Putin Grants Russian Citizenship to U.S. Whistleblower Snowden

Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, nine years after he exposed the scale of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Snowden is accused of espionage and theft of government property in the United States for leaking troves of information on U.S. intelligence and mass surveillance programs to the media. 

For years, government authorities have wanted Snowden to return to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges. He faces up to 30 years in prison in America. 

Snowden, aged 39, fled the United States and was given asylum in Russia after leaking secret files in 2013. The files revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by his employer, the NSA.

In November 2020, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, applied for Russian citizenship. He had been already given permanent residency in Russia. At the time, he said he would retain his U.S. citizenship and one day return to America. 

After the announcement on Monday that Russian citizenship had been granted to Snowden, he issued a tweet about his newfound citizenship. 

“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,” Snowden tweeted

In 2016, Congress released a report saying Snowden had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials since he arrived in Russia. Snowden immediately disputed the accusations, writing on Twitter “they claim without evidence that I’m in cahoots with the Russians.”

Putin’s decision to grant Russian citizenship to Snowden comes just days after he began an escalation of his ongoing war in Ukraine. Last week, Putin announced another “partial mobilization” of citizens, calling up 300,000 civilians into combat.

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