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Pompeo meets with Lavrov in Helsinki. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

With the a deadline to impose further Russia sanctions looming, the Trump administration has reached out to the Kremlin in hopes of avoiding another tit-for-tat escalation with Moscow, the Washington Post's John Hudson reports.

What to watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified earlier this month that Russia had illegally used chemical weapons in the poisoning of Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. That triggered automatic sanctions under a 1991 law, and gave the administration three months to pick from a menu of further penalties, some of which could hit Russia hard. Pompeo has requested a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before that deadline, and Lavrov has accepted, per Hudson.

Why it matters: President Trump wants to improve relations with Russia, but has been compelled to respond forcefully to Russian acts of aggression. He wants to break the cycle of escalation. As Hudson writes, "the wide discretion the Trump administration has in choosing the severity of the sanctions gives Pompeo room to negotiate, but he will eventually have to answer to Congress."

“The Trump administration currently has a two-sided Russia policy: imposing even more punitive sanctions on Moscow at the direction of Congress and then reaching out for dialogue at the direction of President Trump. The Russians look at this and think everything is unpredictable. And they think that since Helsinki, they can’t rely on things improving because the sanctions keep coming."
— Angela Stent, Russia expert and former Bush administration official, to the Post.

Go deeper: Trump's dueling Russia policies.

Go deeper

Updated 6 mins ago - Sports

Japan's Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron, kicking off Tokyo Games

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

After a year-long delay, the Olympics finally got underway Friday as tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is competing for Japan, lit the cauldron, formally kicking off the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: Friday's ceremony looked, like many things over the last year, different than normal — multicolored seats replaced cheering fans, masks were a central part of the athletes' outfits and a subdued, somber tone marked the occasion.

43 mins ago - World

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, 5 other Americans over Hong Kong warnings

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese government imposed sanctions on Monday against six Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to an advisory from the Biden administration warning businesses of the increased risks of operating in Hong Kong.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of China responding furiously to U.S. attempts to shed light on human rights abuses in places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which Chinese officials routinely condemn as "interference" in domestic affairs.

2 hours ago - Sports

Cleveland Indians change name to "Guardians"

The Cleveland Indians baseball team announced Friday that it will change its name to the "Guardians," following years of activism and protests against a moniker considered offensive by many Native Americans.

Why it matters: It's the first time the team will change its name since 1915, a move that comes in the wake of the nationwide racial reckoning that began with the murder of George Floyd.