Russia extends Snowden residency by three years

File photo: Edward Snowden, 11 October 2013 Little is known about Mr Snowden's activities in Russia

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Russia has granted fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden permission to stay three more years with the right to travel abroad, his lawyer says.

His year-long leave to stay in Russia had expired on 31 July.

Mr Snowden fled the US in 2013 after leaking details of the National Security Agency's surveillance and telephone-tapping operations.

The US has charged him with theft of government property and communicating classified information.

Mr Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told journalists that the request for an extension had been accepted.

"Accordingly, Edward Snowden was given a three-year residence permit," which will allow him to move about freely and travel abroad, Mr Kucherena said.

'Man up'

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has been hailed by privacy activists for revealing the extent of the NSA's surveillance operations and details of alleged US spying on foreign leaders, including US allies.

The US Congress has since attempted to impose restrictions on the NSA's electronic surveillance activities.

However, US leaders have accused Mr Snowden of damaging national interests and harming the country's security.

A man holds up a placard featuring US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden during a protest march near Darmstadt, central Germany 26 July 2014 Mr Snowden's supporters say he has acted in the public interest by revealing the extent of NSA surveillance

In May, Secretary of State John Kerry said Mr Snowden was a fugitive from justice who should "man up" and return home.

Mr Snowden had fled the US via Hong Kong in May 2013.

He remained in a transit zone in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for more than a month after the US revoked his travel documents, before being granted temporary asylum in Russia in August 2013.

Russia's decision to shelter Mr Snowden was strongly criticised by the US.

Little is known about his activities in Russia, although his lawyer says he is working as an "IT specialist" and as a rights defender.

Mr Kucherena stressed on Thursday that Mr Snowden had not been granted asylum, but "temporary leave to remain on the territory of Russia," Interfax news agency reports.

"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," he said.

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