Evidence indicates Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine has fallen to Russian-backed forces
From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv
There's growing evidence that the town of Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine has fallen to Russian forces and their allies in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.
The city had been surrounded almost since the beginning of Russia's invasion but had been fiercely defended by Ukrainian forces.
The Russian defense ministry's spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that a "group of troops of the Donetsk People's Republic liberated the city of Volnovakha" and several surrounding settlements.
Konashenkov said that the militia had advanced about six kilometers (about 3.7 miles) and continued to tighten the encirclement of the besieged city of Mariupol.
Some social media videos from the city showed Russian soldiers and vehicles in several neighborhoods, as well as abandoned Ukrainian tanks. Other videos showed widespread destruction in Volnovakha.
The apparent fall of Volnovakha — which is halfway between Donetsk and Mariupol — allows Russian forces to consolidate their control of the Donbas region.
Earlier Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Volnovakha remained completely blocked to humanitarian relief convoys, but the Ukrainian authorities have not acknowledged that the city has fallen under Russian control.
1:07 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
European and African food supplies will be "profoundly destabilized" by war, French president says
From CNN's Xiaofei Xu in Versailles, Anaelle Jonah in Paris and Niamh Kennedy in London
European and African food supplies will be "profoundly destabilized" by the war in Ukraine, warned French President Emmanuel Macron.
"Our Europe is already destabilized by the war in this regard, and it could be worse in 12 to 18 months," Macron told a news conference in Versailles earlier on Friday.
He warned that both Europe and Africa "will be very profoundly destabilized in food supplies."
The French leader said he will speak with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in "several hours" alongside the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He added that "nothing is taboo" as far as sanctions against Russia are concerned, adding that European leaders "will do everything that we consider effective and useful to stop Russia in this path of aggression."
As families weep during a military funeral in Lviv, the sound of war is all around
From Atika Shubert in Lviv
Three members of the Ukrainian military — Senior Soldier Andrii Stefanyshyn, 39, Senior Lt. Taras Didukh, 25, and Sgt. Dmytro Kabakov, 58 — were laid to rest in a service at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in the city of Lviv.
Even in this sacred space, the sounds of war intruded: an air raid siren audible under the sound of prayer and weeping. Yet no one stirred. Residents are now inured to the near daily warnings of an air attack. Everyone is asked to stay inside for safety. Mourners held captive to their grief.
The mother of Didukh collapsed on his coffin, weeping. A soldier approached to gently lift her up as three others removed the coffin’s cover revealing her son inside, a purple bruise visible on his temple.
As the coffins were opened, the crowd of mourners surged forward for a final goodbye, caressing the cheeks of the departed.
In this war, the Ukrainian military has proven itself resilient, outmaneuvering the might of Russia’s war machine. But the cost has been high.
The Ukrainian military will not give out the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed — though officials insist that civilian casualties far outweigh the military’s.
“As of March 10th, the number of Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian interventionists is bigger than the number of our military personnel from all our defense corps killed in action,” said Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, “I want this to be heard not only in Ukraine, but in the whole world.”
Details of how and where these soldiers died are kept secret. All their families know is that they were killed in the opening days of the war.
Though Lviv is far from the fighting in eastern and central Ukraine, military units based here have been on the frontline. Now those killed are coming home. This church in Lviv has nearly three funerals a dayAs the funeral procession moved towards the military cemetery, Myroslava Stefanyshyn held a framed photo of her son Andrii.
“Two days into the war. And my kid was gone,” she said breaking into tears. “Unspeakable regret. Longing. Heartache. I cannot bear it. I feel so awful that I cannot find the words to explain it to you.”
Dabbing at tears with a handkerchief, Maria Solohun watched the funeral procession pass by. She is a stranger to these families in mourning, but she still grieves for them.
“They all are ours. They all are our children. They are our rescuers, forging our victory,” Solohun said, “Even if it is impossible to bear, impossible to bear this blood flowing as a river.”
12:40 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
US security assistance shipment for Ukraine will arrive in Europe in the next 24 hours, US defense official says
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
A shipment of security assistance from the United States for Ukraine will arrive in Europe in the next 24 hours, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday.
“We’re going to continue to flow resources to Ukraine as fast and as much as we can,” the official said.
The US is also working to “coordinate” shipments of security assistance from other nations contributing to Ukraine, the official added.
“It’s not just us. 14 other nations are also providing — on a bilateral basis — providing resources to Ukraine. We are helping coordinate that,” the official said.
“We are working to get them the kinds of things that ... we know they need most, and that is largely right now, air defense and anti-armor in terms of munitions,” the official added.
12:38 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
The US will ban imports of alcohol and seafood from Russia. Here's what we know
From CNN's John Harwood Kate Trafecante and Richard Davis
US President Joe Biden said Friday that the US would ban imports of seafood, vodka and diamonds from the nation as part of an effort to ramp up economic pressure on Russia for invading Ukraine.
In remarks from the White House, Biden also called for revoking Russia’s "most favored nation" status, known as permanent normal trade relations in the US. The move, which has been coordinated with G7 and EU allies, will require an act of Congress.
The United States’ ban of exporting of luxury goods to Russia, which Biden referenced in his speech, will also include items like tobacco, clothing, jewelry, cars and antiques, an administration official tells CNN.
The idea behind this, the official explains, is to continue hurting Russian oligarchs and the country’s wealthiest by depriving them of their creature comforts, as the US continues to try to put pressure around those close to Vladimir Putin. It is also aimed at removing ways for these oligarchs to shelter their money, as they are already increasingly closed off from traditional financial avenues, the official said.
So how much alcohol and seafood does the US import from Russia? The US imported 48,867 metric tons of seafood from Russia in 2021, worth about $1.2 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Crab accounted for the largest portion of those imports, with the US buying more than $900 million worth of frozen snow and red king crab last year.
The US does not sell any seafood directly to Russia, as the country banned US exports of seafood and fish in 2014.
CNN is still tracking down overall alcohol figures but according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, imports of Russian vodka to the United States accounted for only 1.3% of total vodka imports in in 2021.
The total amounts to $18.5 million dollars in 2021, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said.
12:19 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
Ukrainians have been "very creative in how they’re defending themselves," senior US defense official says
From CNN's Jeremy Herb
The Ukrainian air force has about 56 fighter aircraft remaining on the ground, which is about 80% of the fixed-wing capabilities the Ukrainian air force had before Russia attacked, a senior US defense official said Friday.
The official told reporters that Ukraine hasn’t had to rely much on their fixed-wing fighter aircraft in the war against Russia, because they’ve used other capabilities, including drones and surface-to-air missiles, to fight back against the Russian air force. The Ukrainians are flying about five to 10 sorties per day, the official said, compared to roughly 200 from the Russians.
“The Ukrainians again have been very creative in how they’re defending themselves and how they’re using the airpower they have available to them,” the official said. “Frankly, they haven’t proven they need to do more than what they’re doing. They’ve been very effective with the tools that they have, very creatively so. And those are having a good effect on Russian air power.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged NATO countries to provide Ukraine with more fighter jets. Poland had proposed sending its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine by giving them to the US via a German air base, but the Pentagon rejected that plan earlier this week.
The defense official said that beyond Ukraine’s fixed-wing fighters, the Ukrainians have made effective use of drones, noting they are “cheap” and can fly below radar coverage. “It’s a very nimble platform, and they’re using them with terrific effect, particularly against Russian ground units,” the official said.
The Ukrainians are using surface-to-air missiles “with great effect” against Russian forces, the official said. “They’re being careful at what they’re shooting at, they’re moving stuff around, they’re being very nimble. And it’s proven effective,” the official said. “And I’m not just talking about mobile launchers, I’m talking about use of shoulder fire surface-to-air capability as well.”
12:18 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
A woman who survived the Mariupol maternity hospital bombing gave birth today
Mariana Vishegirskaya was among the women at the Mariupol maternity hospital that was bombed earlier this week.
She survived the shelling and delivered a baby girl in another hospital on Friday.
12:10 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
White House says there are "strong indications" Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine
From CNN's Betsy Klein
The White House said Friday that there are “strong indications” that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, stopping short of a declaration, which legally requires an investigation before such an assessment can be made.
“We have all seen the devastating images coming out of Ukraine and are appalled by Russia’s brutal tactics. Pregnant women on stretchers, apartment buildings shelled, families killed while seeking safety from this terrible violence. We are also seeing reports of other types of potential abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Bates continued: “These are disgusting attacks. Civilian casualties are increasing. If Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, that would be a war crime. And as we are all seeing on live television, evidence is mounting and we are documenting it as it takes place. There are strong indications that this is occurring and that the heinous way Russia is prosecuting this war will result in war crimes.”
The US, he added, supports the human rights activists, civil society, and independent media documenting, collecting and exposing evidence of possible war crimes, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.
The US will share that evidence with allies and partners and will “support accountability” with every tool available, “including prosecutions when appropriate,” Bates said.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield became the highest-ranking US official to say that actions committed by Russia against the Ukrainian people constitute war crimes, telling the BBC Thursday, "They constitute war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any — in any way whatsoever.”
Bates also said that US President Joe Biden's warning to Russia over any potential use of chemical weapons was "unmistakable."
"You heard from the President clearly that if Russia uses chemical weapons there will be severe consequences," Bates said. "I don't have anything to preview on that front, but his meaning was unmistakable."
Bates also pointed to the recent warnings from US officials, including press secretary Jen Psaki, that Russia could use chemical weapons as part of a false flag operation to justify further violence.
"The truth is Russia is the only question in the equation with a chemical and biological weapons program in violation of international law," Bates said.
1:13 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022
Teenage Ukrainian refugee in Romania says she is confident she will return to her home someday
As the United Nations estimates at least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, a Romanian family is hosting nearly three dozen Ukrainian refugees in Adunații-Copăceni, which is outside of the capital city of Bucharest.
One of them, 14-year-old Alyona Batochka, told CNN about her family's journey to leave Kharkiv, Ukraine.
"It took us five days to leave our house, to leave ... my dad, our families, my school, my dancing team, and it's really hard to us because our family is in Kharkiv now," she told CNN's Miguel Marquez. Neighbors are taking care of her cat as well, she said.
She said she feels very supported in Romania.
"Please stop war," Batochka said she would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin right now.
She said unequivocally that she will return to Ukraine, but she doesn't know when exactly that will happen.
"I'll return to my home, to my father. I really hope, I really hope," she said.
Marquez also spoke to a Nigerian student in the house who played for a local Ukrainian soccer club.
He said the situation was "incomprehensible" and "everything is just hopes and prayers" right now. He has been at the house for four days and is planning on getting on a plane to reunite with his family tomorrow.
He lauded the generosity of the Romanians housing him and 30 other people.
Here's a look at where Ukrainian refugees are going: