Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, CNN reports.
Snowden, 39, faces espionage charges in the U.S. after leaking NSA surveillance operations back in 2013. The charges are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, per CNN.
Snowden and his wife applied for Russian citizenship in 2020 after Snowden had already been granted permanent residence. Putin conferred the whistleblower's request Monday via official decree.
Also in 2020, the NSA's surveillance of American phone records — what Snowden leaked to the public — was ruled unlawful, reports Reuters. The U.S. government claimed the surveillance helped fight domestic terrorism.
Now that he's been granted citizenship, some have jokingly speculated as to whether Snowden will be drafted into the war in Ukraine, considering the news arrives shortly after Putin announced the "partial mobilization" of 300,000 military reservists, Reuters notes. But Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told a Russian news source that Snowden could not be called to the war since he never served in the Russian army, BBC reports.
"Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love," Snowden said back in 2020. "And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited."