Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

(Reuters) - Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian city far behind the frontlines in an attack Kyiv officials said was a war crime that killed at least 23 people while there were more signs of progress in efforts to unblock Ukrainian grain exports.

ECONOMY/DIPLOMACY

* The United States sought to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports by reassuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not breach sanctions. This is part of attempts by UN and Turkish officials to broker a package deal that would also allow for shipments of Ukraine grain from the Black Sea port of Odesa to resume.* A Russian basketball club director gave evidence in support of U.S. Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner in her third appearance in a Russian court on drugs charges carrying a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years.* A top Russian official said on Thursday that Moscow would respond positively should Kyiv be ready to resume peace negotiations, but that Ukraine must accept the "territorial realities" of the situation, the Interfax news agency reported.

* The United States called on Russia to release Ukrainians it has forced out of their home country and allow outside observers, citing reports Moscow was putting Ukrainian children up for adoption and "disappearing" thousands of others.

* Ukraine's top war crimes prosecutor and European judicial authorities met on Thursday to coordinate investigations into atrocities during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, warning that a failure to do so would embolden autocrats.

FIGHTING

* Ukrainian forces hit two military checkpoints and a landing in the second strike this week on a Russian-held area in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said. The attack on Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region killed 13 "occupiers", Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for the Odesa regional administration, quoted the Operational Command South as saying.

* Two people were killed when Ukrainian forces shelled a bus station in the separatist-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a separatist leader said.

* Ukraine is using Western-supplied long-range weapons and 155mm "smart" shells to hit Russian ammo dumps and supply lines, forcing Moscow to rethink how it supplies fuel and ammunition to the front line, a Ukrainian general said.

* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.

(Compiled by Nick Macfie, Alexandra Hudson and Cynthia Osterman)

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