Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted citizenship to Edward Snowden, a former United States intelligence contractor, according to an official decree published on the Russian government website on Monday.
Snowden is currently facing charges in the US of unauthorized disclosure of national security and intelligence information, and theft of government property after leaking information on US intelligence and mass surveillance programs to the media.
He fled the US in 2013 and was granted permanent Russian residency in 2020. He previously said that he intended to apply for Russian citizenship without renouncing his US citizenship.
The former National Security Agency contractor is among 75 foreign nationals granted Russian citizenship as Moscow is drafting reservists for the war in Ukraine. And many are curious if his newly-granted citizenship means that he could also be conscripted — and alas, be separated from his sons.
In Russia, almost every man from age 18 to 65 is considered a reservist. Officials happened to point out Monday that men with dual citizenship are also eligible for conscription. But Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherana, was quick to clarify to the Interfax news agency that since the main eligibility requirement is having previous combat or military service experience, Snowden is not eligible to be mobilized. But there are also reports about how eligibility rules have become very flexible.
In the years following his whistleblowing, Snowden has become somewhat of a celebrity, appearing remotely to speak at events about privacy and intelligence. But he remains the target of criticism from the intelligence community, current and former officials believe that by exposing important intelligence programs, he endangered global security. An assessment of the extent of the damage of his leaks remains classified to this day.
James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence when Snowden made his disclosures, told the Associated Press that Snowden’s grant of Russian citizenship came with “rather curious timing.”
“It raises the question — again — about just what he shared with the Russians,” Clapper said.
In 2016, the US Congress released a report that accuses Snowden of being in contact with Russian intelligence officials since arriving in Russia. Snowden quickly denied the allegations, dismissing them as falsehoods, while also emphasizing the omission of his “strident, well-documented criticisms of Russian policy.”
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