Former American intelligence consultant and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US, has been given permanent residence in Russia, where he has sought refuge since 2013, according to his lawyer.
Russia’s immigration services on Thursday granted Snowden the title of permanent resident, Anatoli Kucherena, counsel for the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) consultant, told the Interfax news agency.
Kucherena told AFP news agency that Snowden’s residence permit had been extended indefinitely, adding that this had been made possible by recent changes to Russian immigration law.
An application had been filed in April, but its processing was delayed by the novel Coronavirus pandemic, Kucherena said.
Edward Snowden was first granted a one-year asylum permit, then a three-year residency which was extended in 2017.
The former consultant had fled the United States after leaking to the press tens of thousands of documents proving NSA activities and showing the scope of the electronic surveillance carried out by Washington.
These revelations had raised strong tensions between the United States and its allies and the Russian authorities’ decision to grant him a residence permit had also angered Washington.
In August, U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that he would look at the possibility of pardoning Snowden, who faces espionnage charges in the United States and could receive up to 30 years in prison.
Snowden, who was stripped of his U.S. passport at Washington’s request, travelled to Moscow in May 2013, after arriving in Hong Kong, with the intention of obtaining asylum in Latin America. However, he was blocked in Russia, where he was granted asylum.