NEW YORK: When former CIA Director Michael Morell suggested in his op-ed for The Cipher Brief that Edward Snowden should be presented as the “perfect inauguration gift” from Vladimir Putin to Donald Trump, Russians seemed offended by this tip. In fact, so much so, that Snowden’s asylum was extended for three more years two just after Morell made his argument. Giving back Snowden would amount to nothing less than “ideology of betrayal”– said Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov. His spokesperson Maria Zakharova also responded sharply on her public Facebook page, dismissing the idea of “gifting”. “But seriously, the essence of what Morell is proposing, is betrayal,” she said, “It is clear that, for your agency, it is normal to present people as gifts and give up those who seek protection.” In the meantime – while Russians are clearly unwilling to send back the former NSA contractor who is accused of treason against the US – Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena suggested that Snowden might even become a Russian citizen, since this new extension gives him legal grounds to do so.
“Essentially, he now has every reason to apply for Russian citizenship in the future, as the law states that one needs to spend no less than 5 years on the territory of Russia [to be granted citizenship],” Kucherena told Russian news agency. “He has now lived in Russia for almost four years, has not violated any laws, and there are no legal claims against him – this is one of the reasons his residence permit was extended,” he added. Snowden, who leaked reams of classified American files and then fled to Russia, has been residing in Moscow since 2013. He had been seeking a pardon from President Obama before the end of his term, but it was not granted to him. Donald Trump has expressed his desire to get Snowden back on multiple occasions, including this one:
All I can say is that if I were President, Snowden would have already been returned to the U.S. (by their fastest jet) and with an apology!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2013