Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden Russian citizenship by signing a decree, according to government documents.
The development comes as Moscow works to conduct a partial mobilization of its population, and sparked speculation that Snowden, who previously worked for the U.S. intelligence community, could be enlisted to work for the Russian military. U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing on Monday that Snowden “may well be conscripted to fight in Russia's war in Ukraine.”
Moscow announced it would be sending an additional 300,000 Russians to Ukraine to fight the war, which has lasted over seven months, in an attempt to replace men it has lost in the conflict. Russia has been facing mounting losses in Ukraine as Ukrainian forces have waged multiple successful counter-offensives in the south and northeast of the country, beating back Russian forces and forcing Putin to pull back his military.
It was not immediately clear if Snowden could be drafted in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Snowden is 39, and above the age ceiling for conscription in Russia, which extends between those aged 18-27. Because he does not serve in the Russian army currently, he can’t be drafted, his lawyer told Ria Novosti. But the army has recently eliminated an age limit of 40 years for Russians to enlist in the war.
The mobilization of 300,000 people in recent days has centered on reservists and those with some military experience or “specialized military skills.” The list of what the military is looking for is classified, so it is not clear if they are interested in those with a computer consultant background.
Snowden, who previously worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked information in 2013 that revealed details on sweeping surveillance programs of Americans’ phone records run by the U.S. intelligence community. The revelations about the programs raised numerous questions about civil liberties and privacy in the United States, and Snowden has been living in Russia since the leaks in an attempt to evade prosecution over leaking classified information.
The NSA surveillance that Snowden exposed was illegal, the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit ruled in 2020, a move which Snowden suggested was a vindication of his actions.
“I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” he said on Twitter.
Snowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The NSA declined to comment.