WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship on Monday to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, according to a decree translated by NBC News.
Snowden’s name appears as one of approximately 70 foreign nationals approved by Putin for Russian citizenship.
The former NSA intelligence officer turned U.S. government whistleblower, fled to Hong Kong and later to Russia in to evade federal prosecution after leaking classified documents to journalists. He was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and later permanent residency. Snowden, 39, has remained in Russia ever since.
The subsequent news reports from more than 7,000 classified documents revealed the inner workings of a colossal U.S. government surveillance operation. Intelligence officials have previously said that Snowden may have taken 1.7 million classified files.
Stories published in The Guardian and The Washington Post exposed a vast government-run spy program that monitored communications of criminals, potential terrorists and law-abiding citizens alike. Other accounts documented how Washington also secretly monitored some of America’s closest allies, like then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Snowden was charged with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
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