The Kremlin threatened Tuesday to cut diplomatic relations with Washington if the US declared Russia a sponsor of terrorism.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the proposed designation “naive” and a violation of international law.
“The logical consequence of such a move will be a rift in diplomatic relations,” she said. “Washington finally risks crossing the point of no return – with all the consequences that entails. This should be well understood in Washington.”
Last week, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution calling on Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the US to adopt the designation.
However, Blinken opposed the plan, saying the current sanctions are similar to those that would be imposed with the designation.
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►Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles withdrew from 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 has suffered bad weather in the Black Sea and will arrive late in Istanbul. The Razoni, who left Odessa on Monday, is now expected to reach Istanbul by early Wednesday, Turkish Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak said.
►The death toll from a Russian rocket attack on Vinnytsia rose to 27. Local officials said one man died of severe burns after 20 days in hospital. Ninety people were hospitalized after the missile hit the center of the city in western Ukraine on July 14.
US sanctions against famous girlfriend Putin
US sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates are getting more personal.
After previously refusing to punish Putin’s well-known girlfriend, reportedly out of concern over escalating tensions, the Biden administration took that step on Tuesday when it froze Alina Kabaeva’s visa.
The finance ministry said it also imposed ownership restrictions on Kabaeva, an ex-Olympic gymnast and former member of the State Duma, who the ministry said has “a close relationship with Putin”. Treasury added that Kabaeva, 39, is the head of a Russian national media company promoting the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine.
The UK sanctioned Kabaeva in May and the EU imposed travel and power restrictions on her in June. In April, the US approved Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova.
“Along with our allies, the United States will also continue to swallow revenues and equipment underlying Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
Griner sentencing expected ‘very soon’
Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist arrested in Russia for cannabis possession, returned to a Moscow courtroom on Tuesday during intense diplomatic talks between the White House and the Kremlin.
Defense attorney Maria Blagovolina told Reuters that closing arguments would take place on Thursday and that Griner’s sentencing was expected “very soon”.
Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February after vape cans containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Last week, the US said it had proposed a deal for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on a espionage conviction. White House press officer Karine Jean-Pierre said Russia has made a “bad faith” counter-offer that US officials are not taking seriously.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for “discreet” talks and accused the US of “megaphone diplomacy” that would not advance the negotiations.
Russia declares Azov militia a ‘terrorist organization’
Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday labeled Ukraine’s Azov regiment a terrorist organization and said members could be held criminally liable. The regiment shook off the designation in social media posts and said Russia was seeking apologies for its war crimes. The designation could strip hundreds of fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel mill in May of their prisoner of war rights. The fighters had last held out for a week in the southern port city of Mariupol.
Dozens of Azov fighters and other prisoners of war were killed or injured last week in an explosion at a prison controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the city of Olenivka in eastern Ukraine. Russia blamed Ukraine for a strike; Ukrainian authorities said Russia caused the explosion to cover up prisoner abuse.
Azov’s early leadership openly embraced white supremacist views. However, since the group was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014, the leadership has repeatedly rejected Nazism, fascism and racism.
BP may stand for bountiful gains
BP became the last energy giant to report huge gains on Tuesday, increasing pressure on governments to intervene as energy companies take advantage of high oil and natural gas prices that fuel inflation and hit customers’ wallets.
London-based BP said second-quarter profits nearly tripled to $9.26 billion, from $3.12 billion in April-June last year. The company added that supply disruptions caused by the Russian war in Ukraine are keeping prices high.
BP’s glowing earnings report follows the same trend as its competitors. Last week, British rival Shell posted a record quarterly profit of $18 billion. Exxon Mobil reported net income of $17.85 billion, while US company Chevron made $11.62 billion.
The sound of US missile systems in Ukraine a ‘summer hit’
Four other US 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 HIMARS munitions. Reznikov said the funds are “a new investment in the security of NATO’s eastern flank” and a show of support for democracy. Ukrainian artillerymen are poised to “turn night into day” to drive out Russian troops, he said.
The Pentagon said the missile systems have a range of 80 kilometers, allowing Ukrainians to hit positions beyond the range of most Russian artillery.
“I am grateful to @POTUS @SecDef Lloyd Austin III and people for strengthening #UAarmy,” Renikov said on Twitter. “We have proven to be smart operators of this weapon. The sound of the #HIMARS volley has become a huge hit on the front lines this summer!”
World one step away from ‘nuclear destruction’, UN chief warns
UN 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 destruction.” The warning came Monday as a pandemic-delayed conference was opened to review the 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieve a nuclear-free world.
The threat of nuclear catastrophe was also raised by the United States, Japan, Germany, the UN nuclear chief and many other opening speakers.
Russia, which was criticized by some speakers, did not give an address on Monday at the scheduled time, but was set to speak on Tuesday. China’s representative was also scheduled to speak on Tuesday.
Contributions: The Associated Press