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Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has welcomed news that Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted him Russian citizenship.
Snowden is charged with espionage and theft of government property in the United States for leaking to the media reams of information about US intelligence and mass surveillance programs.
The 39-year-old lives in exile in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. He faces up to 30 years in prison in the United States.
In November 2020, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, applied for Russian citizenship. He had already obtained permanent residence in Russia.
In a Tweeter he wrote: « After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS », posting a photo of him, his wife and their two children.
“After two years of waiting and almost ten years in exile, a little stability will make the difference for my family. I pray for their privacy – and for all of us,” he continued.
A bit of context:
Putin’s decision to grant citizenship to Snowden comes just days after the Russian president threatened to escalate his war in Ukraine, announcing the « partial mobilization » of citizens.
In 2016, the US Congress released a report indicating that Snowden had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials since arriving in Russia. Snowden immediately disputed the charges, writing on Twitter « they claim without proof that I am in cahoots with the Russians. »
Snowden would not be subject to the « partial mobilization » announced by Putin since he did not serve in the Russian army, according to his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, quoted Monday by the Russian state media RIA Novosti.
“Now the spouse will receive citizenship after receiving it. Now the spouse will apply,” Kucherena told RIA Novosti, referring to Snowden’s wife, Mills.
According to the lawyer, Snowden has a child who was born in the Russian Federation and received Russian citizenship at birth.