Russia’s state news agency announced a few minutes ago that Edward Snowden can now leave the Moscow international airport terminal where he has holed up to avoid extradition to the US.  The next question will be for how long:

Russian state news agency says US leaker Edward Snowden has been granted a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia. …

RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed official on Wednesday saying that Snowden has been issued with documents, allowing him to leave the transit zone at the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport.

So far there isn’t much else on the story, including the circumstances of his entry paperwork.  Is this a full asylum, for which Snowden applied eight days ago?  Or is this a temporary status designed to give Snowden a safe passage to one of the three South American embassies that offered him political asylum?  Snowden didn’t express too much enthusiasm for staying in Russia after Vladimir Putin insisted that Snowden would have to stop the leaks from his NSA cache as a condition of their hospitality, but when it became clear that all his paths to avoid the US had to go through Russia first, Snowden’s enthusiasm seemed to perk up a bit.

Another question will be how the Obama administration will react to this news.  The White House has made it very clear that it expected Russia to cooperate with the US after Snowden’s passport was canceled.  They hinted last week that Obama might suddenly become too busy to go to Moscow if Snowden was walking free in the city at the same time, and now they’re pretty much stuck with that response.  We’re not going to boycott next year’s Olympics and repeat the juvenile and impotent act of Jimmy Carter in 1980, not over Edward Snowden, but don’t be surprised if the US doesn’t find a way to stick it back to Putin by getting a lot more publicly interested in Russia’s handling of political dissent over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I’d expect Snowden to leave before Obama gets to St. Petersburg. He won’t take longer than a week to get to the Venezuelan or Ecuadorian embassy to arrange for a more permanent residence.