NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has had his temporary right to remain in Russia extended, according to a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman.
Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media.
Maria Zakharova, director of press at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, revealed the extension via comments on her Facebook account, which criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as “the perfect inauguration gift” to President-elect Donald Trump.
Snowden last had his temporary asylum in Russia extended in mid 2014, when he was given leave to remain for three more years — after an initial year’s stay expired in July.
In her post, Zakharova does not mince her words — describing Morell’s call for Putin to make Trump a “gift” of Snowden as “hate speech” which reveals an “ideology of betrayal”.
Snowden’s lawyer in Russia has also condemned Morell’s statement as “utter stupidity”.
Such responses underline the ongoing PR value that Snowden’s stay in Russia holds for Putin’s government — as a means to apply high level moral pressure to successive US administrations.
The Foreign Ministry did not specify how long Mr. Snowden’s residence permit had been extended. But his lawyer, Anatoly G. Kucherena, told the state-run news agency that it was valid until 2020.