Brittney Griner’s exit not a priority for the Kremlin

The release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Moscow-area prison is a priority for President Joe Biden, but it is not a priority issue for Moscow, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday.

“In this tense situation, I think he (Biden) is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections,” Yuri Ushakov told the “Moscow.Kremlin.Putin” TV show. “He keeps insisting on bringing (Griner) home… However, that’s not the main issue we’re concerned about.”

Griner has been held by Russia since her arrest in February, days before Russia invaded Ukraine, at a Moscow region airport on charges of drug trafficking. She said she inadvertently packed cannabis oil in her luggage, pleaded guilty and was given a nine-year prison sentence which her lawyers are appealing.

Efforts to arrange an exchange to free her have been hampered by Russia’s historically poor relations. Biden said he would be willing to discuss Griner’s case with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 meeting next month in Indonesia.

Other developments:

►Four additional ships carrying 140,000 tonnes of agricultural products have left Odessa for countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, the Ministry of Infrastructure announced.

►Russian shelling of civilian targets has killed 423 Ukrainian children and injured 810 since February, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office reported.

Britney Griner:WNBA star fears he won’t be released from Russian jail, lawyer says

Six people injured in rocket attack near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

At least six people were injured in Russian rocket fire near Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, where Russia has stationed troops, Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said two Nikopol residents were hospitalized following the strikes, which also damaged five power lines, gas pipelines and numerous civilian businesses and residential buildings.

Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of firing in and around the plant, which continues to be run by its occupation-preoccupied Ukrainian staff under Russian surveillance.

TURNING?:As Russia pulls back in parts, Ukraine regains land, trust

Russian-backed Donetsk mayor’s office damaged in rocket attack

The municipal mayor’s office in Donetsk, controlled by separatists, was badly damaged in a rocket attack that Russian authorities blamed on Ukrainian forces. Plumes of smoke swirled around the building, which had rows of blown out windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. Nearby cars were set on fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties and Kyiv did not immediately claim responsibility. Russia’s Dontesk administration said the building was hit by a HIMAR rocket – the type supplied to Ukraine by the United States.

Contribute: The Associated Press

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