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Could Edward Snowden be drafted to fight for Putin’s Russia against Ukraine?

In a remarkable turn of events, President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to the former U.S. intelligence contractor amid the war campaign.

Update:
FILE PHOTO: Edward Snowden speaks via video link during a news conference in New York City, U.S. September 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Brendan McDermidREUTERS

Nine years ago, Edward Snowden exposed the scale of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA). And on Monday, President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to the former U.S. intelligence contractor. One question quick to be raised across social media upon hearing the news, was whether or not Snowden could now end up being called up like other Russians to fill the fading ranks of the Russian army in the war against Ukraine, which began with Putin’s illegal invasion of his neighbor.

Why has Snowden chosen Russia?

Snowden, 39, fled the United States and was given asylum in Russia after leaking secret files in 2013 that revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA, where he worked. U.S. authorities have for years wanted him returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.

There was no immediate reaction from Snowden, whose name appeared without Kremlin comment in a Putin decree conferring citizenship on a list of 72 foreign-born individuals.

The news prompted some Russians to jokingly ask whether Snowden would be called up for military service, five days after Putin announced Russia’s first public mobilization since World War Two to shore up its faltering invasion of Ukraine.

“Will Snowden be drafted?” Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state media outlet RT and a vocal Putin supporter, wrote with dark humour on her Telegram channel. She wasn’t the only one.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RIA news agency that his client could not be called up because he had not previously served in the Russian army.

He said that Snowden’s wife Lindsay Mills, who gave birth to a son in 2020, would also apply for citizenship.

Russia granted Snowden permanent residency rights in 2020, paving the way for him to obtain Russian citizenship.

That year a U.S. appeals court found the program Snowden had exposed was unlawful and that the U.S. intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth. Putin, a former Russian spy chief, said in 2017 that Snowden, who keeps a low profile while living in Russia, was wrong to leak U.S. secrets but was not a traitor. And we can trust him, can’t we?