Ukraine braces for Russian wrath over car bombing; Estonia dismisses Kremlin's claim; US commits another $3 billion: Live updates – USA TODAY

Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu dismissed as a “provocation” the Kremlin’s claims that the perpetrator of a deadly car bombing outside Moscow had fled to Estonia.
Reinsalu said on Estonian TV that the claim was the latest “in a very long line of provocations by the Russian Federation.” Reinsalu said the claim was an attempt by the Russian regime to put pressure on Estonia for its support of Ukraine in the war.
The U.S. State Department issued an alert Tuesday urging Americans to “depart Ukraine now,” citing concerns that Russia will increase missile strikes on civilian and government structures.
The warning comes amid a public outcry in Russia over a car bomb that killed a hardline Russian commentator outside Moscow on Saturday night. Hundreds of people lined up Tuesday to pay tribute to Darya Dugina, 29, the daughter of right-wing Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin, who was widely believed to be the intended target. 
Ukraine banned large public gatherings that had been planned for Wednesday, Ukraine’s Independence Day marking its break from the Soviet Union in 1991. However, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was defiant at a Flag Day event Tuesday.
“No one wants to die, but no one is afraid of Russia, and this is the most important signal,” he said.
Latest developments:
►NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the defense alliance’s “support for Ukraine for the long term so that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation.”
►Dynamo Kyiv’s improbable bid to reach the group stage of the Champions League ended at the final hurdle Tuesday after the Ukrainian team’s 5-0 aggregate loss to Benfica of Portugal in the qualifying playoffs.
►High energy prices, increased food shortages, spiraling inflation and a growing risk of a nuclear disaster are some of the global consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine as it approaches the six-month mark with no end in sight.
►The 25th grain-carrying cargo ship has left Ukraine under a deal with Russia brokered by Turkey and the United Nations to unblock Ukraine’s ports, according to Agence France-Presse.
SIX MONTHS INTO THE WAR: The entire world is losing. Will this conflict ever end?
UKRANIAN REFUGEES IN THE US: Long-term survival is a big concern. Here’s why.
The U.S. is sending Ukraine a very expensive package for its Independence Day: $3 billion more in security aid.
The latest assistance, to be announced Wednesday as Ukraine celebrates its separation from the Soviet Union in 1991, will focus less on the current war with Russia and more on equipping and training Ukrainian forces for the long term, U.S. officials told the Associated Press. The money will fund contracts for drones, weapons and other equipment that may not see the battlefield for a year or two, they said on condition of anonymity.
The new package, unveiled as the war reaches the six-month mark, also serves as proof the United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine through thick and thin in the conflict, the officials said.
United Nations officials issued renewed calls for the warring parties to reach a deal to allow inspectors access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, as the Security Council met Tuesday to address concerns about fighting in the area that could trigger a catastrophe.
U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo said at the start of the emergency meeting that the International Atomic Energy Agency seeks to send a mission to conduct a safety inspection at the site, which has come under shelling that Russia and Ukraine blame on each other.
“Preparations for the mission are proceeding and the IAEA is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible,” DiCarlo said, echoing U.N. warnings that, “any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicidal.” 
The Zaporizhzhia plant has been under the control of Russian forces since early March, soon after invading Ukraine, and Moscow has resisted demands that it remove its troops and military equipment from the facility. Ukrainian technical experts continue to operate the nuclear equipment.
The Ukrainian pro soccer league kicked off its new season Tuesday after a poignant ceremony paying tribute to those fighting in the war with Russia. The opening match at Kyiv’s empty, 65,000-seat Olympic Stadium featured two teams from the war-torn east, Shaktar Donetsk and Metalist 1925 of Kharkiv.
Players entered the field with Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders and observed a minute of silence while the names of cities where people had died in the war were displayed on a large screen. The first top-level soccer match played in the country since before Russia’s invasion in February ended in a 0-0 draw.
Dennis Rodman has once again inserted himself into U.S. diplomatic relations, this time in an effort to free detained WNBA star Brittney Griner. The retired NBA great told NBC News he plans to travel to Russia to “help that girl.” But his contributions to the negotiations — if Russia even chooses to pay attention to him — will be minimal, or could even hurt Griner’s case, experts say. 
Rodman, the enigmatic three-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer, made his first foray into attempting peace with a U.S. adversary by bonding with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over basketball. The current task would be negotiating with Russia for the release of Griner, who was convicted on drug charges and sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this month (she is currently appealing). 
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Rodman would not be traveling on behalf of the U.S. government and “anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts.” Read more here.
— Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press

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