President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed the US National Security Agency’s massive surveillance over Americans and then sought refuge in Russia.

A presidential decree released Monday added Snowden to a list of new Russian citizens at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow are at an all-time low over the Ukraine conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news outlets Snowden obtained Russian citizenship based on his own application in 2020 to help his American wife Lindsay Mills travel back and forth.

“After years of being separated from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS,” Snowden wrote on Twitter.

“After two years of waiting and almost ten years in exile, a little stability for my family will make a difference,” he said.

The former US intelligence official, 39, leaked classified documents to media outlets in 2013 showing the NSA was collecting vast amounts of communications metadata and other information about US citizens in violation of their constitutional right to privacy.

The exposure of the NSA’s secret spying program resulted in laws and regulations prohibiting this activity.

After revealing these secrets, Snowden sought refuge in Russia. He married his longtime girlfriend Mills in Moscow in 2017.

Three years later they had a son, and Snowden said he will seek Russian citizenship to make it easier for his family to be together, especially given travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he said he wanted to keep his US citizenship.

“Lindsay and I will remain Americans and will raise our son with all the values ??of the America we love – including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day when I can return to the States so the whole family can be reunited,” he said at the time.

The couple welcomed a second son earlier this year.

Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti that Mills will now also apply for Russian citizenship.

– US-Russian dual citizen –

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that Snowden, who has been charged with multiple crimes in a US court, will retain his American citizenship.

“I am not aware of any change in his citizenship status,” Price said.

“The only thing that has changed is that now, apparently, because of his Russian citizenship, he may very well be drafted to fight in the ruthless war in Ukraine,” he said.

Putin last week announced a mobilization of 300,000 Russian reservists to help fight the Russian army in Ukraine.

However, Kucherena said that Snowden would not be called up for duty because he had no experience in the Russian army.

The White House did not comment directly on Snowden’s Russian citizenship.

“As I believe charges have been filed against him, we are referring you to the Justice Department for details on the matter,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

After he sought refuge in Russia, the US Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint against Snowden with three counts: theft of government property, disclosure of vital US defense information, and disclosure of classified information to unauthorized persons.

“Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he should be tried like any other American citizen,” Price said.