Why US Whistleblower Edward Snowden May Have Sworn An Oath Of Allegiance To Russia

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Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned mass surveillance whistleblower, officially became a Russian citizen in September of this year when Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting citizenship to Snowden and seventy-four other foreigners residing in the country. Last week, Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russian state media that Snowden received his Russian passport. However, in order to obtain this documentation of his newly-gained citizenship, Snowden may have had to swear an oath of allegiance to Russia.

Last Friday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Snowden’s lawyer as saying, “Edward received a Russian passport yesterday and took the oath in accordance with the law.” According to The Washington Post, the referenced oath is an oath of allegiance requiring new citizens to swear “to protect the freedom and independence of the Russian Federation, to be loyal to Russia, to respect its culture, history and traditions,” and to promise to “perform the duties of a citizen of the Russian Federation for the good of the state and society.”

Interfax further quoted Snowden’s lawyer as saying that “He is, of course, happy, thanking the Russian Federation for the fact that he received citizenship…And most importantly, according to the Russian Constitution, from now on he cannot be extradited to a foreign country.” This ending remark is reference to the fact that Snowden is wanted by the United States government on charges of espionage and theft of government property. However, Russia refused to extradite Snowden to the US, even before he gained citizenship.

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On the same day Interfax published Kucherena’s comments, Snowden quote-tweeted a tweet from 2013 showing his empty seat on a flight to Cuba. Snowden commented, “I'm in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They *downed the President of Bolivia's diplomatic aircraft* to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day.”

The Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti also published comments by Kucherena last Friday. The lawyer told the agency that both Snowden and his wife, who is currently seeking Russian citizenship, have learned to speak Russian, albeit imperfectly. Kucherena also stated that the couple expect their children to attend Russian schools when they are old enough to do so. While Snowden may still be hoping to receive a presidential pardon, it seems that he doesn’t expect that to happen any time soon.