Where Is Edward Snowden Amid the Russian Invasion of Ukraine?

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Feb. 28 2022, Published 11:49 a.m. ET

It has been almost nine years since the U.S. government unsealed the charges against Edward Snowden — two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. In the years since, Snowden has settled in Russia where he has achieved temporary and — ultimately — permanent residency.

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Amid the escalating Russian invasion of Ukraine, Snowden seems to still be living in Russia. However, that may change as threats of a full-blown war materialize.

How long has Snowden been living in Russia?

As a former U.S. intelligence agent, Snowden had access to highly classified information. He left his post at the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 to flee to Hong Kong after revealing thousands of secret documents to journalists. From NSA procedures and data tracking to U.S. hacking records, the information divulged in the Snowden files was extensive and led to a shift in American operations.

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After Hong Kong, Snowden sought asylum in Russia. He wasn't able to travel past his layover destination of Moscow due to other nations blocking him from entry. Snowden didn't break any Russian laws, so his asylum went through.

Snowden went from temporary asylum to permanent residency in Russia.

After Snowden arrived in Russia in 2013, he spent 39 days in the transit section of the Moscow airport before being able to leave. Russia granted him temporary asylum for one year. While some Americans viewed him as a traitor, others considered him to be a brave whistleblower.

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By the time his one-year asylum expired in August 2014, Russia granted Snowden a three-year residency. Through this arrangement, Snowden could travel freely throughout Russia and even travel abroad to certain countries for up to three months at a time.

Snowden earned money through speaking fees and remained dedicated to speaking on U.S. issues via the internet. In 2015, he said in a panel, “People say I live in Russia, but that's actually a little bit of a misunderstanding. I live on the Internet.”

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Russia extended Snowden’s temporary residency in 2017 for another five years, which would be good through 2022. However, the Russian Federation in 2019 changed its migration laws. As a result, Snowden achieved permanent residency.

Snowden appears to still be in Russia, but that may change.

In 2020, Snowden and his wife applied for dual citizenship for both the U.S. and Russia. Updates on the dual citizenship attempt have yet to surface. American acrobat and blogger Lindsay Mills married Snowden in 2017. The pair welcomed their first child in 2020 and hope their baby will eventually have dual citizenship rather than just a Russian passport.

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Snowden said in 2019 that he would like to return to the U.S., even if it means going to prison. Snowden’s autobiography, Permanent Record, came out the same year. In it, Snowden sought to rationalize his actions. The public received the book fairly well and Snowden continues to make his mark on U.S. issues through Twitter.

On February 28, 2022, Russia and Ukraine started ceasefire negotiations. However, hundreds of people have already died in Ukraine and both nations’ stock markets have ceased all transactions. The Russian ruble has tanked and Snowden may have reason to seek U.S. residency — even if that means heading to trial for his 2013 charges once and for all.

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