Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted former NSA contractor Edward Snowden Russian citizenship, according to an official decree published on the Russian government portal Monday.
Snowden is accused of espionage and theft of government property in the US for leaking troves of information on American intelligence and mass surveillance programs to the media.
The 39-year-old has been living in exile in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of the classified information. He is facing up to 30 years in prison in the US.
In November 2020 Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, applied for Russian citizenship. He had been already given permanent residency in Russia.
Putin’s decision to grant Snowden citizenship comes just days after the Russian President threatened to escalate his war in Ukraine, announcing the “partial mobilization” of citizens.
In 2016, the US Congress released a report saying Snowden had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials since arriving in Russia. Snowden immediately disputed the accusations, writing on Twitter “they claim without evidence that I’m in cahoots with the Russians.”
When he applied for dual citizenship in 2020, Snowden said: “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.”