NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden received permanent residency rights from the Russian government, Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said on Thursday.
The 37-year-old former NSA analyst has been living in Russia on a temporary residency since June 2013.
According to Russian state news agency TASS, which first broke the story today, Snowden’s temporary residency permit had expired in April this year but was automatically extended throughout the summer due to delays in government bureaucracy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kucherena said that despite obtaining a permanent residency permit this week, Snowden does not plan to request Russian citizenship.
Snowden fled to Russia, via Hong Kong, in 2013, after exposing the NSA’s mass surveillance program with the help of US and UK reporters.
He was charged in the US on two charges of espionage.
President Trump floated a potential pardon this summer, saying in an interview that the former NSA analyst was “not being treated fairly” for his role in exposing the NSA’s surveillance program that targeted and spied on both Americans, foreigners, and world leaders alike.
However, despite President Trump’s remarks, the White House did not take any steps towards pardoning Snowden, who still remains a vilified figure in the US intelligence community.
If Snowden returns to the US without a pardon he risks up to 20 years in prison, if tried and found guilty.