Russia’s Vladimir Putin granted full Russian citizenship to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden on Monday.
Snowden, 39, fled the United States to Russia after revealing information about extensive surveillance operations being conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). He is now a Russian citizen by Presidential decree, Reuters reported on Monday.
The announcement comes roughly two years after Russia granted Snowden permanent residency in the country.
The country first granted Snowden asylum in 2014 and has since resisted calls to extradite him to the U.S.. Snowden faces espionage charges that could land him in prison for up to thirty years in the U.S..
In 2019, Snowden stated that he would be willing to return to the U.S. on the condition that he got a fair trial.
“That is the ultimate goal, but if I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison then my one, bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial,” Snowden told CBS This Morning at the time.
Former President Donald Trump had stated he was considering Snowden’s case for a potential pardon in 2020 but never took action.
Snowden flew to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013
In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. Snowden says he gradually became disillusioned with the programs with which he was involved and that he tried to raise his ethical concerns through internal channels but was ignored.
On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and, in early June, he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, and Ewen MacAskill.
Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and other publications.
On June 21, 2013, the United States Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property after which the Department of State revoked his passport.
Two days later, he flew to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where Russian authorities took note of the canceled passport and restricted him to the airport terminal for over one month.
Russia later granted Snowden the right of asylum with an initial visa for residence for one year. This was subsequently repeatedly extended. In October 2020, he was granted permanent residency in Russia.