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Edward Snowden's Russian permit extended 'a couple of years'

Russian authorities have extended a residence permit for U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of secret documents from the National Security Agency.

Snowden has been in Russia since 2013 after leaking NSA documents

Edward Snowden, seen in a file image made from video released by WikiLeaks, has unsuccessfully sought whistleblower protections in order to return to the U.S. to face charges of espionage and theft of government property. (The Associated Press)

Russian authorities have extended a residence permit for U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of secret documents from the National Security Agency.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a post on Facebook late Tuesday that Snowden's residence permit has been extended for "a couple of years."

Russia's RIA news agency reported the extension is until 2020, quoting his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.

Kucherena said Snowden could soon apply for Russian citizenship, since under Russian law he will qualify to apply once he has been resident for five years. 

Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 when he got stuck in the transit area at a Moscow airport after the United States canceled his passport.

The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted for leaking more than 700,000 U.S. documents.

Reporters asked presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday whether Snowden was planning to return to the United States in reaction to Manning receiving clemency. Peskov said the Kremlin is not aware what Snowden's plans are.

With files from Reuters

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