Edward Snowden: Ex-NSA Contractor-Turned-Whistleblower Granted Russian Citizenship By Putin; US Fears He Could Be Conscripted For Ukraine War

Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden, a former Federal Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower. A decree signed by Putin was uploaded on the Kremlin's website on Monday. 74 more foreign nationals along with Snowden have been granted Russian citizenship, according to the decree.

The former NSA contractor has been living in Russia since 2013 after he escaped prosecution in the US over the leak of classified documents that detailed the government's widespread surveillance programme.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden Reuters

Putin Grants Russian Citizenship To Snowden

Russia granted him permanent residence two years back. At that time, he didn't renounce his US citizenship and was planning to apply for Russian citizenship.

Snowden's Wife Will Apply For Russian Passport

Snowden's wife, Lindsay Mills, who's living with him in Russia, will apply for a Russian passport soon, according to their lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena. Snowden had a child with Mills two years ago, in December 2020.

Edward Snowden's residency
Edward Snowden receives residency in Russia Reuters

Snowden Wanted To Return To The US

The whistleblower in 2019 expressed that he wanted to return to the US only if a fair trial was guaranteed. Snowden has kept a low profile in Putin's country, but sometimes he appears to criticize Russian government policies on social media.

Snowden Demanded Fair Trial

"I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal. But if I'm gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial," he told CBS News in 2019.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden Twitter

Highlighting that the government has refused to guarantee him a fair trial, Snowden stated that they won't provide access to what's called a public interest defense.

Snowden Worked For CIA

Snowden had also worked for the CIA. He left his job at Hawaii's NSA facility in 2013 and fled to Hong Kong, where he revealed disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists. The US and its allies' global surveillance operation was also revealed by Snowden, which led Washington to charge him over violating the Espionage Act. Since then, Snowden had taken asylum in Russia and lives in Moscow.

Snowden revealed not just domestic surveillance programs, but also exposed global national security operations by the U.S. and its allies. Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia and lives in Moscow, was charged with violating the Espionage Act.

US State Department Fear That Snowden Conscripted To Fight In Ukraine War

The US is not aware of any change in Snowden's citizenship yet, according to the State Department, but it pointed out that the ex-contractor "should return to the United States where he should face justice, as any other American citizen would."

"Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that, as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in Russia's reckless war in Ukraine," said Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department.