Russia extends Edward Snowden’s asylum to 2020

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American National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks to European officials via videoconference during a parliamentary hearing on mass surveillance at the European Council in Strasbourg, eastern France, on April 8, 2014. Snowden pleaded for new international norms on surveillance, to avoid the kinds of abuses committed by the NSA, especially as high-tech surveillance practices become widespread worldwide. AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Edward Snowden’s leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN.

Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media.

On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a “couple of years” in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as “the perfect inauguration gift” to President-elect Donald Trump.

Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after.

In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.

In the final weeks of the Obama administration, more than a million supporters have petitioned the White House to pardon Snowden.

However, the White House said Tuesday that Snowden had not submitted official documents requesting clemency. He is accused of espionage and theft of government property.

Also Tuesday, Snowden thanked President Barack Obama in a tweet for his decision to commute the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.