President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked secret information exposing the U.S. government’s surveillance of American citizens.

Snowden applied for dual US-Russia citizenship in 2020, when he became a permanent resident of the country. He sought refuge there in 2013, after releasing to journalists thousands of classified documents exposing how the NSA collected personal information from U.S. citizens.

The whistleblower said the move is a way to make traveling easier since he and his American wife, Lindsay Mills, have two sons born in Russia — one of them born earlier this year. When the presidential decree was published, Snowden celebrated the decision on Twitter.

“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS,” Snowden wrote. “After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them — and for us all.”

In 2020, Snowden said he and his wife “remain Americans” and that they are raising their son with “all the values of the America we love — including the freedom to speak his mind.”

Snowden was charged in 2013 with violations of the Espionage Act and could face up to 30 years in prison if prosecuted in the United States.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press conference Snowden remains an American citizen and argued he should come back to the United State to face justice.

“Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he should face justice as any other American citizen would,” Price said.

“Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that, as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine,” he added, referring to the partial mobilization ordered by Putin to boost Russian troops in the invasion of Ukraine.

Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency, that his client would not be eligible for the draft because he had no experience in the Russian Army.

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