Edward Snowden Grateful After Vladimir Putin Grants Him Russian Citizenship

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower wanted by U.S. authorities for leaking highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) secrets in 2013, has expressed relief after being granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin.

Snowden has been living in Moscow since 2013, when he fled to the Russian capital to avoid espionage charges in his home country.

The former intelligence contractor was granted temporary asylum, which was repeatedly extended until he was given permanent residency in 2020.

After Russian citizenship was granted, Snowden tweeted: "After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS.

"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."

He accompanied the post with a photo of his wife, blogger Lindsay Mills, and their two sons.

Mills, who has also applied for a Russian passport, and Snowden were married in 2017. Their first son was born in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Snowden announced he had applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, saying he feared being separated from his family in an era of "closed borders."

He tweeted: "After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son. That's why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we're applying for dual US-Russian citizenship.

"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."

Snowden shot to prominence in 2013, when information he leaked revealed the National Security Agency had collected telephone records from millions of Americans, and tapped into the servers of nine major internet firms to monitor online communications.

Then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accused Snowden of causing "huge, grave damage" to U.S. intelligence, whilst President Obama said he'd undermined the government's ability to "keep our people safe."

Edward Snowden speaks to WIRED festival remotely
Edward Snowden speaking remotely to 'WIRED25 Festival: WIRED Celebrates 25th Anniversary' on October 14, 2018. which was held in San Francisco, California. He now has Russian citizenship. Phillip Faraone/GETTY

In 2015, whilst in Moscow, Snowden described internet censorship and the treatment of the gay people in Russia as "fundamentally wrong."

Snowden was granted Russian citizenship just days after Putin ordered a partial Russian mobilization to support his ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Russian authorities said they planned to conscript 300,000 people with former military experience, but there have been widespread reports of men without any military background being drafted.

This sparked ridicule online, with politicians and commentators asking whether Snowden could be conscripted into the Russian army.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: "Now that Edward Snowden has been granted full Russian citizenship I expect he will be on the battlefield in Ukraine fighting for Putin any day now.

"Or could it be that he will be exempt while other Russian citizens are told to fight in a war of aggression on Putin's behalf?"

International security expert Aki Peritz added: "Snowden is now a RU citizen and under 50; he should now be mobilized, given a Czarist-era rifle, Soviet-era boots, rations which expired in 2012, and sent to the front lines of Ukraine. For the glory of the motherland, of course."

Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said his client doesn't meet the criteria for Putin's military draft.

Speaking to Russian news agency RIA he said: "Since Edward did not serve in the Russian army, he does not have either the practice or experience of military service, so he is not subject to conscription."