Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, September 26th signed a decree granting citizenship to former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. He was among 75 foreigners granted citizenship by Putin’s new decree.
Snowden fled the U.S. in 2013 after he leaked classified information about government surveillance programs and was charged with espionage. He’s been living in exile in Moscow for nearly a decade to avoid prosecution on American soil.
He said in 2019 that he ultimately hoped to return home if the government guaranteed him a fair trial, but he contended the U.S. wasn’t willing to let him defend his actions as having been made in the public interest.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Snowden requested an extended residency permit that would allow him to spend three more years in Russia. Later that year, Russia granted him an unlimited permit.
Weeks after securing permanent residency, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, announced they would apply for Russian citizenship ahead of the birth of their first child. Snowden said at the time that he and his family would work to maintain dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and would not renounce their U.S. passports.
The move comes on the heels of a partial mobilization order that would call up thousands of Russian reservists to fight in the war in Ukraine. The country has a mandatory conscription system, and most men enter the reserves after completing military training.
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Snowden’s lawyer reportedly told the Interfax news agency that he is not eligible to be mobilized because he has not served in the Russian forces.
Though outspoken about U.S. politics on his Twitter account and in his Substack newsletter, Snowden has been quiet about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)