Putin Gives Citizenship To Whistleblower Edward Snowden
Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, nine years after he exposed the scale of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Putin, a former Russian spy chief, said in 2017 that Snowden, who keeps a low profile while living in Russia, was wrong to leak US secrets but was not a traitor.
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.
In 2020, Snowden said that he and his then-pregnant wife Lindsay Mills were applying for Russian citizenship to not be separated from their future son in an era of pandemics and closed borders. As the Guardian explains, Russia granted him permanent residency rights the same year, paving the way for him to obtain Russian citizenship.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our sons,” Snowden, whose name appeared on a list of 72 foreign-born individuals for whom Putin was granting citizenship, said on Monday 26. “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.”
After the news broke out, some have taken social media to joke around whether Snowden would be called up for the Russian military service, five days after Putin announced Russia’s first public mobilization since World War Two to shore up its faltering invasion of Ukraine as part of the country’s nationwide mobilization campaign.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the RIA news agency that his client could not be called up because he had not previously served in the Russian army.
Since the scandal, the US authorities have wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges. Snowden said in 2019 that he was willing to return to the US if he was guaranteed a fair trial.
At the time of this writing, we don’t have an immediate reaction from Snowden after the citizenship announcement. He hasn’t commented either on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although he had previously criticized Kremlin’s human rights record. As the Guardian picks up, prior to the war, he repeatedly voiced doubts that Russia would start a war, blaming the media for “pushing” the conflict.