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Russian investigative journalist: Snowden is 'a sort of ghost'

November 20
09:45 2017

These days the de facto expat mostly communicates to the public through Twitter.

‘He is in a very strange situation’

Soldatov noted that while Snowden has criticized new Russian internet laws, the Kremlin has exploited his revelations to introduce increasingly repressive internet laws.

“The most sensitive thing about him in Russia is how his revelations were used and exploited by the Russian government promoting some crazy ideas about offensives on internet freedoms,” Soldatov said. “For example, we got this data localization law forcing global platforms to move their servers into Russia on the pretext of protecting Russian personal data from, say, NSA spying. So they’ve obviously exploited Snowden revelations.”

Furthermore, Soldatov noted, Snowden has not acknowledged that his revelations are being used by the Russian government to further oppress domestic internet users.

“The problem is that Snowden never tried to comment on … how his revelations were used by the Russian authorities,” Soldatov said. “So he is in a very strange situation, in a kind of limbo: He’s not part of the Russian political landscape, he’s still there, and nobody knows what might happen to him.”

‘He still lives and works in Russia’

Much of what we know about Snowden’s life in Russia has come from Kucherena.

“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He  plans to get a job ,” Kucherena, who is close to Putin’s government, announced in July 2013. “And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in.”

Kucherena mentioned Snowden’s job multiple times over the years.

“Edward Snowden will start working at a big Russian company on Friday, Nov. 1,”  Kucherena said on Oct. 31, 2013. “His job will be to support and develop a major Russian website.”

In February 2015, Kucherena told reporters that Snowden “has long worked for a Russian company. He is a unique specialist, the company won’t let him go.” The lawyer noted that Snowden’s salary allowed him to live a comfortable life.

“Today he has now — if one can put it like this — settled in,” Kucherena said on June 23, 2015, the two-year anniversary of Snowden’s arrival in Moscow.He is working in an IT company. We are not revealing this information, and it is understandable on what grounds. So today, I thank God, everything is fine. He is working. He is satisfied by the work he is doing.” 

Asked in April 2017 if the administration of President Trump had reached out to Snowden, Kucherena told Tass that “no one tried to contact him. … Nothing has changed actually, he still lives and works in Russia.”

Snowden’s primary American lawyer, Ben Wizner, has told journalists that Snowden does not have a job in Russia (besides paid speaking appearances via video chat). Wizner did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the topic, including an email on Saturday morning.

‘He could get Russian citizenship’

Ever since Snowden publicly asked the country for asylum on July 12, 2013, Kucherena has signaled that Snowden could receive Russian citizenship

“In line with the law, he may become a citizen of Russia, but this can happen in some time,” Kucherena said after attending the restricted event. “Suppose that he could enjoy … a kind of residence permit, then he could get Russian citizenship in five years.”

The Kremlin-linked lawyer has reiterated over the years that Snowden may be eligible for citizenship, most recently after Russia renewed Snowden’s residence permit in early 2017.

“Essentially, he now has every reason to apply for [Russian] citizenship in the future, in a while, as the law [states] that one needs to spend no less than 5 years on the territory of Russia [to be granted citizenship],” Kucherena said in January, as reported by RT.

“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.”

Soldatov, who recently updated his new book to include Russian meddling in the U.S. election, noted that Snowden hasn’t been used directly by Russian propaganda through appearances on RT or Sputnik.

Nevertheless, Soldatov concluded, the former NSA contractor’s life in Russia is largely dictated by the FSB, Russia’s state security organization.

“He’s trapped in this situation,” he said. “And given the fact that [he] lives surrounded by these people with almost no option to get out, well, it’s tough.”

Here is the podcast featuring Soldatov. The discussion of Snowden starts at around 43:30.

Follow Michael B. Kelley on Twitter @MichaelBKelley.

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