If Russian President Vladimir Putin is to be believed, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is currently holed up in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, the home base of national carrier Aeroflot. Instead of boarding an expected flight to Havana earlier this week, Snowden reportedly stayed inside the airport's transit zone--the space inside the airport complex where flyers switch planes but do not go through immigration.
There's only one problem. Despite the hordes of journalists who descended on Sheremetyevo hoping to talk to the man at the center of the NSA story--not to mention the tens of thousands of flyers who pass through the transit zone daily--no one has actually seen Snowden there. While it seems likely that Snowden is staying under some sort of escort in a restricted area of the transit zone, or even being held off-site with extreme discretion, some people actually do live in airport transit zones. Sure, it sounds like a movie, but the Tom Hanks vehicle The Terminal was actually based on the real-life case of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in Charles De Gaulle Airport's transit lounge for 18 years. People have even lived in Sheremetyevo before: Zahra Kamalfar, another Iranian refugee, lived in their airport for four months while waiting for asylum from Canada.
If Edward Snowden is indeed in the Sheremetyevo transit zone and chose to make use of the local amenities, his life wouldn't be too bad for a internationally wanted man.
Although most of Sheremetyevo's nearby lodgings are past passport control and require a Russian visa to enter, the V Express Hotel is located in the transit zone. The relatively new capsule hotel rents rooms in hourly or multi-hour blocks, and has received mostly positive reviews on TripAdvisor. One guest said that “The hotel is situated right at the airport building, there is no need to go outdoors, just go up by lift. Our room was tiny but with shower. That's all we need for a couple hours of sleep and shower to refresh.“
Sheremetyevo is a major hub, and passengers have left plenty of reviews on Foursquare. One popular spot is , a dessert-centric café where guests recommend the cheesecake, pancakes, and coffee. It might be a good place for Snowden to pass some time: One FourSquare reviewer said that it took so long for him to receive a coffee that he grew a beard.
If Snowden is homesick for his old life in the United States, global multinationals are there to rescue him. The airport has Burger King and Starbucks branches, along with a local brand called Franklin's Roll & Burgers.
After his idealistic whistleblowing caused a major news scandal and created some diplomatic fallout for the United States, Russia, and China, Snowden might be excused for wanting a cold beer or two. Luckily for him, the transit zone is home to Kelly O'Conners Irish Pub, which is open 24 hours a day and has rather poor Skytrax reviews.
Visitors to the airport complain of frequent smoking in non-smoking areas, which could be a plus or a minus depending on Snowden's cigarette habits. Sheremetyevo has free on-site Wi-Fi, which the internet-loving Snowden must be a fan of—even if airport security keep closer tabs on IP traffic than the NSA ever did—and there have been complaints about staff ignoring travelers along with important transit booths not having any employees nearby. We can see the appeal for Snowden.
[Image: Flickr user Yazan Badran]