Russia President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to the former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, leading to questions about whether the whistleblower would be conscripted into Moscow’s army amid the nationwide mobilization campaign.
Snowden was one of the 72 foreign-born individuals who were granted Russian citizenship by Putin on Monday.
“In accordance with paragraph ‘a’ of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, I decide: to accept the citizenship of the Russian Federation of the following persons: Edward Joseph Snowden, born on June 21, 1983, in the United States of America,” read Putin’s decree, which was published on the portal of legal information.
Snowden’s citizenship comes amid Putin’s order for “partial mobilization.” The order would initially call up 300,000 reservists with combat and service experience to join the war in Ukraine and boost Moscow’s troops during the invasion.
However, Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told state news agency RIA Novosti that his client would not be drafted as he does not have experience serving in the Russian armed forces. This is in contrast to multiple reports of draft papers being sent to people who have no prior military experience.
Snowden, 39, has been living in Russia since 2013 in hopes of escaping prosecution for leaking highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to The Guardian and The Washington Post. At the time of the leak, Snowden was working as an employee and subcontractor for the NSA.
After fleeing the U.S. in 2013, Snowden was charged with violations of the Espionage Act, including conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information and theft of government property. Each charge carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison.
In 2020, Snowden was granted permanent residency in Russia. After receiving permanent residency, the whistleblower wrote on Twitter that he and his wife, American acrobat Lindsay Mills, would “remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love.”
Kucharena said Mills will also apply for Russian citizenship. Snowden’s daughter received Russian citizenship by birth after she was born in the Russian Federation.