Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about America’s surveillance programs, has received a Russian passport after swearing an oath of allegiance to the country.
According to Press TV, Snowden, 39, was granted Russian citizenship in an order signed by President Vladimir Putin in September.
On Friday, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Snowden had received his passport. “He took the oath,” he said.
“He of course is happy and thankful to the Russian Federation for his citizenship – he’s now a fully fledged citizen of Russia,” Kucherena said. “And most importantly, under the Russian constitution, he cannot be given up to a foreign state.”
He is wanted by Washington on espionage charges, but he argues that his actions were in the interests of the United States.
White House Spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday that Snowden’s case is still the subject of a criminal investigation.
His defenders hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying, however, his opponents say that he is a traitor who has risked his life by exposing the various methods used by Western spies to collect information from other governments and militias.
Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 when the US government stripped him of his passport after he exposed the vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
After fleeing the US in 2013, he was charged with violations of the Espionage Act, which could in total have led to decades in prison.