Inside Edward Snowden’s World


Associated Press reported Ian Phillips took a plane to Moscow, without a visa to enter Russia, to see what it’s like at the transit hotel where Edward Snowden is apparently held up:

The woman at the transit desk raises an eyebrow and stares at my flight itinerary, which includes a 21-hour layover in Moscow before a connection to Ukraine. “Why would ANYONE stay here in transit for so long? There are so many earlier connections you could have taken. This is strange behavior.”

After a nearly two-hour wait inside the terminal, a bus picks me up — only me — from the transit area. We drive slowly across the tarmac, through a barrier, past electronic gates covered in barbed wire and security cameras.

The main part of the Novotel is out of bounds. My allotted wing feels like a lockup: You are obliged to stay in your room, except for brief walks along the corridor. Three cameras track your movements along the hallway and beam the images back to a multiscreen monitor. It’s comforting to see a sign instructing me that, in case of an emergency, the locks on heavily-fortified doors leading to the elevators will open.

When I try to leave my room, the guard outside springs to his feet. I ask him why room service isn’t responding and if there’s any other way to get food. He growls: “Extension 70!” I rile him by asking about the Wi-Fi, which isn’t working: “Extension 75!” he snarls.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Phillips,” the transit desk employee had said. “We have all your details and information. We will come and get you from your room at 6 p.m. on Friday, one hour before your connecting flight.”

Now it’s midnight, and I’m getting edgy. I feel trapped inside my airless room, whose double windows are tightly sealed. And the room is extortionate: It costs $300 a night, with a surcharge of 50 percent slapped on because I will be staying past noon.

(“Can’t I just wait in the lobby after midday?” I asked the receptionist at check-in. “Of course not,” she retorted. “You have no visa. You will stay until you are picked up.”)

I look out the window. If Snowden is here and has the same view, he can see the approach to the departures terminal at the airport. A large billboard shows a red 4×4 vehicle driving along an ocean road. A parking lot below is filled with vehicles. A man in green overalls is watering a patch of parched grass. Vehicles whizz in and out of the airport.


If he’s here, Snowden has access to a few international TV stations. He also has a fair amount of options with room service — the only source of food in this wing. But after almost a week, he might be getting bored. And he’d need a credit card or a lot of Russian cash. A selection:

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).

I’ve called all the 37 rooms on my floor in hopes of reaching Snowden. No reply except for when I got my security guard.

On the whole, it seems like Tom Hanks had it better:

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    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).

    cue it up … Snowden is lying on his bed, broken hipster glasses taped up, 21 day stubble, empy cognac bottles litter the astro-turf hotel carpet – in the background a tape loops endlessly playing Chic’s “Good Times, these are the good times, our new state of mind … “

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    “A miniature bottle of Hennessy XO cognac: 2,420 roubles ($80).”

    Snowden is on Vodka i bet, bet that´s cheaper than their f**kin Hennessy…

  3. rudderpedals says:

    the Wi-Fi, which isn’t working

    Then he’s not there, or he’s gone insane++.

  4. PJ says:

    This is torture.
    And expensive to boot.

  5. walt moffett says:

    If this Guardian article is right, Snowden is gonna have a very long stay.