For exactly a month, NSA leaker Edward Snowden has sat holed up in a Moscow airport, caught in the purgatory of its so-called "transit zone." Now, he's gone.
Or at least that's what RIA-Novosti is reporting. "If I'm not mistaken he is not here," a hotel employee told the state-run news agency.
If Snowden has in fact left the Sheremetyevo airport, his departure would mark an appropriate end to the media spectacle that has played out inside its terminals. As Snowden has fed documents to his preferred media outlets and the world marveled at the true capabilities of the NSA, the man behind those revelations has stayed almost entirely out of the spotlight. He provided one interview to the Guardian at an early stage in his saga, and then, promptly disappeared.
With the exception of a meeting with human rights groups, Snowden has managed to utterly elude the combined efforts of the global media. False rumors that he had boarded an Aeroflot flight to Havana, sent the media scrambling to buy tickets on the flight. Camera crews dreamed of interviewing him aboard the flight, but his seat remained empty, leaving the disappointed reporters with a pointless one way flight to Havana -- one of the few that doesn't serve alcohol. At one point, the Associated Press sent a reporter to Moscow without a Russian visa for the express purpose of getting himself detained in the hotel where Snowden was allegedly hiding. But Snowden was nowhere to be found, and the reporter's only real accomplishment was to get into arguments with his jailer at the hotel. When Snowden finally appeared in public to speak with human rights activists, journalists weren't invited and were left to deduce what was said from second-hand accounts and tweets from the meeting.
Now, the world's most elusive celebrity seems to have checked out of his hotel and managed to continue his incredible streak of passing unnoticed under prying eyes. Consider for a moment the number of authorities Snowden has now managed to deceive and evade: the NSA, Booz Allen Hamilton, the combined forces of U.S. law enforcement and the State Department, and the international press corps in Hong Kong and Moscow.
So why did he ever leave? Well, for one thing the room service is terribly expensive, according to the AP:
Buffalo mozzarella and pesto dressing starter? 720 roubles (about $20).
Ribeye steak: 1,500 roubles (about $50).
Bottle of Brunello di Montalcino red wine: 5,280 roubles ($165).
A miniature bottle of Hennessy XO cognac: 2,420 roubles ($80).
Or maybe Snowden has grown tired of being holed up in a hotel that functions more like a jail for visa-less travelers than the luxury accommodation its room service makes it out to be. "Should you wish to see the full range of facilities offered by our hotel during your next stay, we strongly recommend you to get a visa before flying to Moscow," a sign at the capsule hotel reads.
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