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President Putin meets President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad in Sochi, Russia, on May 17, 2018. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In yesterday’s press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, President Putin expressed concern for the plight of Syrian refugees, suggesting that Russia aimed “to overcome humanitarian crisis and help [them] to go back to their homes.” That rings hollow.

Reality check: The current Syrian army offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, and it's backed by Russia. As of last week, the UN estimated more than 230,000 people are still on the move across southwest Syria, having fled the violence wrought by Russian planes and Assad’s ground troops. Earlier this month, that number was nearly 330,000 people.

The offensive, which began in June, violates a “de-escalation” agreement that Russia negotiated with the U.S. and Jordan last summer. It has taken a devastating toll on civilians, not least because of Russian airstrikes. Meanwhile, Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons on its own people and planned to confiscate the property of those forced to flee, seemingly without perturbing Putin.

In the past, the U.S. has held the Russian government at least partially responsible for the Assad regime’s conduct. Not yesterday.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: axiom]

Jessica Brandt is a fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution.

Go deeper

CDC looks at tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
17 mins ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

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