Edward Snowden slipped out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and into a taxi yesterday - evading a swarm of reporters who had been trying to trail him for weeks.
Journalists have scoured the international airport since Snowden flew in from Hong Kong on June 23, wanting to catch him inside the terminal's capsule hotel or the passenger lounges.
But the US fugitive's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, left them disappointed when he revealed Snowden simply walked out of the airport and was whisked away to a secret location.
Rossiya 24 television aired a blurred photograph apparently showing Snowden from the back, carrying a black rucksack, as he was about to enter a grey saloon car. A blonde-haired woman was standing next to him.
He was shown talking to Kucherena, with four other unidentified men nearby, one talking on a cell phone.
The channel did not reveal who took the photograph.
"I am so thankful" to Russia, Snowden's father Lon Snowden told Rossiya 24 channel hours after Snowden left the airport transit zone.
"It's been a very long week," he said. "I love my son."
Asked in a live interview on Rossiya 24 whether Snowden really caught an ordinary taxi, his lawyer said with dry humour: "I understand that it was a taxi."
Mysteriously, Kucherena seemed not to be involved in 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," Kucherena said.
"I did not get involved in this part. It's not my competence. So in this case, I hope that all will be well." Kucherena also refused to comment on whether the former National Security Agency surveillance contractor would be staying in Moscow itself.
"Let's not lift up that veil since Edward himself will decide that question," he told Rossiya 24.
Snowden did not take long to pack after receiving a document certifying that he has temporary asylum in Russia, dated July 31, said Kucherena.
He revealed that he had to buy 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.
It remained unclear where Snowden had spent more than a month, with the public areas of the airport thoroughly combed by journalists.
Kucherena spoke to journalists last week after emerging from a meeting with Snowden via a door in the arrivals zone of Terminal E which was marked "staff only". Yesterday, Kucherena made it clear 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 a visa, or he has problems with documents, he stays in that zone."