Edward Snowden said that his unexpected reception of Russian citizenship will give his family stability nearly a decade after he leaked files on U.S. surveillance operations and fled to Moscow.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS. 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,” Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, tweeted on Monday in his first public comments after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted him citizenship earlier in the day.
Snowden said he would be applying for dual U.S.-Russian citizenship after he was granted permanent residence in Russia. This was two years ago, and it is unclear if he was granted dual citizenship or if he renounced his U.S. citizenship.
“I am familiar with the fact that he has in some ways denounced his American citizenship,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “I don’t know that he’s renounced it.”
Price also reiterated the United States’ position on Monday that, should Snowden return to the United States, he should return to face trial on espionage charges.
Snowden’s lawyer told state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti that his wife, American Lindsay Mills, will also apply for Russian citizenship. Snowden tweeted a photo on Monday of Mills and the couple’s two sons.
The U.S. whistleblower’s revelations in 2013 about the NSA’s surveillance operations drew praise from privacy advocates. U.S. officials were quick to condemn his actions, accusing him of damaging national security.
His newly acquired Russian citizenship comes amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington, D.C., after Putin suggested last week that, should any western countries intervene in his invasion of Ukraine, which has been ongoing for the past 8 months, they may be subject to a nuclear strike.
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of NATO countries, and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said, adding, “It’s not a bluff.”