Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former American security contractor Edward Snowden Monday, the Associated Press first reported.
Putin signed a decree Monday granting Snowden citizenship nearly two years after the National Security Administration (NSA) whistleblower petitioned for it along with his wife, citing a fear of being separated from their son in “this era of pandemics and closed borders.” Snowden has not renounced his U.S. citizenship, but remains wanted by American authorities on charges of theft of government property and violation of the Espionage Act.
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin grants Russian citizenship to former US security contractor Edward Snowden.
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 26, 2022
Snowden, who was granted permanent residency in Russia in 2020, was one of 75 foreign nationals granted citizenship Monday. He has lived in Russia since 2013 while evading capture by U.S. law enforcement.
Snowden is wanted for allegedly leaking highly classified documents exposing several global surveillance operations involving the NSA and other government agencies in 2013. He initially fled to Hong Kong in May of 2013 before reportedly passing the documents to journalists, including Glenn Greenwald in June, before making his way to Russia later that month after the Department of State revoked his passport.
Putin initially described Snowden’s fleeing to Russia as an “unwanted Christmas present” in 2013 and said he should leave the country, but Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him to the U.S. in the years since. (RELATED: The Case For — And Against — A Snowden Pardon)
Numerous American politicians and activists have petitioned for Snowden to be pardoned, characterizing him as a freedom fighter who exposed government corruption and spying against its own citizens. Critics label him a traitor for leaking government secrets, including revealing sensitive information to China on American efforts to infiltrate CCP institutions.