Kremlin claims NATO is 'real threat' to world order; U.S. WNBA star Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine on August 4, 2022. See here for the latest updates.

Brittney Griner convicted in Russian court, sentenced to nine years in prison

The hometown of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy looks increasingly vulnerable, coming under repeated attacks from Russian forces in recent days. Ukraine's southern army unit said Russia is building a military "strike force" to target Kryvyi Rih.

Early Thursday, Ukraine's southern military command said the situation in its operational area — where fighting is intensifying around Kryvyi Rih, as well as Zaporizhzhia to the east and Mykolaiv and Kherson to the south — is "tense and complex."

Ukraine has warned that Russia is carrying out a "massive redeployment" of troops from the east to the south of Ukraine as it tries to defend its territorial gains against Ukraine's attempts to reclaim occupied Kherson and areas around Zaporizhzhia. 

The battle for eastern Ukraine is ongoing. Zelenskyy described the situation in the Donbas as hellish, adding that Russia still has the upper hand in the region.

Kyiv has ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents in the Donbas amid intense fighting.

U.S. ambassador to UN speaks to Ugandan president about food insecurity triggered by Russia's war

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to the media after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., February 17, 2022.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about how Russia's war in Ukraine has increased food insecurity.

Thomas-Greenfield also discussed ways in which the U.N. and Uganda can work together to mitigate rising commodity prices, which the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change had already increased.  

For months, Russia imposed a naval blockade on Ukrainian ports along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The stoppage in the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods has contributed to a mounting global food crisis.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken speaks with EU's Borrell on additional ways to hold Russia accountable

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed with European Union High Representative Josep Borrell additional ways to hold Russia accountable for its war in Ukraine.

"Secretary Blinken and High Representative Borrell discussed our shared commitment to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its unjustified war and the resulting global impacts to energy markets and food security," wrote State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.

The meeting occurred on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

— Amanda Macias

'Brittney is being used as a political pawn,' Griner's agent says

US Olympic champion basketball player Brittney Griner, accused of drug smuggling, is seen before being questioned at the Khimki City Court in Moscow, Russia on July 26, 2022.
Dmitry Korotaev | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

WNBA star Brittney Griner's agent called a Russian court's nine-year prison sentence for the professional athlete "severe."

"Today's sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn," Lindsay Colas wrote in a three-part tweet.

"We must remain focused and unified. This is a time for compassion and a shared understanding that getting a deal done to bring Americans home will be hard, but it is urgent and it is the right thing to do," she added.

— Amanda Macias

Russia has not responded to substantively to Biden offer for WNBA star Griner's release, a U.S. official tells NBC News

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. 
Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

Russia has not responded substantively to the Biden administration's offer for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, a U.S. official told NBC News.

The Biden administration does not expect the Russian government to move swiftly on the U.S. proposal, the official said.

The official added that Deputy White House Homeland Security Adviser Josh Geltzer spoke to Griner's wife, Cherelle, last week and that senior members of Biden's national security team are in "regular contact" with Griner's representatives and family.

— Amanda Macias

Canada to send trainers to UK to teach Ukrainian forces

Members of Canadian army during Crystal Arrow 2022 exercise on March 7, 2022 in Adazi, Latvia.
Paulius Peleckis | Getty Images

Canada is sending military trainers to the United Kingdom to teach Ukrainians how to fight invading Russian forces, Defense Minister Anita Anand said.

Up to 225 members of the Canadian Armed Forces will eventually be based in the U.K. for an initial period of four months, said Anand. They will work alongside counterparts from Britain, the Netherlands and New Zealand in training Ukrainian troops on the basics of soldiering.

An earlier Canadian military training mission based in Ukraine was suspended only weeks before the invasion began.

That mission, which also included 225 Canadian military trainers, was launched in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and started supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The federal government says the mission, known as Operation Unifier, helped train more than 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers before all Canadian troops were withdrawn ahead of Russia's attack.

— Associated Press

Blinken says Griner's release is 'an absolute priority of mine'

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, looks on inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 2, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner is "an absolute priority of mine" after a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison on drug charges.

"This step puts a spotlight on our significant concerns with Russia's legal system and the Russian government's use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda, using individuals as political pawns," Blinken wrote in a statement.

"Nothing about today's decision changes our determination that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, and we will continue working to bring Brittney and fellow wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan home," Blinken added, referencing the former U.S. Marine who is also detained in Russia.

"This is an absolute priority of mine and the Department's," Blinken wrote.

— Amanda Macias

Biden calls Griner 9-year sentence 'unacceptable' and calls for her immediate release

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden called Griner's prison sentence "unacceptable" and called for her immediate release.

"It's unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," Biden wrote in a statement.

"My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible," Biden added.

A Russian court found Brittney Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

The court also fined Griner 1 million rubles ($16,590).

The 31-year-old Griner, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

— Amanda Macias

Russian court finds WNBA star Griner guilty

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. -
Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images

WNBA Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug charges in a Russian court, a revelation that comes as the U.S. government scrambles to secure the WNBA star's release.

The 31-year-old Griner, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

Under Russian law, the charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. During closing arguments, Russian prosecutors asked the court to sentence her to 9 1/2 years in prison.

Griner awaits sentencing.

— Amanda Macias

Russia might launch southern offensive to try to win back momentum, Ukrainian general says

People arrive to receive Russian passports at a center in Kherson, which is occupied by Russian forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia may launch an offensive in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson to try to win back momentum in the war and it has been building up forces there, Ukrainian General Oleksiy Gromov told a news conference on Thursday, Reuters reported.

He said Ukraine had improved its tactical position around the eastern city of Sloviansk and recaptured two villages, but that Russian forces had been trying to take the eastern city of Avdiivka and village of Pisky.

Ukrainian forces had been forced to switch to defending the outskirts of Avdiivka, he said.

— Reuters

Crowded bus stop shelled in Toretsk leaving 8 dead, and children among the wounded

Russian forces have shelled Toretsk, north of the city of Donetsk, killing eight people and wounding four others, three of whom are children.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk's regional military administration, said that preliminary information suggested the casualties were caused by a Russian artillery strike on a public bus stop where there was a crowd of people.

"In addition, the Russians damaged the church and injured the local priest, damaged the surrounding high-rise buildings," Kyrylenko said in a post on Telegram, his post accompanied by images of damaged buildings and victims of the attack covered with blankets.

Toretsk, in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine, was targeted previously by Russian forces. Here, local residents search for their belongings amid rubbles of a building damaged in an attack by Russian forces on the city on July 28, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Toretsk lies between the cities of Donetsk and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region where heavy fighting is taking place. The city was attacked last week, as shown in the image above. Kyrylenko called on residents to evacuate the city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, described the attack on Toretsk today as another instance of Russian "terrorism."

Russia has said previously that it does not target civilians despite multiple attacks on residential buildings and civilian infrastructure.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin rebuffs NATO criticism, accuses alliance of creating a 'threat to the world order'

The Kremlin rebuffed criticism from NATO's secretary-general and instead accused the Western military alliance of destabilizing the world order.

Earlier, NATO's Jens Stoltenberg said Russia's war in Ukraine is an attack on the current world order and that Europe was "experiencing its most dangerous situation since World War II." In addition, he said that Russia must not be allowed to win the war.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov dismissed those comments, claiming NATO had fueled the conflict.

"This situation has been maturing for several decades and in many ways it was fueled by the policy of NATO because they brought the borders closer to Russia, this created additional threats for us," Peskov said.

Kremlin Press Secretry Dmitry Peskov
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Peskov claimed that the origins of the "real threat to the world order on our continent — that is, in Europe" was what he described as a "coup" in 2014. He claimed this was "carefully orchestrated, including by the member countries of the NATO, despite the guarantees they gave us."

"This is where the danger and threat to the world order flows from. Therefore, we agree with Stolenberg's statement," Peskov said.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 came after pro-democracy protests in Ukraine that began in late 2013 and continued into the new year. In February 2014, the protests culminated in the ousting of Ukraine's then pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in what many Ukrainians termed the Maidan Revolution or Revolution of Dignity.

Russia said the ousting was the result of a Western-promoted, illegal "coup" and annexed Crimea and stoked pro-Russian unrest in eastern Ukraine, which has continued to this day.

Pro-Western and particularly pro-European young Ukrainians supported the ousting of Yanukovich, seeing it as a step toward political independence from Russia and toward membership in the European Union.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia's war in Ukraine is attack on world order, NATO chief says

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg delivers remarks to the news media as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosts Stoltenberg at the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2022.
Leah Millis | Reuters

Russia's war in Ukraine is an attack on the current world order, according to NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg, speaking in his native Norway, said Europe was "experiencing its most dangerous situation since World War II" and that Russia must not be allowed to win.

"It's in our interest that this type of aggressive policy does not succeed," Stoltenberg said in comments reported by Reuters. Stoltenberg added that if Russian President Vladimir Putin considered doing anything similar to a NATO country, the full alliance will react.

A central tenet of the Western military alliance is that an attack on one member is an attack on the whole 30-member organization, with members pledging to come to each other's mutual aid.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine tells Lebanon to reverse decision to clear grain shipment for travel

A picture shows a view of the bow of the grain-laden Syrian-flagged ship Laodicea, docked in Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli, on July 30, 2022.
Fathi Al-masri | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine called on Lebanon on Thursday to reverse a decision by a court in Tripoli to authorise the departure of a seized Syrian ship carrying what Kyiv says is stolen Ukrainian grain, Reuters reported Thursday.

In a statement, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said it was disappointed by the court's decision to clear the Syrian-flagged Laodicea for departure and said that Kyiv's position had not been taken into account.

— Reuters

Russian forces feeling the threat from Ukraine's Western-supplied weapons, UK notes

A Ukrainian army unit shows the rockets on HIMARS vehicle in eastern Ukraine on July 1, 2022.
The Washington Post | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Ukraine's offensive to retake occupied territory in the south of the country and its use of Western-supplied weapons is putting mounting pressure on Russia's forces, according to the latest intelligence update from the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence.

"Ukraine's missile and artillery units continue to target Russian military strongholds, personnel clusters, logistical support bases and ammunition depots," the ministry said on Twitter Thursday.

"This will highly likely impact Russian military logistical resupply and put pressure on Russian military combat support elements."

A picture taken on July 21, 2022 shows a car moving past a crater on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro river caused by a Ukrainian rocket strike, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. said Russia was feeling threatened by Western-supplied weapons systems that are allowing Ukraine's forces to counterattack the Russian army more effectively, citing efforts by Russia to hide damage the Antonovsky Bridge, which leads to occupied Kherson and is vital for their military supplies to the city, that was hit by Ukrainian missiles last week.

"Russian forces have almost certainly positioned pyramidal radar reflectors in the water near the recently damaged Antonivskiy [Antonovsky] Bridge and by the recently damaged nearby rail bridge, both of which cross over the Dnipro River in Kherson, southern Ukraine," the U.K. noted.

"The radar reflectors are likely being used to hide the bridge from synthetic aperture radar imagery and possible missile targeting equipment. This highlights the threat Russia feels from the increased range and precision of Western-supplied systems."

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian 'strike force' building to target Zelenskyy's hometown of Kryvyi Rih

Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is looking increasingly vulnerable with Ukraine saying Russia is building a military "strike force" to target the industrial city in central-southern Ukraine.

Early Thursday, Ukraine's southern military command saying the situation in its operational area — where fighting is intensifying around Kryvyi Rih as well as Zaporizhzhia to the east, and Mykolaiv and Kherson to the south — is "tense and complex."

"The enemy continues to conduct hostilities on the occupied line of defense. In order to prevent the advance of our troops and restore the lost position, the composition of the group in the Kryvyi Rih direction is increasing due to the transfer of units of the 35th Army of the Eastern Military District," the unit said, saying that Russian aircraft were becoming "more active" and attacking the area south of Kryvyi Rih.

Residential buildings and industrial plants across the city skyline in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukraine's southern military command said in a previous update on Wednesday that it believed Russia was creating a military "strike group in the Kryvyi Rih region" and that "it's also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of Kherson region."

Officials in Ukraine have repeatedly warned in recent days that Russia is redeploying a massive number of troops to the south of the country, where Ukraine has launched counteroffensives to try to regain lost territory, particularly the occupied city of Kherson.

Ukrainian artillerymen in the military assembly center check the weapons and special equipment to make them ready before they go to their duties at the frontline in Kherson, Ukraine on July 15, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In his nightly address on Sunday evening, Zelenskyy praised the bravery of residents in his hometown, as well as other cities under repeated attack as Russia looks to extend its territorial gains in east and southern Ukraine.

"I want to thank every resident of Mykolaiv for their indomitability, for protecting the city and the region. I also thank Nikopol, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih and the entire Dnipropetrovsk region, the strong people of Zaporozhzhia and the region, all Ukrainians of the Kherson region, everyone who defends the approaches to Odessa and the region ... Thank you for your courage."

 "Strategically, Russia has no chance of winning this war," he added.

Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy says he wants to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on July 4, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Zelenskyy is seeking an opportunity for direct talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, the South China Morning Post reported.
Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to speak directly with Xi Jinping in hopes China's president could use the country's influence to end Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has pursued talks with China since the beginning of the war. He told the newspaper that Russia would feel much more economically isolated without the Chinese market and could use that to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war.

China has repeatedly said it supports a "peaceful resolution" to the situation in Ukraine, but has so far refused to call Russia's war an "invasion."

— Natalie Tham

U.S. Senate approves Finland and Sweden's membership to NATO

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attend a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, after signing their countries' accession protocols at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.
Yves Herman | Reuters

The U.S. Senate voted 95 to 1 to ratify Finland and Sweden's entrance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, calling expansion of the Western defensive bloc a "slam-dunk" for U.S. national security and a day of reckoning for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

Senators invited the ambassadors of the two Nordic nations to witness the debate and the vote, a crucial step in opening a new era for the now 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its 73-year-old pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe.

President Joe Biden has sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European nations. Their candidacies have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied, a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine's West-looking government.

"It sends a warning shot to tyrants around the world who believe free democracies are just up for grabs," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in the Senate debate ahead of the vote.

"Russia's unprovoked invasion has changed the way we think about world security," she added.

— Associated Press

Ukraine nuclear plant is 'out of control,' UN nuclear chief says

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a joint news conference after talks in Tokyo, Japan May 19, 2022.
Issei Kato | Reuters

The U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine "is completely out of control" and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the situation is getting more perilous every day at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, soon after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.

"Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated" at the plant, he said. "What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous."

Grossi cited many violations of the plant's safety, adding that it is "in a place where active war is ongoing," near Russian-controlled territory.

— Associated Press

Zelenskyy says 'global security architecture' is not working, cites tensions in the Balkans and Taiwan

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a working session of G7 leaders via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 27, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the "global security architecture" is not working, and referenced tensions in the Balkans, Taiwan and in the Caucasus.

"If it worked, there wouldn't be all these conflicts," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on the Telegram messaging app.

"And this is actually something that Ukraine has been paying attention to not only 161 days after the start of a full-scale war, but for years. Ever since Russia completely ignored international law, the interests of humanity as such," he added.

— Amanda Macias

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