MOSCOW: Fugitive U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden has been granted a three-year residence permit in Russia, his Russian lawyer said at a press conference Thursday.
"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.
He was granted leave to stay in Russia a year ago after spending weeks in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport when his passport was revoked on his way to South America.
The leaks by the former National Security Agency contractor last year sparked a massive row over the data sweeps conducted by the United States domestically and in allied nations, including of their leaders.
Snowden has led a reclusive life in Moscow, only giving a handful of interviews and making no public appearances, although several sightings in Moscow have been reported by Russian media.
Snowden is "working within his profession," Kucherena said, but has also been helping as a rights defender.
Kucherena denied that Snowden is chaperoned by Russia's security services, saying he only has a private security detail.
"All security questions Edward decides himself," Kucherena said.
Pro-Kremlin website Life News Tuesday ran a close-up picture of a smiling Snowden wearing a suit and sitting near a gilded pillar, saying it was taken at the historic Bolshoi theatre during an opera in July.