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Alexei Druzhinin / AP

ExxonMobil is asking the Trump administration for a waiver so it can return to work in Russia despite sanctions leveled after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014.

In a scoop, the Wall Street Journal reports that the oil giant filed its waiver request with the US Treasury Department, and not the State Department, which is led by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

Why this matters: If granted, the waiver would erode one of the most powerful American levers against Russia in terms of getting it to pull back from Ukraine. Russia relies on oil and natural gas exports for a majority of its government income, but the current generation of oilfields will start to peter out in the coming decade.

The fields on which Exxon has been working—deepwater fields in the Arctic, and the Bazhenov shale in Siberia—are meant to carry the Russian economy starting in the 2020s and beyond. The waiver appears to cover work in the Black Sea, which is also a primary target of next-generation Russian interest. But it could be a wedge into a broader revival of work including the Arctic and the shale.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Israel-Hamas aerial bombardments enter second week

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and Hamas continued aerial bombardments into Monday morning, as fighting entered a second week.

Why it matters: The worst violence in the region since 2014 has resulted in the deaths of 197 people in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and 10 in Israel. 58 Palestinian children and two Israeli children are among those killed since the aerial exchanges began on May 10, Reuters notes.