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Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted U.S. fugitive and whistleblower Edward Snowden citizenship. Snowden a former contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA) is charged with espionage and is accused of leaking classified government documents to the media in 2013.
The top-secret intel was first published in the Washington Post and the Guardian. Snowden exposed the NSA’s extensive domestic and international surveillance programs. Included in the leaked documents were details of the NSA collecting the phone record of millions of Americans. This program was shuttered after being found unlawful by a federal appeals court.
The 39-year-old initially traveled to Hong Kong back in 2013 but later fled to Russia fearing extradition back to the United States. He was stranded in the international departure zone of Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a month before being granted temporary asylum on Aug. 1, 2013. When his temporary asylum expired, it initially was extended for three years by Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2014.
The fugitive has been living in exile in Russia for nearly a decade. Authorities in the United States have wanted him to return to the U.S. and face trial for his charges of espionage and theft of government property. If convicted he is facing up to 30 years of incarceration in the United States.
Snowden and his wife Lindsay Mills applied for citizenship back in 2020. They have two children together. Snowden was previously granted Russian permanent residency status prior to becoming a citizen. Ned Price, U.S. State Department spokesperson, was uniformed to any change of Snowden’s U.S. citizenship status. He said, “I am familiar with the fact that he has in some ways denounced his American citizenship. I don’t know that he’s renounced it.”
This new development comes just days after Putin announced the “partial mobilization” of citizens warning of the exacerbation of the war with Ukraine. According to a quote by Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena in Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti, this “mobilization” does not apply to the exiled NSA contractor since he has not served as a member of the Russian army.
Putin’s “mobilization” is facing mounting resistance as minorities including the Crimean Tatars have been targeted for the draft. Eskender Bariyev, Director of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center based in Ukraine, said in an interview, “When we analyze the mobilization, we clearly see this is a continuation of the Crimean Tatar genocide.”
On Monday, Snowden tweeted an updated version of a previous tweet from November 2020: “After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS. 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 also wrote, “Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love — including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited.” Over 70 foreigners including Snowden were granted Russian citizenship on September 26, 2022.
Written by Ebonee Stevenson
CNN: Vladimir Putin grants former NSA contractor Edward Snowden Russian citizenship by Rob Picheta, Uliana Pavlova, and Chris Liakos
The New York Times: Russia’s Draft Sweeps Up Vulnerable Groups, Activists Say by Andrew E. Kramer and Maria Varenikova
Reuters: Putin grants Russian citizenship to U.S. whistleblower Snowden by
Featured and Image Courtesy of Marco Verch Professional’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Larry Koester’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License