Vladimir Putin has granted full Russian citizenship to American whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to reports.
39-year-old Snowden fled the United States after exposing sensitive information from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Snowden went public about extensive surveillance operations being conducted by NSA.
Wanted on espionage charges by the U.S. government, Snowden found refuge in Russia.
Reuters reported Monday that he is now a Russian citizen by presidential decree.
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 charges in the U.S. that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.
Strategic intelligence expert and author of “Putin’s Playbook” Rebekah Koffler says the move likely signals Snowden working more closely with the Russian government.
She says he is likely now subject to Putin’s mobilization order but will be assisting Russian intelligence rather than serving on the front lines.
“While before, Snowden was willingly providing help to Russian intelligence, as of today, he will be directed to do exactly what the Russian government and military want him to do,” Koffler said in a statement.
“Snowden has more than likely been debriefed by Russian spy agencies and has provided highly sensitive information to the Russians that could harm Americans, including US military personnel,” she added.
Snowden stated in 2019 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.
President Donald Trump had stated he was considering Snowden’s case for a potential pardon in 2020 but never took action.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been one of Snowden’s major allies in the U.S.
The senator has praised the whistleblower for unveiling schemes by the U.S. government to surveil American citizens both here and abroad.