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Putin welcomes Kim to Russia. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia's Vladimir Putin met for over 3 hours on Thursday with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, who traveled by armored train from Pyongyang to Vladivostok in Russia.

Why it matters: The meeting comes as North Korea makes its frustrations with the Trump administration clear after the failed summit in Hanoi, and it puts Russia at the table in a process where its role has been peripheral.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford sets the scene from Vladivostok:

  • "... the red carpet rolled out, then big smiles, firm handshakes and warm words. It was a show of support by Russia meant to tell Donald Trump that his tactics of pressuring and threatening Pyongyang are mistaken."
  • "There was no joint statement or road map at the end of it all. But instead of collapse — like in Hanoi — this meeting ended in a champagne reception with the two leaders and their delegations serenaded by a Cossack choir as they tucked into beetroot soup and reindeer dumplings."

Putin doesn't want to see North Korea recognized as a nuclear state, but also opposes any sanctions that risk the collapse of the regime, according to Carnegie Moscow's Alexander Gabuev:

  • "The Kremlin’s red lines and overall analysis of the situation are very similar to those prevailing in Beijing, making Russia a natural partner for China on the Korean Peninsula," he writes.
  • With Russia increasingly willing to butt heads with the U.S. and increasingly reliant on China, Moscow is "prepared to play bad cop in an unofficial division of labor on the Korean Peninsula," including at the UN.

The bottom line: Gabuev says the U.S. can't write Moscow off because "if any solution is to be achieved and blessed by the UN Security Council, the international community will need Russia’s support, and so the diplomatic framework will have to accommodate the Kremlin’s interests."

Go deeper: North Korea's message to Trump.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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