Putin granted Russian citizenship to American whistleblower Snowden

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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 leaking classified files in 2013 that 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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Snowden’s name appeared in Putin’s decree granting citizenship to 72 foreign-born people without Kremlin comment.

Snowden later released a message, essentially an updated version of a November 2020 tweet, saying he wants his family to stay together and demanding privacy.

“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I do not want to be separated from our sons,” the tweet read.

“After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability would make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them and for all of us.”

The new tweet made no mention of the Kremlin leader’s decree, but it was linked to a 2020 Twitter thread in which Snowden said he and his family were applying for dual US-Russian citizenship.

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

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.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said there had been no change to Snowden’s US citizenship status.

“I’m well aware that he has renounced his American citizenship in some ways. I don’t know that he has renounced it,” Price said at a news conference.

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.

Putin, the former head of Russian intelligence, 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, Grant McCool and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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