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Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

  • It's also a departure from his most recent predecessors, who avoided direct confrontation with the Kremlin.
  • Former President Trump reportedly told G7 leaders in 2018 that Crimea is Russian because the people who live there speaks Russian, and frequently blamed former President Obama for being "outsmarted" by Putin during the 2014 invasion.

What they're saying: "The United States continues to stand with Ukraine and its allies and partners today, as it has from the beginning of this conflict.  On this somber anniversary, we reaffirm a simple truth: Crimea is Ukraine," Biden said in a statement.

  • "The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts," he continued.
  • "The United States still believes in the promise of Ukraine and we support all those working towards a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future for their country."

The big picture: Biden held his first call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, using the conversation as an opportunity to press the Russian leader on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

  • Beyond Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, Biden must also confront the Kremlin on a range of issues, including its interference in U.S. elections and allegations of bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hoping to reset the U.S.-Ukraine relationship under the new administration and with President Biden — whom he has yet to meet. Biden was in charge of the Obama administration's Ukraine policy as vice president and championed anti-corruption forms.

Go deeper: Biden's Russia challenge

Go deeper

Biden revokes Trump's pandemic ban on certain forms of legal immigration

President Biden with signing executive orders in the White House on Feb. 24. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden rolled back former President Trump's suspension of certain forms of legal immigration because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it "does not advance the interests of the United States." 

Why it matters: Business groups, including the technology industry, had repeatedly called on the Trump administration to rescind the suspensions on work visas because they complicated recruiting and retaining foreign professionals seeking to work in the U.S.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 min ago - Energy & Environment

White House moves against "super-pollutant" in climate fight

Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The EPA is finalizing rules today that cut powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration, part of a wider new White House strategy to deter these "super-pollutants" and boost manufacturing of substitutes.

Why it matters: The EPA regulation is the U.S. part of a planned global phase-down of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons. The global phaseout can prevent up 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100, the White House said.

FBI report likely to show record increase in murders in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If the FBI data released next week shows what's expected — that 2020 saw the highest single-year spike in U.S. murders in at least six decades — experts say the sudden job losses, fears and other jolts to society at the start of COVID-19 will likely have been the overwhelming drivers.

Why it matters: Many Democrats already feared that rising crime could hurt their party in the 2022 midterms.