My arrival was less than exciting; in fact, it was right in line with what I had thought about everything communist: cold, menacing and a bit frightening. The airport was dark and dirty with abundant evidence of home-building by the rodent population, thus, a pungent aroma hung in the air like a veil. After a long flight, a splash of water to the face would have been welcome, but the ladies’ room was as menacing as the guards who greeted us, so I sought a coffee instead. A walk of about two miles through bleak corridors produced no concession stands, only the view of a few Babushkas ineffectively mopping the floors.
So this is Russia, I thought. How can I escape? I was quickly heartened by the knowledge that I would soon be on the road into Moscow, out of this prison.
Moscow wasn’t much better at the time, though the treasures we saw exceeded my wildest imagination and our counterparts on the panel were as interesting and curious about us and our culture as we were about them. All in all, a very satisfactory visit.
But if I’ve gotten you thinking that this is a column about Russia, I have misled you. This is really about prison.
Sheremetyevo Airport seemed suffocating to me; now it is literally a prison. The leaker Edward Snowden is being held there. This means he is in the same situation I was in almost 30 years ago, except he apparently won’t be going into town. I have been to Russia many times since that first visit and there are amazing changes. But as far as I can tell, Sheremetyevo has not improved one bit.
Snowden wants to go to Ecuador, favorite country of his buddy, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuador, it must be noted, cannot be called a hotbed of Internet activity. Cuba is next on his list, but that, too, seems rather closed off from his preferred method of broad dissemination of information. The U.S. government wants him for leaking secrets (many of which weren’t secrets at all) and we can be sure that he won’t have access to a computer if we pry him away from the Russians.
So, he is already imprisoned. I say we should save the expense and just leave him at Sheremetyevo. I imagine not much could be worse.