The US fugitive walked out of the airport and took a taxi, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena revealed to disappointed journalists who have haunted the international airport since Mr Snowden flew in from Hong Kong on June 23, wanting to catch him inside the terminal’s capsule hotel or the passenger lounges.
Rossiya 24 television aired a blurred photograph apparently showing Snowden from the back carrying a black rucksack as he is about to enter a grey saloon car, with a blonde-hair woman standing next to him. He is shown talking to Mr Kucherena, with four other unidentified men nearby, one talking on a cell phone. The channel did not reveal who took the photograph.
WikiLeaks wrote on its Twitter feed that Mr Snowden left the airport “under the care of WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison,” one of the site’s employees who arrived with him from Hong Kong. She appeared at his side at his only public appearance since landing, when he met rights activists inside the airport on July 12.
Asked in a live interview on Rossiya 24 whether Mr Snowden really caught an ordinary taxi, his lawyer said drily: “I understand that it was a taxi.”
Mr Kucherena refused to reveal Mr Snowden’s location for security reasons, saying only that he “may stay in a flat or a hotel.”
Mysteriously, Mr Kucherena seemed not to be involved in Mr Snowden’s initial stay outside the airport, saying that unnamed American friends living in Russia were taking care of him.
“Of course he has gained friends, including within Russia – American friends – who possibly at the start will be able to provide his security, for some time, let’s say,” Mr Kucherena told Rossiya 24 television.
Edward Snowden with his back turned was photographed leaving Moscow airport Thursday with WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison accompanied by a lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.
“I did not get involved in this part, it’s not my competence. So in this case, I hope that all will be well.”
He also refused to comment on whether Mr Snowden would be staying in Moscow itself.
“Let’s not lift up that veil since Edward himself will decide that question,” he told Rossiya 24, adding that he planned to talk on the telephone to Mr Snowden’s father Lon and his US lawyer later that day to discuss his future.
Mr Snowden did not take long to pack after receiving a document certifying that he has temporary asylum in Russia, dated July 31, said Mr Kucherena, who has revealed that he had to buy Mr Snowden extra jeans and shirts while he was in the airport.
“He has few things, so we didn’t have to pack suitcases,” he told the television channel.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena with Sarah Harrison
It remained unclear where Mr Snowden had spent more than a month, with the public areas of the airport thoroughly combed by journalists. Mr Kucherena last week spoke to journalists after emerging from a meeting with Mr Snowden via a door in the arrivals zone of Terminal E marked “staff only.”
On Thursday, Mr Kucherena made clear that Mr Snowden was in an area for “problem” passengers who lacked documents, dismissing a question about whether he could have been spotted by waitresses in the airport. “Have you ever seen a waiter in the transit zone? I never did,” he said.
“It’s the place where a person who flies in, if he doesn’t have a passport or doesn’t have a visa, say, or he has some problems with documents, he stays in that zone.”
However, he also half-confirmed reports that Mr Snowden had been staying in a capsule hotel that has full public access in the transit zone. “There is a capsule hotel. Those people who stay in the (transit) zone, if they can’t fly out anywhere, they sit there and wait for their problem to be resolved.”