The reporting in mass-media about the hide-and-seek game with the the former NSA contractor Edward Snowdon, makes it clear how little most journalists (and/or their editors) knows about and understand how Russia works.

Yesterday (Tuesday 25 June) President Putin disclosed the obvious and simple fact which no journalist bothered even to consider – Snowdon is still in the transit area at Sheremetevo airport in Moscow.

This is obvious and simple if you consider the fact that Snowdon has no valid passport. His US passport was revoked when the Justice Department issued their warranty on June 14.

Anyone who have traveled into Russia knows that without a valid passport, the only chance to get into the country is through a divine or governmental interference. In the case of Snowden, both seem unlikely.

The problem is that not having a valid passport also denies Snowden most of the possibilities of further travels. However, in this case, it is not up to the Russian border-control but to each individual airline. And that was most likely why Snowden was not on his booked flight to Cuba – he just didn’t have the necessary documents to continue his journey in transit.

What we must remember is that even if there is a high political game going on, as long as no government has been giving a formal support (i.e. at least temporary travel documents) to Snowden, every lower agency, company or organization,  are just following their instructions. (Even if the Chinese border-guards and maybe even the Aeroflot representative in Hong Kong seemed to have made a special exemption when they let Snowdon fly out from Hong Kong without a valid passport).

Now, the next step must be for any country (e.g. Ecuador) to issue temporary travel documents to Snowden before he can get out from Sheremetevo.

Since the transit rules at Sheremetevo Airport only allows for a maximum 24 hour stay in transit without a transit visa, this time is already up for Snowden. However, in order to get a transit visa from the Russian consul at Sheremetevo, you need both a valid passport as well as an onward ticket, something which Snowden seems to lack at least one of.

Until this is solved, Snowden can look forward to stay put in the transit area at Sheremetevo and enjoy their services as long as his money lasts.

Sheremetevo Moscow Airport Transit area banner