every twelve hours, buying airline tickets without ever using them. No doubt because the task was akin to watching paint dry, the press representatives are now far and few between on the ground in the concourses of Sheremetyevo. “That’s because the Russian secret service picked up Snowden a long time ago, and they are now hiding and questioning him far away from here,” jokes a passenger.

 

BENJAMIN QUENELLE

 

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