Russian President, Vladimir Putin granted citizenship to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Putin Grants Edward Snowden Russian Citizenship
The former NSA intelligence officer’s name appeared as one of approximately 70 foreign nationals listed in a decree and approved by Putin for Russian citizenship on Monday, September 26, 2022.
Snowden later issued a message, essentially an updated version of a November 2020 tweet, saying he wanted his family to remain together and asking for privacy.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS. After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them—and for us all,” he tweeted on Monday.
After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS.
After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them—and for us all. https://t.co/24NUK21TAo pic.twitter.com/qLfp47uzZ4
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 26, 2022
Snowden fled the United States and was given asylum in Russia after leaking secret files in 2013 that revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA, where he worked.
The 39-year-old had fled to Hong Kong and later to Russia in to evade federal prosecution after leaking classified documents to journalists. He was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and later permanent residency. Snowden has remained in Russia ever since.
The subsequent news reports from more than 7,000 classified documents revealed the inner workings of a colossal U.S. government surveillance operation. Intelligence officials have previously said that Snowden may have taken 1.7 million classified files.
Snowden was charged with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
US authorities have for years wanted Snowden to be returned to the US to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.
State Department spokesperson, Ned Price said that Washington’s position on the former U.S. intelligence contractor has not changed. He added that he was not aware of any change to Snowden’s American citizenship status.
“Our position has not changed. Mr Snowden should return to the United States where he should face justice as any other American citizen would,” Price said.
“The only thing that has changed is that as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in a reckless war in Ukraine.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti that the former contractor’s wife Lindsay Mills, an American who has been living with him in Russia, will also be applying for a Russian passport.
The couple had a child in December 2020, who already has a Russian passport having been born in the country.
Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and occasionally criticised Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 that he was willing to return to the US if he is guaranteed a fair trial.
Putin, a former Russian spy chief, said in 2017 that Snowden was wrong to leak US secrets but was not a traitor.
Putin last week announced a mobilisation of Russian men to contribute to the army’s fight in Ukraine and Kucherena said Snowden would not be called up to serve given he had no prior experience in the Russian army.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile told news agencies that Snowden had received Russian citizenship as a result of his own request.
President Vladimir Putin’s decision to grant Snowden citizenship comes just days after ordering approximately 300,000 Russians to join the fight in Ukraine.