Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted citizenship to former U.S. Intelligence contractor Edward Snowden after nearly a decade of living in exile for whistleblowing National Security Agency secrets. According to an official edict signed by Putin and published on Monday, Snowden’s name was one of 72 foreigners to whom the presidential decree awarded citizenship.
Snowden fled the United States in 2013 with his partner, Lindsay Mills, to avoid prosecution for leaking information on U.S. and British surveillance procedures to The Washington Post and The Guardian. The whistleblower was granted asylum in Russia — after initially attempting to travel to Ecuador from Hong Kong — and has remained in Moscow with his wife and child since.
After learning that Mills was pregnant with their first son, Snowden and Mills applied for Russian citizenship back in 2020 to avoid being separated from their future child due to Russian COVID-19 protocol.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son,” Snowden wrote on Twitter in 2020. “That’s why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we’re applying for dual US-Russian citizenship.”
Snowden was granted permanent residency in 2020, which would lead to his citizenship two years later. The Washington Post reported that Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, stated that Mills was in the process of applying for citizenship, as well.
Monday afternoon, Snowden took to his Twitter once again to state that his citizenship was greatly influenced by his family, parodying his tweet from two years prior.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS,” Snowden wrote. “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.”
Despite living in exile, Snowden still hopes to return to the United States one day, The New York Times reported. He has denied the U.S. Congressional reports claiming he had been coordinating with Russian Intelligence during his time in Moscow and claimed back in 2019 that he would return to the United States if guaranteed a fair trial, according to The Guardian.
Though Snowden is president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to fund and support journalism, he has been quiet about the Russia-Ukraine war — a conflict he originally claimed the Russian president was unlikely to escalate, The Guardian reported. After Russian troops mobilized three days after Snowden’s comment, he has not commented on the war and the politics surrounding it.
Putin’s decree granting Snowden Russian citizenship comes just days after the Russian president announced the “partial mobilization” of Russian reserves and citizens, according to Mediazona. Snowden’s naturalization has still prompted speculation as to whether his new citizenship requires him to serve in the war against Ukraine, though Kucherena claims that Snowden could not be drafted without having previously served in Russia’s military, The Washington Post reported. Russian enlistment restrictions have already changed since the beginning of the war, though, such as people over the age of 40 now being considered for enlistment.