Russia grants Snowden residence for three years
Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, wanted by the United States for leaking extensive secrets of its electronic surveillance programs, has been given a three-year residence permit by Russia, his Russian lawyer said on Thursday.
The announcement comes as Russia’s relations with the West are at Cold War-era lows because of their escalating disagreement over Ukraine. Moscow responded to Western sanctions by banning certain food imports from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway on Thursday.
“The decision on the application has been taken and therefore, with effect from Aug 1, 2014, Edward Snowden has received a three-year residential permit,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.
“In the future, Edward will take a decision on whether to stay on (in Russia) and get Russian citizenship or leave for the United States.”
He said Snowden could apply for citizenship after living in Russia for five years — in 2018 — but he had not decided whether he wanted to stay or leave. Kucherena said Snowden is studying Russian and has an IT-related job, but did not provide details, only adding, “He is a high-class IT specialist.”
He said Snowden’s security is being taken seriously and he is using private security guards.
“He leads a rather modest lifestyle, but nevertheless we proceed from the tone of statements that come from the US State Department and other political figures,” he said. “The security issue should not be treated as a secondary one.”
Snowden’s place of residence has not been disclosed, and few pictures of him have appeared in the media.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year after leaking details of secret state surveillance programs.