Eight years after moving to Moscow to escape charges of treason for leaking information about secret American surveillance operations, former US intelligence consultant Edward Snowden is ready to apply to become a Russian citizen.
On Thursday, Snowden’s attorney Anatoly Kucherena revealed that he had completed all the necessary documentation, which would soon be sent off to the authorities. He has been living in Moscow since 2013, when he was made a wanted man for blowing the whistle on America’s electronic spying programs.
In June 2013, the former intelligence contractor handed a trove of secret material about British and American surveillance programs to journalists from the Guardian and the Washington Post, detailing how they were spying on their own citizens. After the information was published, Washington revoked his passport, and following several rejections from other countries, Snowden fled to Moscow, where the authorities allowed him to enter. After a month of living in the airport terminal, Snowden was granted the right of asylum.
Ever since his arrival in Russia, he has been living in exile, wanted in his home country for two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, as well as theft of government property. If he returns to the US, he could face up to 30 years behind bars.
In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year residence permit, and then six years later was given permanent residency.
In late 2020, Snowden’s wife Lindsay Mills gave birth to a son in Moscow. A month before the delivery date, the former intelligence consultant revealed on Twitter that he and Mills were applying to become joint citizens of the US and Russia.
“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,” Snowden wrote. “Our greatest wish is that, wherever our son lives, he feels at home.”
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. https://t.co/cCgT0rr37e
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 1, 2020
Since he blew the whistle on Washington’s intelligence operations and his passport was revoked, Snowden has been in legal limbo. While he is still legally a US citizen, he has no way to travel abroad. By applying for citizenship, he will also become immune to deportation, as Russian law forbids the extradition of the country’s citizens to other jurisdictions.
Snowden has repeatedly revealed his wish to return to the US, and has noted that he would immediately come home if given the chance of a fair trial. Last summer, then-president Donald Trump said he would ‘take a look’ at pardoning the whistleblower, before eventually leaving office in January 2021 without doing so.
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