Death toll of Ukrainian children reaches 361; WNBA star Brittney Griner appeals drug sentence: Ukraine updates

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More than 1,000 Ukrainian children have been killed or wounded as Russian troops continue pounding cities and towns with a barrage of missiles, often from batteries out of reach of the Ukrainian military's weaponry.

Ukraine's chief prosecutor said Monday that at least 361 Ukrainian children have died and 711 have been injured.

Russia has launched thousands of missile strikes, many of them relying on guidance systems dating back to the Soviet era. Authorities in Ukraine say the blind missile launches and Russia's indifference to the damage across Ukraine has cost thousands of civilian lives.

The deaths of children have been noticed in Moscow. Former Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova made global news recently when she was arrested for a street protest. In a Russian court last week, she held up a sign that said, “May the murdered kids haunt your dreams tonight.”

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Latest developments:

►The Ukrainian military said Monday it had repelled more than a dozen Russian attacks in the country’s east and north, including attempts to advance on key cities in the eastern Donbas region.

►Actor Liev Schreiber and former Ukraine soccer star Andriy Shevchenko appealed for continued international donations to the country during a visit Monday to a residential area outside Kyiv heavily damaged by Russian bombardment.

►Ukraine troops destroyed two Russian military bases in the Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk regions and an enemy ammunition depot in the Kherson region, said Serhii Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration.

►Rocket attacks on the Saltivskyi district in Kharkiv wounded five people and damaged a high-rise building, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the heads of the Security Service for the Kyiv region, Lviv and Ternopil. No explanation for the dismissals was released. Zelenskyy recently fired the head of the Security Service and the prosecutor-general, saying scores of employees were working for the Russians.

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Griner appeals sentence, but prisoner swap might be her best hope

The Russian lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner filed an appeal Monday asking that her nine-year prison sentence on drug charges be reduced or thrown out.

The lawyers, who say the appeal could take one to three months, say similar drug cases routinely draw sentences of five years or less.

"Griner’s counsel are arguing in their appeal that the verdict was procedurally flawed,'' Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told USA TODAY. "Perhaps more important are the ongoing talks between the U.S. State Department and Russian authorities about a prisoner swap."

Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. She said she packed them by accident, pleaded guilty and was formally convicted Aug. 4. Griner played for a team in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, during the WNBA offseason.

The appeal comes one day after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Kremlin is ready for "a professional conversation and concrete steps" toward freeing Griner and American Paul Whelan in exchange for Russian national Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence on charges that include  conspiring to kill U.S. citizens.

"The Russians seem eager to have Bout freed, so a deal may be possible despite icy relations" between the two countries, Tobias said.

Five captured Europeans go on trial in separatist-held Donetsk

Five European citizens captured in eastern Ukraine pleaded not guilty Monday as they went on trial in the city of Donetsk, which is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists, Russian media reported.

The Europeans – three from Britain, one from Sweden and one from Croatia – face charges of serving as mercenaries and “undergoing training to seize power by force.”

If convicted, they could face the death penalty under the laws of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, although Ukrainian social media posts suggest Moscow may seek to use captured foreign fighters in prisoner exchanges or to get concessions from Ukraine. The five are due back in court in October.

Germany won't close door to Russian visitors

Germany still welcomes Russian citizens. Their president, Vladimir Putin? That's another matter.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday his country won't support the push by other European nations – led by Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelenskky – to bar Russians from visiting EU countries. Some of them say Russians should not be able to vacation in Europe while the Kremlin wages war in Ukraine.

“This is not the war of the Russian people. It is Putin’s war and we have to be very clear on that topic,” Scholz told reporters at a conference in Norway. “It is important to us to understand that there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they are disagreeing with the Russian regime.”

Mercenaries' building bombed after online photo reveals address

A photo posted online by a pro-Kremlin journalist appears to have led to the destruction of a building that housed mercenaries fighting for Russia.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Russian-controlled Luhansk province in the eastern Donbas region, said by Telegram on Monday that a Ukrainian strike "hit an enemy headquarters, which was pointed out by a representative of the Russian mass media.” He added that the number of fatalities was still unknown.

The building hit Sunday in the town of Popasna served as a base of operations for the Wagner Group, a private military company linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Haidai said.

Days before the strike, Russian journalist Sergey Sreda had posted a photo of himself alongside four heavily armed men in combat gear, most likely Wagner mercenaries. On the top left of the photo, a sign with the address of the building can be clearly seen. Sreda later took down the post, but apparently not before the Ukrainians saw it.

This photo posted by pro-Kremlin journalist Sergey Sreda, second from left, reveals at the top left the address of a building believed to house mercenaries fighting for Russia in Ukraine. The building was bombed Sunday.
This photo posted by pro-Kremlin journalist Sergey Sreda, second from left, reveals at the top left the address of a building believed to house mercenaries fighting for Russia in Ukraine. The building was bombed Sunday.

Ukraine mourns death of elite air force pilot Anton Lystopad

Anton Lystopad, one of the top pilots of Ukraine’s Air Force, has been killed in combat. The Ivano-Frankivsk Physical-Technical Lyceum, from which Lystopad graduated, announced his death on a Facebook post. Multiple Ukrainian media outlets also reported his death.

In 2019, Lystopad was recognized as the top pilot in the Ukraine Air Force. Days before his death, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded Lystopad the Order of Courage for his professionalism and heroism.

"Anton Lystopad died defending the Ukrainian state," the Facebook post says. "From the first minutes of the broad-scale invasion of Russians, Captain Anton (fought for) Ukraine's freedom and independence."

Ukraine: 3 civilians die in Russian attack on Donbas village

At least three Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 20 wounded in the latest artillery barrages from the Russian military, Ukrainian officials said Monday. The eastern region of Donetsk, one of the two provinces making up the country’s industrial heartland of Donbas that has been the focus of a Russian offensive, has faced the most intense shelling.

Regional officials said at least three people died and 13 were wounded by Russian shelling that hit towns and villages in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours. The barrage has damaged dozens of residential buildings and civilian infrastructure.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: Death toll of Ukrainian children reaches 361