NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has received a three-year residency permit from the Russian government, a lawyer representing him in Moscow announced Thursday.
"The decision on the application has been taken and therefore starting Aug. 1 2014 Edward Snowden has received a three-year residential permit," Anatoly Kucherena told reporters.
Kucherena said that Snowden did not apply for asylum status, but that the issued permit will allow him to move around the country without restrictions.
"He will be able to travel freely within the country and go abroad. He'll be able to stay abroad for not longer than three months," Kucherena said. The lawyer added that under that permit, Snowden would not be entitled to apply for full citizenship but made no indication his client had a desire to do so.
Snowden, who leaked a massive trove of top secret National Security Agency documents to journalists in June of 2013, has been living in Russia for more than one year after being trapped in a Russian airport during transit when the U.S. government stripped him of his passport. Russia then granted the now 31-year-old political asylum, which expired on July 31st.
As Deutsche Welle reports:
Snowden attempted to reach Cuba after disclosing a massive telecommunications and email surveillance program run by his former employer, the NSA, last year.
The United States subsequently revoked his passport and charged him with espionage and theft of government property.
While Russia's decision to extend Snowden's residency does not come as a surprise, it is likely to further complicate ties between the US and Moscow. Earlier on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced an import ban on most foods from the US, European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway.
Still wanted by the U.S. government and charged with crimes under The 1917 Espionage Act, Snowden has repeatedly expressed his desire to return to his home country but not until he is assured that he would be allowed to introduce his motivations and a rounded defense of his actions in a court of law, something his lawyers contend is forbidden under the current charges.
“The laws under which Snowden is charged don’t distinguish between sharing information with the press in the public interest, and selling secrets to a foreign enemy,” said Ben Wizner of the ACLU, Snowden's U.S.-based legal representative, earlier this year.
“The laws would not provide him any opportunity to say that the information never should have been withheld from the public in the first place. And the fact that the disclosures have led to the highest journalism rewards, have led to historic reforms in the US and around the world – all of that would be irrelevant in a prosecution under the espionage laws in the United States.”