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Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden this week, nearly 10 years after the American whistleblower publicly disclosed classified information on US intelligence and mass surveillance programs, CNN reported.

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his public disclosure of top-secret information.

US authorities have accused Snowden of espionage and the theft of government property for leaking information about the NSA’s surveillance program. He faces up to 30 years in prison in the US should he return, the BBC noted.

Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russian media that the couple already has a child who was born in Russia and received Russian citizenship at birth.

The decision to grant Snowden citizenship comes a week after Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of its citizens to fight in the war in Ukraine.

The president’s announcement sparked strong public opposition in Russia, prompting many men of fighting age to flee the country.

Kucherena noted that Snowden will not be subject to the “partial mobilization” because he did not serve in the Russian army. That said, many men who have never served, are too old or have physical ailments have received notices to appear at recruitment offices.

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