American whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been granted permanent residency in Russia.

Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 after leaking sensitive US government information, particularly on surveillance programs.

“Today, Snowden was handed a residency permit for an unlimited period of time,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Tass news agency on Thursday.

Snowden had applied for a visa extension in February, but the official one in Moscow is that the coronavirus pandemic delayed its processing. However, it is unlikely that permanent residency would have been granted unless authorised at the very top.

Although not always muted on social media, Snowden has not spoken out about vociferously about Russian human rights abuses or its democratic deficit. He has said he would be willing to go back to the US if offered a ‘fair trial.”