By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted citizenship to former US security contractor Edward Snowden, wanted for criminal espionage in the United States.
Snowden, 39 fled the United States after leaking documents about the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) classified surveillance programs in 2013, an offence for which US authorities have long demanded for him to return to face a criminal trial.
The former NSA contractor and whistleblower was previously given permanent residency by the Russian Government in 2020.
Putin on Monday signed a decree offering Snowden, along with some 72 other foreign nationals, citizenship of Russia.
The Kremlin published the list on their official website, but did not offer any comment on Snowden’s citizenship.
Snowden worked for the NSA, which is the US intelligence agency, from 2009 until 2013.
Reponsible for one of the most significant leaks of US poltiical history, Snowden requested for asylum from Russia in 2013.
He has since been living in Russia, and was granted permanent residency in 2020. At the time, Snowden said he planned to apply for Russian citizenship.
It is not clear whether Snowden has renounced his American citizenship. He keeps a low profile since fleeing to Russia. In 2019, he said he would be willing to return to the US if he’s guaranteed a fair trial.
Snowden’s lawyer told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that Snowden’s wife Lindsay Mill, who is also American, will be applying for a Russian passport.
The couple had a child in December 2020.