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.

  • US renews travel warning to Mindanao
    US renews travel warning to Mindanao

    The US State Department renewed its warning about the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu archipelago, certain regions and cities of Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea area. In an update on Wednesday of a travel warning it issued Nov. 20, 2014, the State Department said US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu archipelago due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. …

  • Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda
    Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda

    The Philippine initiative to put the interests of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) front and center in global and regional trade has made significant progress following the conclusion on Thursday of the 2nd APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings in Boracay, Aklan. Called “The Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs,” the Philippine proposal calls for a host of specific, concrete and practical interventions that APEC economies can implement to provide MSMEs wider …

  • Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week
    Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week

    The Philippines will join a 15-nation meeting in Bangkok, Thailand next week to address the migration crisis involving thousands of Rohingyas who escaped persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared this yesterday after meeting with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to the Philippines Bernard Kerblat. In an interview, De Lima said the Philippine government has been invited to the meeting. …

  • Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon
    Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon

    LEGAZPI CITY—A magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit Prieto Diaz town in Sorsogon before dawn yesterday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. …

  • Drought-resistant rice breeds bared
    Drought-resistant rice breeds bared

    SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija – Amid the searing heat, the Philippine Rice Research Institute central experiment station here has identified nine rice breeds which have been proven to be drought-resistant and produce high yields in temperatures as high as 38°C based on a recent study. Thelma Padolina, lead researcher of the study titled “Screening of rice-induced mutants for heat and drought tolerance,” identified the breeding lines as the Ballatinaw lines, PSB Rc72H and Azucena lines. …

  • Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning
    Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning

    The United States military will continue air and sea patrols in international waters even after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine government also declared it would continue activities in the region, calling on China to respect freedom of navigation and aviation. “Our position on the importance of letting freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation and …

  • MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned
    MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned

    Electricity and mobile phone services would be cut throughout Metro Manila, and all private and government offices and businesses, including shopping malls, would be closed. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned that an earthquake of that magnitude could occur and kill at least 33,500 people and injure at least 113,600 others following a movement in the West Valley Fault. The West Valley Fault has moved four times in the past 1,400 years at an interval …

  • Subaru XV now priced among sedans
    Subaru XV now priced among sedans

    Motor Image Philipinas (MIP), the authorized distributor of Subaru in the country, has positioned its brand new crossover SUV, the Subaru XV, well within the sedan segment’s price range. This move, according to MIP, was made to give the public an opportunity to experience the brand’s unique automotive technologies by lowering its price. Buyers of […] The post Subaru XV now priced among sedans appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options