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 US 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 US of “megaphone diplomacy” that won’t move the negotiations forward.
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►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.
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 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 says the rocket systems have a range of 50 miles, enabling the Ukrainians to hit positions from beyond the reach of most Russi artillery, and to strike logistics and command and control nodes.
“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!”
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 UN 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
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism