Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor who leaked several classified surveillance documents has been granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday.

The decree that was published on an official government site counts Snowden as one of the 75 other foreign nationals who have been granted Russian citizenship. 

The former National Security Agency contractor has been living in Russia since 2013. Snowden escaped to avoid prosecution in the US for leaking classified documents that detailed the global surveillance programs run by the intelligence organisation and Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance countries, often in collaboration with telecom companies. He has not commented on his newly granted Russian citizenship.

Since his move, Snowden has not left Russia, opting instead to live there and apply for Russian citizenship without renouncing his US citizenship. He was granted permanent residency in 2020.

The 39-year-old’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena told state-backed news agency RIA Novosti that his wife Lindsay Mills would be applying for a Russian passport. Mills moved to Russia to live with her now-husband in 2014, a year after Snowden left the United States. The couple married in 2017 and had a child in 2020. 

The reclusive computer intelligence analyst largely keeps away from the limelight and has kept a low profile since he began his exile in Russia, surfacing occasionally to criticize the Russian government social media policies. Back in 2019, he had stated that he would be willing to return to the United States as long as he was guaranteed a fair trial. 

Snowden began working at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2006 after being selected from a job fair. In 2007 he was placed in Geneva as part of the US Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Later, he would describe his time there as a formative incident, saying that it was what eventually pushed him to become a whistleblower in 2013, while working for an NSA contractor.