Ukraine warns Kremlin to ‘retreat or be annihilated’ in Kherson; US pushing deal to free Griner: Live updates – USA TODAY

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Ukrainian forces using U.S.-supplied precision artillery severely damaged a bridge vital to the Russian military’s supply lines in occupied Kherson, Ukraine authorities said Wednesday.

“Successful missile strikes on bridges over the Dnipro River by #UAarmy create an impossible dilemma for russian occupiers in #Kherson,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted. “Retreat or be annihilated by #UAarmy. The choice is theirs.”

The bridge is one of two crossings over the river that Russia uses to transport personnel and equipment to territories it occupies. The strike didn’t aim to destroy the bridge but to make it impossible for the Russian military to use, Ukraine’s Operational Command South spokeswoman Nataliya Gumenyuk said. 

The Ukrainians used a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System the U.S. has been supplying in recent weeks. Russia has relied on less-precise artillery to indiscriminately shell civilian areas since its invasion began five months ago.

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Other developments:

►A “Hero of Ukraine” died in combat Tuesday, the military reported. Major Oleksandr Kukurba, 28, was chief of intelligence for a tactical aviation brigade. In April, Kukurba was awarded the Hero of Ukraine title and a military Gold Star for personal bravery and heroism. Three days of mourning began Wednesday.

►Germany approved the sale of 100 tank howitzers worth $1.7 billion, according to Der Spiegel and other media reports. The deal is worth about three times the value of what Germany thus far has provided Ukraine. 

►Ukraine estimated total Russian combat losses to include more than 40,000 troops killed or wounded along with the destruction of 1,738 tanks and 3,971 armored vehicles. Neither nation releases details of its own losses.

►Inflation in Ukraine climbed from 10% in January to 21.5% in June, “mainly the result of war-driven shocks and global price pressures,” the National Bank of Ukraine said.

►Ukraine’s parliament approved lawmaker Andriy Kostin, a staunch loyalist of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party, as prosecutor general. Kostin replaces Iryna Venediktova, removed from office this month amid concerns of treason within the office’s ranks.

WNBA star Brittney Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan could be freed from captivity in Russia under the terms of a deal the Biden administration has proposed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday. 

It’s not yet known whether Russia will accept the deal, but Blinken’s acknowledgement of it and his revelation that he intends to communicate with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since the war started signify a major reversal of previous policy.

Blinken said the US put “a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” to facilitate their release and that he intends to make his case in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Blinken did not reveal details of the possible prisoner swap, but CNN reported the U.S. offered Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed “The Merchant of Death.”

Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February, testified in a Russian court Wednesday, saying her interpreter translated only a fraction of what she said when questioned after being detained. Griner also testified she was not provided an explanation of her rights or access to a lawyer and was instructed to sign documents she did not understand.

Griner, 31, has pleaded guilty to a drug charge that could result in a 10-year prison sentence.

Joe Biden visiting Ukraine would be a “great signal” of support for the war-battered nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview in Britain to be telecast Wednesday on TalkTV. The White House has not revealed any plans for a Biden trip to Kyiv.

Zelenskyy noted that first lady Jill Biden drew rave reviews in Ukraine when she visited on Mother’s Day. And Zelenskyy said the his wife’s visit to the White house and Congress drew a great response in the U.S.

“The visit of President Biden to Ukraine would be the strongest signal that could be given in support of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

The Philippine government is scrapping a plan to purchase 16 Russian military transport helicopters, citing concerns over U.S. sanctions, a Philippine defense official says.  

Delfin Lorenzana told The Associated Press he canceled the $227 million deal to acquire the Mi-17 helicopters while serving as defense secretary under former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term ended June 30. He said American security officials were aware of Manila’s decision and could offer similar heavy-lift helicopters.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said the deal was canceled because Manila could have faced sanctions under a U.S. law called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

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Russia’s Gazprom was one step away from shutting down gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline Wednesday after reducing the flow to 20% of capacity. The energy giant blamed the cutback on the shutdown of another Siemens turbine at the Portovaya compressor station.

Gazprom is requiring extensive documentation to verify that the turbines, sent to Canada for maintenance, do not violate sanctions. European leaders dismiss the paperwork demands as a ruse by Russia as it seeks political leverage over Europe ahead of winter.

“Gas is now a part of Russian foreign policy and possibly Russian war strategy,” German energy official Klaus Mueller told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Ukraine warns Kremlin to ‘retreat or be annihilated’ in Kherson; US pushing deal to free Griner: Live updates – USA TODAY

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