Russia threatens to break off diplomatic relations with US; Brittney Griner’s sentencing due ‘very soon’: Live updates – USA TODAY

The Kremlin threatened Tuesday to break off diplomatic relations with Washington if the U.S. declares Russia a sponsor of terrorism.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the proposed designation “naive” and a violation of international law. 

“The logical result of such a step becomes a break in diplomatic relations,” she said. “Washington risks finally crossing the point of no return – with all the ensuing consequences. This should be well understood in Washington.”

Last week, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the U.S. to adopt the designation.

Blinken, however, has balked at the plan, saying that current sanctions are similar to what would be imposed with the designation.

USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM: Join our Russia-Ukraine war channel to receive updates

Latest developments

►Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles reneged on a plan to send 10 tanks to Ukraine, saying the equipment was in poor condition.

►The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine in more than five months ago has run into bad weather in the Black Sea and will arrive late to Istanbul. The Razoni, which left Odesa on Monday, is now expected to reach Istanbul early Wednesday, said Turkish Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak.

►The death toll from a Russian missile attack on Vinnytsia grew to 27. Local officials said a man died from severe burns after 20 days in the hospital. Ninety people were hospitalized after the missile struck downtown Vinnytsia on July 14.

Griner sentencing expected ‘very soon’

Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist who was arrested in Russia for cannabis possession, returned to a Moscow-area courtroom Tuesday amid heightened diplomatic talks between the White House and Kremlin.

Defense lawyer Maria Blagovolina told Reuters that closing arguments would take place Thursday and that Griner’s sentencing was expected “very soon.”

Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Last week, the U.S. proposed a deal to Russia for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Russia made a “bad faith” counteroffer American officials aren’t considering as serious.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for “discreet” talks, accusing the U.S. of “megaphone diplomacy” that won’t move the negotiations forward.

Russia declares Azov militia a ‘terrorist organization’

The Russian Supreme Court designated the Ukrainian Azov regiment a terrorist organization on Tuesday and said members can be held criminally liable. The regiment shrugged off the designation in social media posts, saying Russia was looking for excuses for its war crimes. The designation could strip hundreds of fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in May of their POW rights. The fighters had for weeks been making a last-stand in the city of Mariupol.

Dozens of the Azov fighters and other POWs were killed or wounded last week in an explosion at a prison controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine city of Olenivka. Russia blamed Ukraine for the strike; Ukraine authorities said Russia set off the blast to cover up abuse of prisoners. 

Azov’s early leadership openly espoused ​White supremacist views. Since the group was integrated into Ukraine’s National Guard in 2014, however, leadership has repeatedly rejected Nazism, fascism and racism.

The sound of US rocket systems in Ukraine a ‘top hit of summer’

Four more U.S. HIMARS mobile missile systems have arrived in Ukraine, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said. The weapons arrived as the White House announced another $550 million aid package for artillery and HIMAR ammunition. Reznikov said the funds are “another investment in the security of NATO’s eastern flank” and a show of support for democracy. Ukraine artillerymen are ready to “turn night into day” to expel Russian Troops, he said. 

The Pentagon said the rocket systems have a range of 50 miles, enabling Ukrainians to hit positions from beyond the reach of most Russian artillery. 

“I’m grateful to @POTUS @SecDef Lloyd Austin III and people for strengthening of #UAarmy,” Renikov said on Twitter. “We have proven to be smart operators of this weapon. The sound of the #HIMARS volley has become a top hit of this summer at the front lines!”

World one step from ‘nuclear annihilation,’ UN chief warns

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm over the war in Ukraine, nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East, and other tensions, warning that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” The warning came Monday as a pandemic-delayed conference opened to review the 50-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving a nuclear-free world.

The threat of nuclear catastrophe was also raised by the United States, Japan, Germany, the U.N. nuclear chief and many other opening speakers.

Russia, which came under criticism from some speakers, didn’t give its address in its scheduled slot Monday but was expected to speak Tuesday. China’s representative was scheduled to speak Tuesday.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Original News Source Link