MOSCOW — Edward J. Snowden, the US intelligence contractor who published a raft of secret documents and then fled to Russia, has been granted a three-year residence permit, his lawyer announced Thursday.
Anatoly G. Kucherena, the lawyer, told a news conference that Snowden had not been given asylum in Russia but rather had been granted permission to live here until 2017, Russian media reported.
His new status includes the right to leave Russia for up to three months, Kucherena said. Snowden, 31, had originally planned to head to Latin America for asylum. Anger in Germany at US surveillance has also prompted some discussion there about whether Snowden should be allowed to live in Germany. But he has so far avoided setting foot outside Russia lest the United States find a way to arrest and prosecute him.
His previous, yearlong residence permit, granted in August 2013, expired July 31, and a new one had been expected. His lawyer filed the necessary paperwork this summer.
Snowden is wanted by the US government for exposing numerous secret intelligence documents, including a program by the National Security Agency to monitor millions of e-mail messages.
Senior government officials have called him a traitor, while Snowden maintains that he is a whistle-blower who exposed an illegal government surveillance program.
Without going into many details, Kucherena said Snowden was living on a salary earned from an unspecified job in the information technology field, and on donations into an open fund from individuals and nongovernmental groups. The lawyer said his client was learning to speak Russian and would be eligible to become a citizen after living in Russia for five years, counted from his first residence permit in 2013.
Whistle-blower or traitor?
Asked about Snowden’s living arrangements in Moscow, Kucherena said that he could not comment in detail but indicated that Snowden was not on the Russian government dole.
“The government cannot provide him with housing, despite the fact that he was granted a residence permit,” Kucherena said. “He leads a rather modest lifestyle.”
Kucherena also denied that Snowden was protected by government bodyguards, saying that there would be all manner of “bureaucratic delays” for such protection to be organized. But Snowden did live with private security, the lawyer said, a priority given hostile US government statements about him.
The welcome mat for Snowden was in contrast to that of another US citizen living in Russia, Jennifer Gaspar, 43, who has been ordered deported by the Russian federal security service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB. In a deportation order issued by the Federal Migration Service that arrived at her St. Petersburg home Tuesday, she was described as “a threat to national security.”
Gaspar’s Russian husband, Ivan Y. Pavlov, is a human rights attorney who has pushed for more transparent government, the very argument Snowden made about the US government in his own defense.
The couple, who have a 5-year-old Russian daughter, think Gaspar is being deported as a means to push Pavlov into exile. The couple are appealing the deportation order.
Snowden is sought by Washington for exposing a huge cache of secret intelligence documents, including a program by the US National Security Agency to monitor hundreds of millions of e-mails and phone calls of both Americans and foreigners. The US government charged him last year with theft of government property, revealing information about national defense and leaking classified information to an unauthorized person.