Ukraine Live Briefing: Russia noncommittal on Griner deal; safe passage for grain still being arranged

WNBA star Brittney Griner testified July 27 in her Moscow trial on drug charges. She said that her rights weren't read when she was detained in February. (Video: Reuters)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that no concrete result has been achieved in U.S.-Russian prisoner exchange negotiations after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States made a “substantial proposal” to Moscow for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and security consultant Paul Whelan.

The U.N. aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said that Ukrainian grain shipments in the Black Sea could resume by Friday but that details were being arranged, Reuters reported.

Here’s the latest on the war and its global impact.

Key developments

  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed surprise Thursday at the United States’ break with the diplomatic silence that normally surrounds prisoner release negotiations, a day after Blinken said a “substantial proposal” was made to Moscow to free Griner and Whelan, The Post reported.
  • Blinken’s announcement came hours after Griner took the stand Wednesday, telling a court in Moscow that her rights were not read to her when she was arrested in February. She also said she did not receive adequate translations when Russian authorities questioned her and required her to sign documents in Russian. Her trial on drug charges is set to resume next week.
  • Ukraine has intensified efforts to bomb Russian troops occupying areas of the country’s south, Reuters reports. Russian advances have slowed almost to a standstill.

Battlefield updates

  • Russia struck an area north of Kyiv early Thursday, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, the regional governor. He said in a Telegram post that infrastructure in the area along the Dnieper River was hit and that information on victims was not clear. Local media reported no fatalities, citing a police official.
  • Ukraine’s second-largest power plant has been captured, one of Moscow’s first significant gains in weeks. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, confirmed that Russian forces captured the Vuhlehirsk power plant.
  • Ukrainian forces’ efforts to recapture Kherson, in the south, are gathering momentum, according to the British Defense Ministry. Ukraine bombed a key bridge early Wednesday for the third time in 10 days to stymie Russian troops there, its intelligence report said, and the bridge is probably unusable. The city of Kherson is virtually cut off from the rest of the occupied region, according to the report.

Global impact

  • NASA officials are shrugging off Moscow’s announcement that it would depart the International Space Station partnership after 2024 and develop its own space station. Russia has not formally given the required one-year notice of departure to its ISS partners, and NASA officials said they would continue to operate as if nothing has changed.
  • Russian energy giant Gazprom cut natural gas flowing to Germany by half, to about 20 percent capacity, on Wednesday. Kremlin spokesman Peskov said it was “absolutely incorrect” that Russia is using gas as leverage to get the European Union to lift sanctions, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
  • Zelensky thanked the U.S. Senate on Thursday for urging the State Department to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. In his nightly address, he called for “a legal response at the global level,” saying “there is no rational reason why such a reaction should not occur, particularly in the United States.” The Senate passed the nonbinding resolution Wednesday, and an identical bill has been introduced in the House.
  • A U.S.-sanctioned ship that belongs to a Syrian state shipping company has docked in Lebanon, carrying barley that Ukraine said was stolen, the Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut said Thursday, the latest allegation by the war-torn country that Russia is pilfering grain and sending it to ports in the Middle East.

From our correspondents

The Biden administration is talking publicly about a potential prisoner swap in hope of making progress in negotiations, The Post reported Thursday.

U.S. officials say they have tried for weeks to broker the releases of Griner and Whelan. But the lack of progress, and the prospect of Griner soon facing conviction and sentencing on drug charges, prompted the administration this week to make the negotiations public.

Blinken on Wednesday told reporters that he had requested a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and that the United States had made a significant proposal to Russia as part of its efforts to free the Americans. Blinken said the United States had offered Russia the deal weeks ago.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that diplomatic silence typically surrounds negotiations regarding prisoner releases. Announcements are usually made “about agreements that have been completed,” Peskov said, and no agreements have been finalized.

The Russian government acknowledged Thursday that it had received Blinken’s request, but the media service Interfax reported that Lavrov would respond “when his own schedule allows.”

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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