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Snowden makes first public appearance, secretly visits Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre

Published time: August 05, 2014 17:18
Edited time: August 05, 2014 19:40
Edward Snowden (AFP Photo / The Guardian)

Edward Snowden (AFP Photo / The Guardian)

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has visited Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in his first public appearance since coming to Russia a year ago. Reporters were hardly able to recognize the former CIA employee without his signature look glasses.

The NSA whistleblower apparently decided to mark a year of asylum in Russia by making a public appearance. He attended the Tsar's Bride opera in Moscow’s historic Bolshoi Theatre.

Snowden slipped in almost unnoticed. He sat in one of the theatre’s boxes, admiring Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera that recounts a tragic love story during the time of Ivan the Terrible’s reign in Russia.

Snowden publically promised to study Russian culture when he was granted asylum in August last year.


In June 2013, the former NSA contractor landed in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in transit from Hong Kong, with Ecuador as his final destination.

After Snowden leaked sensitive US intelligence, Washington charged him with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person, canceling his passport upon arrival in Moscow. This led to the leaker getting stranded in the transit zone until Russia granted him temporary asylum.


His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RT that during the time Snowden was holed up in the airport he brought him books by prominent Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, and the classic 12-volume History of the Russian state by 19th century historian Nikolay Karamzin - all of those books in English.

The State Academic Bolshoi Theater, in Moscow (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Vyatkin)

At the same time, according to Kucherena, Snowden promised to learn Russian. When Snowden was granted asylum, he was taken to an undisclosed “safe place” and has not been seen in public since. During this time he has made a few videos and appeared in teleconferences and interviews.

In August last year, Life news published a photo of a man it claimed was the first showing US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow. The image showed a casually-dressed man, with a goatee and glasses, pushing a supermarket trolley full of groceries across a road. However the photo was blurry and it was hard to establish the man’s identity.

Snowden filed an official petition on July 9 to extend his asylum in Russia for another year. The whistleblower can stay in the country while his application is being processed. Currently, Snowden holds a three-year post as Rector of the University of Glasgow and serves on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board of directors.