© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is seen on screen during his interview presented via video link at the New Knowledge education online forum in Moscow, Russia September 2, 2021. REUTERS / Olesya Astakhova
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, nine years after he revealed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency. NSA).
Snowden, 39, fled the United States and was granted asylum in Russia after leaking secret files in 2013 revealing extensive domestic and international surveillance operations by the NSA, where he work done.
US authorities have for years wanted him to return to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.
There was no immediate response from Snowden, who appeared without comment from the Kremlin in a Putin decree granting citizenship to a list of 72 individuals born abroad.
The news prompted some Russians to jokingly question whether Snowden would be called up for military service, five days after Putin announced Russia’s first public mobilization since World War Two to stop it. The invasion is faltering into Ukraine.
“Will Snowden be drafted into the army?” Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state media outlet RT and a strong Putin supporter, wrote with dark humor on her Telegram channel.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RIA news agency that his client could not be called because he had not previously served in the Russian military.
He said that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay (NYSE:) Mills, who gave birth to a son in 2020, would also apply for naturalization.
Russia granted Snowden permanent residency in 2020, paving the way for him to obtain Russian citizenship.
That year, a US appeals court found the program Snowden had revealed to be illegal and that US intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth.
Putin, a former Russian spy, said in 2017 that Snowden, who kept a low profile while living in Russia, was wrong to leak American secrets but was not a traitor.