Russian media say US whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been granted permanent residency by the government. Credit: AFP.

He can’t go back to America, he’s facing charges under the US Espionage Act for leaking 1.5 million National Security Agency secret documents.

Unless, of course, President Donald Trump offers him a pardon — and that’s an outlier at best.

Meantime, Mother Russia will have to do.

According to a report by Radio Free Liberty, Russian media say US whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been granted permanent residency by the government.

News agencies TASS and RIA Novosti quoted Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, as saying on October 22 that his client had requested a three-year extension of the permit earlier this year before it expired in April 2020, but the procedure was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that Snowden, at the moment, was not considering applying for a Russian passport.

Snowden, 37, is accused of espionage and theft of government property in the US for leaking troves of information on American intelligence and mass surveillance program to the media. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

The leak of secret NSA documents prompted a major public debate about the legality of some of the agency’s programs, on privacy concerns, and about the United States snooping on its neighbors.

He has been living in Russia since 2013 after revealing the documents.

President Trump said in August that he was considering a pardon for Snowden, while in September, the whistle-blower called on French President Emmanuel Macron to grant him asylum.

In 2016, US Congress released a report saying Snowden has been in contact with Russian intelligence officials since his arrival to Russia, a claim Snowden denied, CNN reported.

In an interview in September last year, Snowden said he would be willing to return to the US if he is guaranteed a fair trial.

“One of the big topics in Europe right now is should Germany and France invite me in to get asylum,” he said. “And of course I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal.

“But if I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that’s the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense,” Snowden told CBS co-hosts on CBS This Morning.

He added: “I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass. What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom-line that any American should require.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he believes former Snowden was wrong to leak US spy secrets, but is no traitor, Reuters reported.

Putin, a former KGB officer and ex-head of Russia’s FSB security service, made his comments about Snowden in an interview with US film director Oliver Stone, which appeared on TV network Showtime in 2017.

“Snowden is not a traitor,” said Putin. “He did not betray the interests of his country, nor did he transfer any information to any other country that would damage his own people,” said Putin.

However, the Russian leader said Snowden should have resigned from his job in the same way he once resigned from the KGB rather than leak secrets if he didn’t like what he was doing.

“He shouldn’t have done it (leaked secrets). My view is that what he did was wrong,” Putin told Stone.

Snowden had the right to act in the way he did however, said Putin, who said he agreed that U.S. surveillance had become too intrusive.

— with files from TASS, RIA Novosti, CNN, CBS and Reuters

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