Putin grants Russian citizenship to US whistleblower Edward Snowden
President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former US security guard Edward Snowden, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday.
Snowden is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as having been granted Russian citizenship. The decree was published on an official government website.
Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency, has lived in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the US after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs.
He was granted permanent residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship, without giving up his US citizenship.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the former entrepreneur’s wife, Lindsay Mills, an American who lived with him in Russia, would also apply for a Russian passport. The couple had a child in December 2020.
Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and has sometimes criticized Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 he was ready to return to the United States if he was guaranteed a fair trial. .
He did not comment on obtaining Russian citizenship.
Lawyer: not eligible for military service
The move comes as Moscow is mobilizing reservists for what the Kremlin calls a « special military operation » in Ukraine. In Russia, almost every man is considered a reservist until age 65, and officials stressed on Monday that men with dual nationality are also eligible for military call-up.
Snowden, however, never served in the Russian armed forces, so he is not eligible to be drafted, his lawyer Kucherena told the Interfax news agency. Having previous combat or military service experience was considered the main criteria for the call.
Snowden enlisted in the US Army Reserve in 2004 and attempted to join its elite Special Forces, but was discharged after five months, The Guardian previously reported. Snowden said his release came after he broke both legs in a training accident, although the military has not confirmed his account.
Snowden leaked documents that showed how the NSA collected massive amounts of data that passed through US-based internet companies. He also revealed details about the secret US intelligence budget and the extent of US surveillance of foreign officials, including leaders of US-allied countries.
Snowden said he made the disclosures because he believed the US intelligence community had gone too far and wrongly violated civil liberties. He also said he did not believe the administration of former President Barack Obama, who was in office when he leaked the records to reporters, would act if he filed an internal complaint instead.
He has since become a well-known speaker on privacy and intelligence, appearing remotely at numerous events in Russia. But he also remains controversial among members of the intelligence community, and current and former officials from both US political parties say he has endangered global security by exposing important agendas.
Snowden’s decision to turn against the NSA came when he used his programming skills to create a repository of classified internal notes on the agency’s global espionage and built a backup system for them. agency data, he wrote in his 2019 book Permanent record.
Going through the repository, Snowden said he began to understand the extent of his government’s « trampling » on civil liberties and became sullen, « cursed to know that we’ve all been reduced to something like children, who had been forced to live out the rest of their lives under omniscient parental supervision. »
Snowden was charged in 2013 with unauthorized disclosure of U.S. national security and intelligence information as well as theft of government property. The Justice Department also filed a lawsuit to block Snowden from collecting profits on his memoir, claiming he violated his nondisclosure agreements with intelligence agencies.
Snowden’s acceptance of Russian citizenship is likely to draw more criticism of him from people who say he has remained silent on issues such as the conflict in Ukraine.