NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks live from Russia during the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal on November 4, 2019.
Pedro Fiúza | NurPhoto | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship on Monday to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s name appears as one of approximately 70 foreign nationals listed in a decree and approved by Putin for Russian citizenship.
The former NSA intelligence officer turned U.S. government whistleblower, fled to Hong Kong and later to Russia in to evade federal prosecution after leaking classified documents to journalists. He was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and later permanent residency. Snowden, 39, has remained in Russia ever since.
Putin’s decision to grant Snowden citizenship comes just days after ordering approximately 300,000 people to join the fight in Ukraine.
The subsequent news reports from more than 7,000 classified documents revealed the inner workings of a colossal U.S. government surveillance operation. Intelligence officials have previously said that Snowden may have taken 1.7 million classified files.
Stories published in The Guardian and The Washington Post exposed a vast government-run spy program that monitored communications of criminals, potential terrorists and law-abiding citizens alike. Other accounts documented how Washington also secretly monitored some of America’s closest allies, like then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Snowden was charged with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington’s position on the former U.S. intelligence contractor has not changed. He added that he was not aware of any change to Snowden’s American citizenship status.
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