It has been nine years since Edward Snowden received asylum in Russia after a Hollywood-style escape from the USA. Since last Friday, the whistleblower has officially been a Russian citizen. "Edward yesterday received a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation and took an oath in accordance with the law," his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Russian news agency Interfax.
"He is, of course, happy and grateful to the Russian Federation for having obtained citizenship. Now he is a full citizen of the Russian Federation. And most importantly, according to the Russian Constitution, he can no longer be extradited to a foreign state," explained the lawyer.
Persons who wish to obtain Russian citizenship must swear to respect the "Constitution and legislation of the Russian Federation, the rights and freedoms of its citizens, to fulfill the duties of a citizen of the Russian Federation for the benefit of the state and society, freedom and to protect the independence of the Russian Federation, to be loyal to Russia and to respect its culture, history and traditions".
In 2013, Snowden leaked confidential documents about massive wiretapping practices by the US secret service NSA and other services to journalists on a large scale. His revelations still have an impact today. First, Snowden fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Then he flew on to Moscow. Actually, he just wanted to change trains in the Russian capital. But the USA had declared his passport invalid in the meantime. Snowden was stuck in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport.
The CIA employee sought protection in numerous countries, including Germany. However, on August 1, 2013, Russia granted him asylum.
In October 2020, Snowden was granted permanent residency in Russia. In late September, Russian President Vladimir Putin finally signed a decree granting Snowden Russian citizenship.
"I'm in Russia because the White House deliberately canceled my passport to keep me here," Snowden explained on Twitter about his decision to accept Russian citizenship. "They downed the President of Bolivia's diplomatic plane to prevent me from leaving the country and to this day are impeding my freedom of movement."
The 39-year-old had repeatedly made it clear that he had to apply for asylum in Russia because he was threatened with extradition to the United States in other countries. However, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that Snowden had long signaled his allegiance to Russia. Russian citizenship would confirm that status, Price said.
Snowden now has two sons who have automatically obtained Russian citizenship. The whistleblower's wife, Lindsay Mills, is said to be applying for Russian citizenship. The family lives in an unknown location in the Russian provinces.
Snowden stated in September: "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 almost ten years in exile, a little stability for my family will make a difference . I pray for privacy for them - and for all of us."
Snowden himself indicated in 2016 that he would like to return to the United States. The prerequisite, however, is that he is given a fair trial there. He had appealed to Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, to consider his pardon, but to no avail.