Edward Snowden speaks at a conference via a monitor at the launch of a campaign calling on President Obama to pardon him before he leaves office on September 14, 2016, in New York City. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Edward Snowden, the former contractor with the National Security Agency who made headlines when he leaked highly classified information in 2013, has been granted Russian citizenship under a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin.
Snowden, 39, leaked an estimated 1.7 million intelligence files used in reporting by journalists, including Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian, and faces espionage charges and 30 years in prison in the United States if he were to return, though his U.S. passport has been revoked.
After the leak, the former NSA contractor first fled from the United States to Hong Kong, where he stayed briefly. He has been living in Russia since June 2013, where he reportedly has worked for a Russian IT company.
Snowden was one of many foreigners granted Russian citizenship in the decree, filed on a Russian government portal. He is listed as the 53rd person in the document.
Snowden and his wife had applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, a month after he was granted permanent residency.
He has maintained a relatively low profile in Russia over the years, but routinely posts on his Twitter account, in which he only follows the NSA. He has not yet addressed his citizenship on Twitter.
Putin's decree granting Snowden and other foreigners citizenship comes as Russia has started to mobilize reservists for the war in Ukraine. Nearly all Russian men are considered reservists until they are 65 years old.
Snowden's lawyer told the Russian news agency Interfax that Snowden, despite his dual citizenship status, he "is not subject to conscription" into the military under Putin's mobilization orders.
In 2016, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee issued a report after a two-year bipartisan investigation refuting Snowden's claims that he was acting as a whistleblower when he leaked the classified documents.
The report called Snowden's actions "the largest and most damaging public release of classified information in U.S. intelligence history."