Russia threatens to break off diplomatic relations with US; Brittney Griner's sentencing due 'very soon': Live updates

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 nonbinding 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.

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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 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 of the city in west-central Ukraine on July 14.

U.S. sanctions Putin's reputed girlfriend

U.S. sanctions on associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin are getting more personal.

After previously declining to sanction Putin's reputed girlfriend, reportedly out of concern about escalating tensions, the Biden administration took that step Tuesday when it froze Alina Kabaeva's visa.

The Treasury Department said it also imposed property restrictions on Kabaeva, an ex-Olympic gymnast and former member of the state Duma whom the department said has “a close relationship to Putin.” Treasury added that Kabaeva, 39, is the head of a Russian national media company that promotes the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

The U.K. sanctioned Kabaeva in May and the European Union imposed travel and asset restrictions on her in June. In April, the U.S. sanctioned Putin’s adult daughters, Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova.

“Together with our allies, the United States will also continue to choke off revenue and equipment underpinning Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

Russia backs China, calls Pelosi visit to Taiwan 'extremely provocative'

At a time when Russia finds itself increasingly isolated because of its war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's highly debated visit to Taiwan is presenting Moscow an opportunity to strengthen ties with a key ally.

The Kremlin did not pass on that chance Tuesday, as spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the possibility of Pelosi's trip “extremely provocative,” adding that it would “exacerbate the situation in the region and fuel tensions.” He made the remarks before Pelosi's flight landed in Taiwan Tuesday night.

In a call with reporters, Peskov reaffirmed Russia’s “absolute solidarity” with China, which considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory and has expressed the intention to eventually seek reunification.

The U.S. has long kept a policy of strategic ambiguity toward the China-Taiwan issue, recognizing the mainland's one-China principle but maintaining what the State Department calls "a robust unofficial relationship'' with the democratic island of 23 million.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Pelosi's visit as “a serious violation” of the one-China principle.

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. said it had proposed a deal 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 that American officials don't consider 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 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 made a weekslong last stand in the southern port 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 a 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.

BP may stand for bountiful profits

BP became the latest energy giant to report massive profits Tuesday, heightening pressure on governments to intervene as energy companies benefit from high oil and natural gas prices that are fueling inflation and hitting customers in the pocketbook.

London-based BP said its second-quarter earnings nearly tripled to $9.26 billion from $3.12 billion in April-June last year. The company added that supply disruptions caused by Russia's war in Ukraine figure to keep prices high.

BP's glowing earnings report follows the same trend as its competitors'. Last week, British rival Shell posted a record $18 billion quarterly profit. Exxon Mobil reported net income of $17.85 billion, while fellow American corporation Chevron earned $11.62 billion.

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 HIMARS 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

United N 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 an address in its scheduled slot Monday but was expected to speak Tuesday. China’s representative was also scheduled to speak Tuesday.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live Ukraine updates: Russia threatens to break off relations with US