The Kremlin threatened on Tuesday to sever diplomatic relations with Washington if the United States 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 result of such a move becomes a break in diplomatic relations,” she said. “Washington is finally at risk of crossing the point of no return – with all the consequences that come with it. This should be well understood in Washington.”
Last week, the Senate passed a nonbinding resolution urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the United States to adopt the designation.
Blinken, however, balked at the plan, saying the current penalties are similar to what would be imposed with the designation.
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►Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles backtracked on a plan to send 10 tanks to Ukraine, saying the equipment was in poor condition.
►The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine more than five months ago ran into bad weather in the Black Sea and will arrive late in Istanbul. The Razoni, which left Odessa on Monday, is now expected to reach Istanbul early on Wednesday, Turkish Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak said.
►The death toll from a Russian missile attack on Vinnytsia has risen to 27. Local officials said a man died of severe burns after 20 days in hospital. Ninety people were hospitalized after the missile hit 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 possession of cannabis, returned to a Moscow-area courtroom on Tuesday amid intensified diplomatic talks between the White House and the Kremlin.
Defense lawyer 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 vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Last week the The United States offered a deal to Russia for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Russia made a “bad faith” counter-offer that US officials do not consider serious.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for “low-key” talks, accusing the United States of “megaphone diplomacy” that will not move the talks forward.
Russia declares Azov militia a “terrorist organization”
Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday labeled the Ukrainian Azov Regiment a terrorist organization and said its members could be held criminally responsible. The regiment ignored the designation in social media posts, saying Russia was seeking excuses for its war crimes. This designation could deprive hundreds of fighters who surrendered to the Azovstal steelworks in May of their POW rights. The fighters had for weeks made a last stand in the 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 eastern Ukrainian town of Olenivka . Russia blamed Ukraine for the strike; Ukrainian authorities said Russia set off the explosion to cover up the mistreatment of the prisoners.
The sound of American rocket systems in Ukraine is the “top hit of the summer”
Four more 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 in aid for HIMAR artillery and ammunition. Reznikov said the funds are “another security investment in NATO’s eastern flank” and a show of support for democracy. Ukrainian gunners are ready to “turn night into day” to expel Russian troops, he said.
The Pentagon says the rocket systems have a range of 50 miles, allowing the Ukrainians to strike positions out of range of most Russian artillery pieces, and hit logistics and command and control nodes.
“Grateful to @POTUS @SecDef Lloyd Austin III & folks for strengthening #UAarmy,” Renikov said on Twitter. “We’ve proven to be smart operators of this weapon. The sound of the #HIMARS volley has become one of this summer’s top hits on the front lines!”
World one step away from ‘nuclear annihilation’, warns UN chief
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sounded the alarm over the war in Ukraine, nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East and other tensions, warning that “humanity is just a misunderstanding, a mistake away from nuclear annihilation”. The warning came Monday as a pandemic-delayed conference opened to review the 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieve a world without nuclear.
The threat of nuclear disaster was also raised by the United States, Japan, Germany, the UN nuclear chief and many other opening speakers.
Russia, which faced criticism from some speakers, did not deliver its speech in the scheduled time slot on Monday but was due to speak on Tuesday. The representative of China was due to speak on Tuesday.
Contribute: The Associated Press