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Russia grants Snowden residence permit for 3 more years

MOSCOW -- Fugitive U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden has been granted a three-year residence permit in Russia, his lawyer said on Thursday, in the latest blow to Moscow's deeply strained relations with Washington.

“The request was accepted and accordingly Edward Snowden was given a three-year residence permit” which allows him to move about freely and travel abroad, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told journalists.

“In the future Edward will have to decide whether to continue to live in Russia and become a citizen or to return to the United States,” Kucherena added.

The 31-year-old U.S. fugitive is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.

The former National Security Agency contractor shook the American intelligence establishment to its core with a series of devastating leaks last year on mass surveillance in the U.S. and around the world.

The revelations sparked a massive row over the data sweeps conducted by the United States domestically and in allied nations, including of their leaders.

Relations between Washington and Berlin, for example, have faced rare turbulence because of revelations that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone was tapped.

Snowden ended up in Russia a year ago after spending weeks in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. His U.S. passport had been revoked on his way to South America.

He was initially granted permission to stay in Russia for one year, and the rapid deterioration in the country's ties with the U.S. made it increasingly unlikely that Snowden — a major public relations trophy for Moscow — would be forced to leave.

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