August 4, 2022 Brittney Griner verdict and Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Ivana Kottasová and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 3:33 a.m. ET, August 5, 2022
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3:35 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Russia says it repelled Ukrainian missile strikes at critical Antonovsky bridge in Kherson

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Russian officials say their air defense systems repelled another attempt by the Ukrainian military to strike the Antonovsky bridge, a key structure that crosses the Dnieper river into the occupied city of Kherson.

“There were no strikes on the bridge. There were attempts, but everything was repelled by the air defense system. Nothing flew on the bridge at all, these are all fakes,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the region’s civil military administration, told Russian state news agency TASS. 

Ukraine has been conducting strikes on bridges in the area for several weeks now, hoping to cut off supplies to Russian troops in Kherson ahead of an announced counteroffensive. 

Traffic across the Antonovsky bridge was stopped altogether on July 27, according to TASS.

Over the past week, Russian state media and social media footage showed Moscow’s forces transporting people across the Dnieper river in makeshift pontoon ferries, circumventing the disabled bridges. 

4:07 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Ukrainian military says Russian offensive in the east ongoing but largely unsuccessful

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian servicemen fire with a BM21 Grad multiple launch rocket system at the frontline in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on August 2.
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a BM21 Grad multiple launch rocket system at the frontline in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on August 2. (Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces are maintaining their offensive in the country's east — but that Ukraine has been able to repel their advance. 

“The enemy used barrel and rocket artillery in the areas of Yakovlivka, Travneve, Kodema, Pokrovske, Rozdolivka, Kurdiumivka, Zaitseve, Bakhmut and Soledar settlements. There were airstrikes near Yakovlivka, Soledar and Kodema,” the military’s General Staff said in a morning update on Thursday.

It said Russian forces "tried to improve the tactical position" in a number of directions, but "had no success ... and retreated."

Russia continues to conduct "offensive operations in the direction of Novoluhanske - Kodema, hostilities continue," the General Staff added.

Eastern front line: Ukrainian authorities reported intense shelling across most of the eastern battlefield. 

Near Kharkiv, Russian forces tried to make a push towards Bairak–Husarivka, the Ukrainian military said.

Russian forces had largely abandoned Kharkiv as a target, as they focused on the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, it added.

Fighting in the south: Meanwhile In Ukraine’s southern flank, Russian forces relied mostly on artillery, shelling more than 25 settlements in and around Mykolaiv. The city has faced intense shelling throughout the week, with a Ukrainian grain mogul and his wife killed last Saturday in an attack.

Residents there told CNN it was the heaviest shelling in the city since the start of the war.

Ukraine has been trying to mount a counteroffensive in this area, and Ukrainian officials have said Moscow is using artillery to defend and hold onto the territory it controls. 

3:10 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Nearly 6,000 Ukrainians stuck trying to leave occupied territories due to flooding

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

Nearly 6,000 people trying to leave Russian-occupied territories for the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia have become stuck due to flooding on the route, according to Ukrainian officials.

“There are more than 1,200 cars at the checkpoint in Vasylivka, that's almost 6,000 of our citizens waiting in line to leave to the city of Zaporizhzhia,” Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov told Ukrainian television on Thursday.
“The waiting time there is up to seven days. But the situation has become more complicated in the last few days, because there is heavy rain in the Zaporizhzhia region, and the dirt road, which is in the gray zone, is now impassable.”

The route to Zaporizhzhia through Vasylivka is one of the few "green corridors," which allow civilians to escape Russian-occupied territories to safer, Ukrainian-controlled parts of the country. The route has been flooded for the past few days.

“The enemy is deliberately blocking this path now, because they are deliberately releasing our citizens, who will then get stuck on this dirt road,” Fedorov added. “Therefore, evacuation is possible as of today, but it is very painful and takes quite a lot of time.”

On Wednesday, officials said the number of Ukrainian refugees trying to travel through the road had increased because of Ukraine’s counteroffensive toward the occupied city of Kherson. 

3:03 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

No grain shipments to leave Ukraine on Thursday

No grain shipments are expected to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Thursday, according to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.

On Monday, the M/V Razoni carried the first shipment of grain from Ukraine since Russia began its invasion. After being delayed due to bad weather, it arrived in Istanbul Tuesday evening, and is heading to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon next.

The shipment was finally allowed to leave the port of Odesa under a UN-brokered export deal, after Russia's months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports worsened a global food supply crisis.

An additional 17 vessels are loaded and awaiting permission to leave Ukraine, according to Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.

7:04 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Closing arguments expected in WNBA star Brittney Griner's drug-smuggling trial in Russia

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Eric Levenson

WNBA star Brittney Griner stands in a holding cell before her court hearing on Tuesday August 2.
WNBA star Brittney Griner stands in a holding cell before her court hearing on Tuesday August 2. (Evgenia Movozhenina/AFP/Getty Images)

Closing arguments are expected Thursday in WNBA star Brittney Griner's drug-smuggling trial in Russia, amid concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in the country's war on Ukraine.

The court hearing in the Khimki city courthouse comes six months after Griner, 31, was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian prosecutors of trying to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist, who also plays for a Russian team in the WNBA offseason, pleaded guilty to drug charges last month in what her lawyers say was an attempt to take responsibility and receive leniency if she is ultimately convicted and sentenced.

"Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and (Griner's) personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence," her legal team said last month.

Prisoner swap: The US State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and her supporters have called for her release and asked the US to take further steps to try to free her from the country, perhaps as part of a proposed prisoner swap.

"She's still focused, and she's still nervous. And she still knows that the end is near, and of course she heard the news so she's hoping that sometime she could be coming home, and we hope, too," said Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin & Partners law firm and a member of Griner's defense team.

She added the verdict in the case will come "very soon," potentially Thursday.

Read more here.

1:00 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

US Senate votes to ratify NATO membership for Sweden and Finland

From CNN's Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., flanked by Paivi Nevala, minister counselor of the Finnish Embassy, left, and Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden's ambassador to the US, before the Senate vote at the Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., flanked by Paivi Nevala, minister counselor of the Finnish Embassy, left, and Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden's ambassador to the US, before the Senate vote at the Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 3. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The US Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution to ratify membership for Sweden and Finland in NATO, a historic vote aimed at strengthening the defense bloc amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

NATO formalized its invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance at the end of June and the decision must go to the 30 member states' parliaments and legislatures for final ratification.

President Joe Biden sent the protocols for ratification to the Senate in July, paving the way for the vote, which needed to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate to succeed. The final tally of the Senate vote was 95 to 1, with GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri voting in opposition and GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voting present.

Read more here.

1:22 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Gazprom claims delivery of Nord Stream 1 turbine from Germany to Russia is "impossible"

From CNN's Livvy Doherty and Benjamin Brown

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stands in front of a turbine of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline during a visit on August 3, to Siemens Energy in Muelheim, Germany, where the engine is stored after maintenance work in Canada.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stands in front of a turbine of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline during a visit on August 3, to Siemens Energy in Muelheim, Germany, where the engine is stored after maintenance work in Canada. (Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said the delivery of a pipeline turbine from Germany to Russia is "impossible," despite German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying earlier on Wednesday that it was ready to go. 

In a statement on Telegram, Gazprom said “the sanctions regimes of Canada, the EU, the UK and the inconsistency of the current situation with the current contractual obligations on the part of Siemens make the delivery of the 073 engine to the Portovaya CS impossible.”

Gazprom has consistently blamed reduced gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe on technical issues relating to the turbine. It was recently under repairs in Canada and then shipped to a Siemens Energy plant in Germany. 

In a visit to inspect the turbine in the German city of Mülheim, the chancellor said, “It is clear and simple: the turbine is there. It can be delivered. All someone has to do is say, 'I want it.' Then it will be there very quickly.”

Scholz said there were no legal or technical reasons or sanctions preventing the export of the turbine to Russia.

12:59 a.m. ET, August 4, 2022

Ukraine raises grains harvest forecast to 65 million metric tons

From CNN's Tim Lister

A combine harvests a wheat field in Zolochiv, Ukraine on August 1. 
A combine harvests a wheat field in Zolochiv, Ukraine on August 1.  (Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian government has raised its forecast for this year's harvests of grain and oilseeds crops.

A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal was told this year's harvest is expected to be larger than was initially predicted — 65 to 67 million metric tons instead of the 60 million metric tons previously forecast.

Shymal said that "despite all the troubles, the harvest continues. According to the information provided by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, during the harvest period, crop harvesting was carried out on an area of 3.5 million hectares, in fact, 12 million tons of grain of the new crop were collected," Shmyhal said.

"In June we exported 3.2 million [metric] tons out of the 5 million that were needed. Exports are gradually increasing by rail, road, and through the Danube ports. Seaports will significantly expand these capacities and farmers will get new opportunities to sell their products."

First grain ship: Shmyal's remarks came as the first ship to leave a Black Sea port laden with grain passed through the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.

Shmyhal said the government was working to improve participation in state credits for farmers, many of whom have had their equipment and storage destroyed or are unable to get their produce to market economically.

Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council, told a news conference Wednesday that 16 more ships are waiting for their turn to leave Ukraine's Black Sea ports after being stranded there since February.

He said the first task was to begin shifting the 20 million metric tons stored by agricultural producers from the last harvest.

He also said that government ministries were discussing with the Coordination Council in Istanbul the possibility of including ports in the Mykolaiv region in the deal to export Ukrainian crops