Putin granted Russian citizenship to American whistleblower Snowden

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is seen on screen during an interview via video link at the New Knowledge educational online forum on September 2, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. REUTERS/Olesya Astakhova

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Sept 26 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, nine years after revealing the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret surveillance operations.

Snowden, 39, fled the US and sought refuge in Russia after the 2013 leak of classified files revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA, where he worked.

For years, US officials have wanted him returned to the US to face criminal charges of espionage.

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There was no immediate reaction from Snowden without comment from the Kremlin on Putin’s decree granting citizenship to a list of 72 foreign-born people.

The news prompted some Russians to jokingly ask whether Snowden would be called up for military service, five days after Putin announced Russia’s first public mobilization since World War II to bolster its faltering invasion of Ukraine.

“Will Snowden be drafted?” Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state media RT and a vocal Putin supporter, wrote with dark humor on her Telegram channel.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the RIA news agency that his client could not be called because he had not previously served in the Russian military.

Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, who gave birth to a son in 2020, will also apply for citizenship, he said.

In 2020, Russia granted Snowden permanent residency, paving the way for him to obtain Russian citizenship.

That year, a U.S. appeals court found that the program Snowden exposed was illegal and that the U.S. intelligence chiefs who publicly supported it were not telling the truth.

Former Russian spy chief Putin said in 2017 that Snowden, who kept a low profile while living in Russia, was wrong to leak US secrets, but not a traitor.

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Reported by Reuters; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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