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Latest Developments in Ukraine: July 7

Civilians and Ukrainian servicemen walk in the rubble of the courtyard between the Hotel Industria and civilian buildings after an air strike in the center of Kramatorsk, on July 7, 2022.
Civilians and Ukrainian servicemen walk in the rubble of the courtyard between the Hotel Industria and civilian buildings after an air strike in the center of Kramatorsk, on July 7, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

9:35 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “After the conference in Lugano, which was dedicated to the recovery of Ukraine, government officials have already agreed on emergency aid to our country in the amount of more than $2 billion. These funds will be directed to strengthening the budget and preparing for winter.”

8:27 p.m.: NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana said Western Balkan countries don't face an “imminent threat” from the war in Ukraine, and are of strategic interest to the Western alliance, The Associated Press reported.

Geoana was in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, to meet with local officials and visit the NATO-led KFOR mission. He denounced Russia’s “illogical and brutal war” in Ukraine and its “aggressive and malign influence over the Western Balkans."

“We have a strategic interest ... in the Western Balkans. I want to send a message of hope for all the people to the Western Balkans that ultimately all of us will find ourselves in the European and Euro-Atlantic family,” he told The Associated Press.

Some Western Balkan countries are NATO members — Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia — while Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina are partners.

Kosovo has said it will apply for the Partnership for Peace membership, considered a first step in the NATO membership process, according to the AP.

7:38 p.m.:

6:45 p.m.: U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned that Ukraine faces tremendous challenges after invading Russian forces destroyed thousands of homes while also traumatizing residents, separating families and creating widespread anxiety during the conflict, The Associated Press reported.

Grandi also said he's seen Ukrainian victims of the war showing a lot of strength, resilience and determination to rebuild their lives in the face of continuing Russia military attacks.

Grandi was speaking while visiting the towns of Irpin and Bucha, where Russian forces have committed some of the worst atrocities during their invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance. Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighboring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country.

5:18 p.m.: The United States will continue its "close cooperation" with Britain including their joint support for Ukraine against Russian aggression, US President Joe Biden said Thursday, hours after Boris Johnson announced his resignation as prime minister, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The United Kingdom and the United States are the closest of friends and allies, and the special relationship between our people remains strong and enduring," Biden said in a statement.

"I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom," he added, including "maintaining a strong and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin's brutal war on their democracy, and holding Russia accountable for its actions."

4:36 p.m.: A senior US diplomat gave Griner a letter Thursday from U.S. President Joe Biden, CNN reported. Griner had written to Biden on July 4 pleading for his help.

Griner appreciated Biden's letter "like every citizen of every country would appreciate a personal letter from the President," one of her lawyers, Alexander Boykov said.

On Wednesday, the White House announced Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken by phone with Griner's wife. Cherelle Griner was grateful for the call, she said in a statement Wednesday.

In the meantime, the US government should "continue doing what they are doing and exhaust every measure possible to help bring BG home," Griner's Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told CNN on Thursday following her plea.

3:21 p.m.:

2:30 p.m.: Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas is to present a combat drone to Ukraine that was donated by the Turkish manufacturer after a private crowdfunding campaign among ordinary Lithuanians raised $6.1 million to buy it within days.

The campaign's success inspired Turkey's Baykar defense company, which makes the Bayraktar TB2 drone, to provide it free of cost. Some of the money raised in Lithuania was used to arm the drone, and the rest will be funneled to Ukraine to address "critical needs," the Lithuanian government said.

"One weapon won't win a war, but symbols are extremely important in any war," Anusauskas told public broadcaster LRT Wednesday.

1:25 p.m.: The Wall Street Journal says it has found evidence of a Russian smuggling network organized to transport stolen grain out of newly occupied areas of Ukraine and into the Middle East.

The Journal video report, published Thursday, says convoys of Russian trucks are carrying grain through southeastern Ukraine, through the Russian-annexed Crimea region, to the port of Sevastopol. From there, says the report, three Russian ships, often traveling with their transporters turned off, haul the grain to ports in Syria and Turkey.

The newspaper uses photos, satellite images and an interview with a Russian driver to support its claims.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of stealing its grain since the February 24 invasion. Russia denies the accusations.

The Russian invasion has wreaked havoc on Ukrainian grain exports and led to shortages that have driven up food prices worldwide.

12:05 p.m.: The top official in Ukraine’s Donetsk province says at least one person was killed and six wounded in a Russian missile attack Thursday on the city of Kramatorsk.
Reuters reports that Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko also said the missile damaged six buildings in the city center, including a hotel and an apartment building.

Ukraine has said it expects Kramatorsk, a city of about 150,000, to be one of the main targets for Russian forces as they attempt to take full control of Donetsk.

11:30 a.m.: Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the United Kingdom will “continue to supply vital defensive aid for as long as needed” to Ukraine.

The prime minister’s office says Johnson made the comment during a call Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy.

In a statement, the office says Zelenskyy thanked Johnson for his "decisive action” on Ukraine, said the Ukrainian people were grateful for UK efforts to help Ukraine deal with the Russian invasion.

The prime minister ended the call by telling Zelenskyy: “You’re a hero, everybody loves you.”

10:46 a.m.: An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy has thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his staunch support of Ukraine as the country battles Russian invasion.

In a video posted to Twitter Thursday, Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine is “extremely grateful” to Johnson for building international support against what he called the Russian Federation monster, and for helping Ukraine obtain what it needs to effectively defend itself.

Johnson announced Thursday he would resign as prime minister following a dramatic loss in political support, though he said he would remain in office until a successor is chosen.

10:25 a.m.: Reuters reports that U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges Thursday in a Russian courtroom.

"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner said, speaking English which was then translated into Russian for the court.

Her next hearing was scheduled for July 14. If convicted, Griner could face 10 years in prison.

Griner was arrested February 17 after authorities at a Moscow airport allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. Her detention has raised concerns that Moscow might try to use her to negotiate the release of a Russian national in U.S. custody.

9:38 a.m.: A Kremlin spokesman says Russia has made no specific decision about the Sakhalin-1 international oil and gas project, after a top lawmaker said it would be brought under Moscow's control, according to Reuters.

U.S.-based ExxonMobil is one of four companies that are partners in the Sakhalin-1 group of fields. ExxonMobil said it would pull out of the project in March, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Pavel Zavalny, the head of the energy committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said Sakhalin-1 would be put under Moscow's jurisdiction, just like the neighboring Sakhalin-2 project, which the Russian government seized last week.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday no decision has been made about the future of Sakhalin-1.

9:15 a.m.: U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner returned to a Russian court Thursday for the second hearing of her trial on drug charges.

Griner’s trial began last Friday but was adjourned when two witnesses failed to appear, reports the Associated Press.

Friends and family of the two-time Olympic gold medalist have called on the Biden administration to do more to win Griner’s release, amid concerns Russia may try to use her to negotiate the release of a Russian national in U.S. custody.

Griner was arrested on February 17, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, after authorities at a Moscow airport allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage.

The State Department has designated her as wrongfully detained, and moved her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

8:45 a.m.: Russian forces fired missiles Thursday at the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, according to Reuters.

The report says the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Goncharenko wrote on Facebook that missiles struck central parts of Kramatorsk, causing casualties.

Ukraine has said it expects Kramatorsk, a city of about 150,000, to be one of the main targets for Russian forces as they attempt to capture the entire Donetsk region.

7:25 a.m.: Russia’s defense ministry says a Russian warplane killed an unspecified number of Ukrainian troops on Snake Island in the Black Sea on Thursday after they landed there to raise a Ukrainian flag.

A Russian defense ministry spokesman says the aircraft struck soon after several Ukrainian servicemen arrived on the island via motorboat and took pictures with the flag, according to Reuters.

The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff earlier posted a video on social media of three soldiers raising a Ukrainian flag on the island.

Snake Island is strategically important because of its proximity to the Ukrainian port of Odessa. Russian forces left the island on June 30 after heavy Ukrainian artillery bombardment. Russia says it pulled the forces to show it is not blocking U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor that would allow grain to be shipped from Ukraine.

7:10 a.m.: A top Russian diplomat suggested Thursday that Washington be silent about the fate of Brittney Griner, the U.S. basketball star detained in Russia on drugs charges.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying “hype” around Griner’s case does not help her interests. He added that “against this background, of course, it is difficult to engage in a substantive discussion of various kinds of exchanges.”

Ryabkov said judicial procedures for Griner have not been completed, and “until this happens, there are no nominal, formal, procedural grounds for any further steps, not to mention anything else.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 after cannabis-infused vaporizer cartridges were allegedly found in her luggage. Friends, family and fans have urged the Biden administration to do more to obtain her release.

5:55 a.m.: Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Thursday a Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain had been allowed to leave the Turkish port of Karasu, calling it an "unacceptable situation" and summoning Turkey's ambassador.

"We regret that Russia's ship Zhibek Zholy, which was full of stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave Karasu port despite criminal evidence presented to the Turkish authorities," foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.

"Türkiye's Ambassador in Kyiv will be invited to Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify this unacceptable situation."

5:40 a.m.: Reuters reports that Finland's parliament on Thursday voted in favor of legislation that would allow barriers on the country's border with Russia and enable the closure of the 1,300-kilometers frontier from asylum seekers in case of "exceptional circumstances."

5:08 a.m.: U.S. think tank The Institute for the Study of War said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Ukrainian forces may be preparing for a counteroffensive toward Kherson City.

Meanwhile, Russian forces seem to be conducting an operational pause and preparing for more intense offensives, the assessment said.

Russia's operations pause hasn't stopped limited ground attacks, however. Troops attacked north of Kharkiv City, tried to advance toward Bakhmut from the south and attempted to push westward toward Siversk from the Luhansk-Donetsk oblast border, the assessment said.

4:17 a.m.: The daily intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said heavy shelling continued along the Donetsk front line but Russia made few advances.

The update also said Russia is working on economic measures to support its operations in Ukraine without a formal declaration of state mobilization.

3:12 a.m.: Al Jazeera reported that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that in light of the war with Ukraine, Russia must not be allowed to use this week's G-20 gathering as a platform.

Both she and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they will not meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will be attending the gathering, Al Jazeera reported.

Meanwhile, Australia's foreign minister called the war in Ukraine "immoral."

2:08 a.m.: Josep Borrell, the European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, asked China to play a more constructive role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

1:11 a.m.: Russian-born Elena Rybakina said she wanted the war in Ukraine to end "as soon as possible" after reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Now representing Kazakhstan, and the first player from that country to reach the last four of a Grand Slam, Rybakina faces a semi-final with Romanian 2019 champion Simona Halep.

Rybakina, 23, who was born in Moscow and switched allegiance from Russia four years ago, was asked afterwards whether she felt Kazakh or Russian, a sensitive subject at a tournament that this year barred players from Russia and Belarus due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"I was born in Russia but of course I am representing Kazakhstan. It's already a long journey for me," she said. "I was playing Olympics, Fed Cup before. I got so much help and support. "For me it's tough question just to say exactly what I feel."

Asked about the war in Ukraine, she added: "I just want the war to end as soon as possible. Peace, yeah."

12:02 a.m. Ukraine is investigating more than 21,000 war crimes and crimes of aggression by Russian troops, the BBC reported.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said she was getting reports of 200-300 war crimes a day, the BBC said. She said that Russian soldiers who commit crimes "should understand that it's only a question of time when they all will be in court."

Russia has denied all allegations of war crimes.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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