Snowden hoodwinks world on Cuba magical mystery tour

Throughout the 12-hour Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Havana, the window seat 17A stood conspicuously empty, waiting for a passenger who never came.

This was the seat that according to Aeroflot's flight records fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was scheduled to occupy, supposedly on his way to claiming asylum in South America.

But like a twist from a Hollywood spy thriller, the main protagonist never showed up and the supporting cast -- dozens of journalists including AFP correspondents packed onto the aircraft -- were left chasing shadows.

In the end, the journalists had travelled to the other side of the world to find themselves none the wiser as to where on earth Edward Snowden was.

"I have a feeling that we are all participating in some grandiose spy conspiracy," said Olga Denisova, a journalist with Voice of Russia radio. "The fact that we have not seen him for two days means he is receiving some good support."

After arriving from Hong Kong on Sunday, Snowden and his legal assistant Sarah Harrison were checked in on Aeroflot SU 150 from Moscow to Havana for Monday, Aeroflot records seen by AFP showed.

Snowden was allocated 17 A and Harrison 17 C. But as boarding was completed and the last calls were made, the pair never showed up.

When the heavy doors of the Airbus 330 shut tight, several dozen journalists, who had bought the $2,000 round-trip tickets during a mad scramble to get onto Snowden's plane, realised they would be making the 12-hour journey to Cuba without him.

Passengers on the flight to Cuba boarded the plane amid extra security but most regular travellers seemed unaware of the espionage drama unfolding in front of them.

Snowden had been widely expected to be the last passenger to get on the plane. Several reporters watched the main entrance like hawks ignoring the pleas of the crew to take their seats and not to crowd the entryway.

"We are expecting seven more passengers," said the crew. Several minutes later the countdown went to three. Finally, all passengers were on board but Snowden was not among them.

Refusing to give up hope, some journalists speculated that Snowden might have boarded the aircraft through a different entrance directly from the tarmac, while others suggested he was hiding in the cockpit.

Takeoff was some 30 minutes behind schedule. Up in the air came the realisation that Snowden might have never intended to board that plane.

"I think he would have been a total fool if he took the flight. You can see for yourself the frenzy here," said flight attendant Yelena as she prepared to serve champagne to passengers in business class.

"I would do just the same."

Even without the passengers, the two empty seats in the 17th row drew curious stares. Camera clicks could occasionally be heard as reporters took their pictures.

But after the initial excitement, by the time the plane touched down in Havana at around 2300 GMT Monday, the flight felt like any other long haul route.

Mystery surrounded Snowden's whereabouts since he arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday.

As a transit passenger planning to travel to Latin America, he had been widely expected to spend the night at a hotel at the airport but hotel officials never confirmed his stay.

It was still unclear if Snowden had himself changed the scheduled travel plans or if higher forces -- like Russian special services -- could have been involved.

Arriving in Havana empty-handed, the reporters on the flight still said they had to be on that plane.

"I am starting to see the funny side of things," said Jussi Niemelainen, a Moscow correspondent for Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper. "But sometimes you just have to follow your instincts."

"We've been fooled," said Anna Nemtsova, a Moscow correspondent for Newsweek and a contributor for NBC News television. "But I am sticking around for a couple of days to make sure he does not arrive by the next plane."


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina
    Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina

    World boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao took time out Monday from final preparations for his $400 million megafight with Floyd Mayweather to plead for the life of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia. Pacquiao, a national hero in the Philippines, added his voice to a chorus of global opposition led by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the executions of a group of eight foreign drug convicts, including compatriot Mary Jane Veloso. The eight-division world champion, who will face …

  • Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia
    Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia

    Australia urged Indonesia Monday to delay the execution of two men for drug offences until a corruption probe into their case is complete, after a report that judges sought tens of thousands of dollars in bribes. "Bali Nine" drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could face the firing squad within days, along with others from Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines and an Indonesian prisoner. The Indonesian attorney-general's office said the executions would take place this week but did …

  • FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang
    FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang

    Ford Philippines launched the all-new Mustang in a rock concert held at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, last week .  The All-New Mustang is the sixth generation since Ford  launched the first model in April 17, 1964. “The all-new Mustang represents the very best of Ford and its arrival marks the latest chapter of the iconic muscle car’s rich legacy, crafted with a more contemporary look and feel.  With a history spanning more than 50 years, this iconic car is at the heart and soul of Ford and …

  • China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit
    China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit

    By Manuel Mogato and Praveen Menon KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Southeast Asian leaders edged closer to open criticism of China's land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea at a regional summit on Monday, as the Philippines drew the ire of Beijing which called its objections to the work "unreasonable". The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was supposed to showcase the 10-member bloc's progress towards economic integration, was overshadowed by the …

  • The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched
    The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched

    Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) just recently introduced the 2015 Isuzu D-MAX pick-up truck at the Clark International Raceway to show that their pick-up model can conquer any kind of terrain.The high-end LS variant and standard LT 4x4 is now equipped with a more powerful engine, the 4JK1-TC (Hi) 2.5-liter engine which with Common Rail Direct Injection and an intercooled Variable Geometry System (VGS) turbocharger. IPC also introduced a new standard ride variant, the LT-X 4x2 manual …

  • Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available
    Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available

    If you’ve always wanted to be part of an exclusive group of car owners, now might be the time for you to consider getting a Honda CR-V or Jazz.  Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) just came out with their limited edition All New Jazz and New CR-V. …

  • ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March
    ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March

    Toyota Motors Philippines hit its highest monthly sales to date last March, registering 10,237 units sold.  This recent CAMPI report puts Toyota’s market share at 43.5% last month. …

  • VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative
    VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative

    Volkswagen Philippines just  launched the VW Child Safety Initiative (CSI) campaign which aims to support child safety on Philippine roads at the just concluded Manila International Auto Show (MIAS). The World Health Organization’s road safety facts show about 1.24 million die each year globally as a result of vehicle related accidents. Child restraint systems like child seats and booster seats also reduce risk for children by about 70% for infants and upto 80% for small children. This …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options