Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about US surveillance programs, swore an oath of allegiance to Russia and has collected his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday.
“Edward received a Russian passport yesterday and took the oath in accordance with the law,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. “He is, of course, happy, thanking the Russian Federation for the fact that he received citizenship,” he continued. “And most importantly, under the Constitution of Russia, he can no longer be extradited to a foreign state.”
Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges. He argues that his actions were in the interests of the United States. In any case, his revelations exposed the breadth of US digital spying programs and altered the public’s understanding of technology, privacy, and digital security.
It’s unclear whether Snowden swore the oath of allegiance at the same time as he was granted a passport, but the two are common procedures when foreigners become Russian citizens. The text includes swearing “to protect the freedom and independence of the Russian Federation, to be loyal to Russia, to respect its culture, history, and traditions,” and to promise to “perform the duties of a citizen of the Russian Federation for the good of the state and society.”
Kucherena added that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, was also undergoing the Russian citizenship application process and that the couple’s children would likely attend Russian schools, when ready. He said he communicated mainly in English with his client but that Snowden also speaks Russian, albeit “not perfectly.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Snowden citizenship in September, in a decree that covered 72 foreigners. Putin has previously called Snowden’s actions wrong but said he “is not a traitor,” since “he did not betray the interests of his country.”
After being granted citizenship, Snowden tweeted: “After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS. After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them — and for us all.”
Snowden was given asylum in Russia in 2013 after he fled the United States to avoid prosecution. He was granted permanent residency in 2020, and his lawyers said at the time that he was applying to obtain a Russian passport without renouncing his US citizenship.
He explained his decision to seek dual citizenship on Twitter in 2020 as being necessary to prevent being separated from his son. In an “era of pandemics and closed borders, we’re applying for dual US-Russian citizenship,” he wrote.
“Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love — including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited,” he added.
Snowden’s revelations, published first in The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper in 2013, caused international shock waves and were among the most consequential intelligence breaches in US history.
He disclosed the existence of the NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, a program later found by a federal appeals court to be unlawful and subsequently shuttered. The disclosures also damaged the intelligence community’s relationship with the American tech industry.
Snowden swore his oath and received his passport as Moscow continued its war on Ukraine, now in its 10th month. His lawyer, Kucherena, said when Snowden was granted citizenship that he would not be subject to the partial military mobilization that Putin had decreed days before, since only men with previous military experience were being called up. However, it has been widely reported that many Russians without such experience have been summoned for duty in recent months.
A State Department spokesman said Friday that the United States is “aware of the reports” about Snowden but is “not in a position to confirm or deny whether Mr. Snowden has acquired Russian Federation citizenship.”