March 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Julia Hollingsworth, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jeevan Ravindran and Jason Kurtz, CNN

Updated 9:59 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022
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1:53 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Zelensky deputy: "We are ready to talk to President Putin anytime he is ready"

From CNN’s Zeena Saifi and Becky Anderson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is ready to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin directly — but "will not make any compromise to the Russian position during these negotiations," his deputy told CNN.

Though talks between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, held Thursday in the Turkish city of Antalya, did not yield any major breakthrough, Ukraine hadn't been too optimistic from the start, said Igor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

“This is a really good thing that they met, but unfortunately we can say that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia is not the one making the final decision. The final decision to stop war, to make a ceasefire, to withdraw troops is made by one person only," he said, apparently referring to Putin.

Zelensky ready to talk: Zhovkva said that though Zelensky was ready for a diplomatic solution, he has not heard from the Russian President personally or his aides.

“The last thing I heard from them was we have to still work under the format of two delegations … But, look, even the agreements reached during these negotiations are not held," Zhovkva said, pointing to humanitarian corridors in Ukraine that are "being kept in custody by Russian forces."

What Ukraine is willing to give: Zhovkva said Ukraine was open to neutrality "if the NATO bloc is not ready for the time being to accept Ukraine."

"But at the same time, we do need hard security guarantees for Ukraine so these awful wars, this awful aggression does not repeat in the future," he added. 

Zhovkva said Ukraine wanted to work with Putin and its neighbors to establish a system he called "the renewed security system of Europe."

“My country, the Ukrainian people deserve to become a part of the European family…Ukraine is fighting for the security of all of Europe. So when (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron talks about possible European security, how can he talk without having President Zelensky at the table? Without having President Zelensky and Ukraine in the European Union?” Zhovkva said. 
3:09 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

1 killed in airstrikes near preschool and apartment building in Dnipro, Ukrainian authorities say

From CNN's Matilda Kuklish and Jake Kwon

Rescuers sift through the remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on March 11.
Rescuers sift through the remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on March 11. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters)

One person was killed in airstrikes Friday morning near civilian structures in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in an official Telegram channel. 

"On March 11 at about 6:10 a.m., there were three airstrikes in Novokodatsky District of Dnipro City, namely: a strike near a preschool and an apartment building, as well as a strike that hit a two-story shoe factory and caused fire," the service said.

Earlier this week, a Ukrainian official said Russia is mounting resources to "encircle" Dnipro, adding that Russia’s plan was to "encircle the major cities, exsanguinate the Ukrainian Armed Forces and create a situation of humanitarian catastrophe for civilians." 

1:06 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Analysis: Russia's misinformation offensive impedes diplomatic efforts to end the war

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

The Russian assault on Ukraine is not just an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation that is producing horrific destruction and civilian torment. It's also the biggest war of the modern misinformation era.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his mouthpieces are weaving the most audacious and fatuous alternative reality surrounding any 21st-century conflict — one that renders current diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war meaningless and futile.

Denying a Russian attack: On Thursday, for instance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed with a straight face after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in Turkey —  which, not surprisingly, failed — that Russia "did not attack Ukraine."

Not only was Lavrov's claim a lie, as the world knows, it was especially offensive since it came a day after a horrific Russian attack on a children's and maternity hospital in Ukraine that has been widely denounced as a war crime. And it coincided with unfounded claims from Moscow, which were even picked up by China in its efforts to boost Russian propaganda, that the United States had a bioweapons program in Ukraine, which officials in Washington fear could be laying a pretext for Russia's own use of chemical or biological weapons against civilians.

"Unfortunately, I can confirm that the Russian leadership, including Minister Lavrov, live in their own reality," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNBC on Thursday. "He told me looking in my eyes that the pictures of pregnant women being taken from under the rubble of the maternity house are fake."

Misinformation warfare: This has long been a weapon of the Russian state. Moscow spun multiple conspiracy theories about the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014, apparently by a Russian missile system, for instance.

And Russian state media aired an interview in which two alleged spies blamed for using a nerve agent to poison a Russian defector in England in 2018 absurdly claimed they were in the country to visit a famed cathedral spire in the city of Salisbury.

But the misinformation offensive has hit a new peak in the war on Ukraine.

Read the full analysis here.

12:59 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Kamala Harris heads to Romania in her latest push to reassure US allies

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a joint news conference with Poland's President Andrzej Duda at Belwelder Palace, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, March 10.
US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a joint news conference with Poland's President Andrzej Duda at Belwelder Palace, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, March 10. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris ventures farther toward NATO's eastern edge Friday with a stop in Romania, a country suddenly thrust into priority position for the United States as fighting rages over its border in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden has already dispatched 1,000 troops to Romania and pledged support for the country as it accommodates a major influx of migrants fleeing the war next door. But a visit by his No. 2 is meant to demonstrate American commitment at a deeply uncertain moment for the region.

Unlike Ukraine, Romania is a member of NATO and an attack on the country by Russia would trigger the alliance's collective defense treaty, which says an attack on one is an attack on all.

But even the protection of NATO, a system of alliance bases and a missile defense system can't entirely calm nerves in this former Soviet satellite state that's been invaded by Russia repeatedly over the course of its history.

Diplomatic test: Harris will meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Friday before convening a news conference and returning to Washington.

Her trip has been a test both of her diplomatic abilities and the resolve of the broader Western allies to forcefully confront Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II.

Harris arrives in Bucharest from Poland, where she reinforced American commitment to another NATO ally that is watching warily for Putin's next move.

"The United States is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory. The United States takes seriously that an attack against one is an attack against all," Harris said after meeting President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.

Read more here.

1:02 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

White House says US stands with companies pulling out of Russia, after Kremlin threatens to seize assets

In a Twitter thread Thursday night, White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed reports that Russia could seize the assets of Western companies that have suspended operations in the country.

The decision to withdraw or suspend services in Russia is "ultimately up to companies," Psaki said. "As President Biden said earlier this week, we welcome the decisions of companies to exit Russia because they want no part of Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine."

"Any lawless decision by Russia to seize the assets of these companies will ultimately result in even more economic pain for Russia. It will compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business," she added. "We stand with American companies who are making tough decisions regarding the future of their Russian operations."

Some context: Dozens of American, European and Japanese companies from almost every sector of the economy have abandoned joint ventures, factories, stores and offices in the past two weeks in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuring sanctions.

The sanctions have hit most of Russia's financial sector, including its central bank, trashed the Russian currency and are likely to trigger a sovereign debt default and deep recession. And there may be more to come.

Russia's threat: Speaking Thursday at a meeting with government officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin backed a plan to introduce "external management" of foreign companies leaving Russia.

"We need to act decisively with those [companies] who are going to close their production," Putin said according to a video posted by the Kremlin and aired on state media. "It is necessary, then ... to introduce external management and then transfer these enterprises to those who want to work," he added.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said earlier that legislation had been drafted.

12:44 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

More airlines suspend flights with Russia

From CNN's Masha Angelova and Paul Murphy

Kazakhstan’s Air Astana and Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines are suspending all flights to and from Russia.

In a statement tweeted Thursday, Air Astana said it "sincerely regrets to advise that due the withdrawal of insurance coverage for commercial flights to, from and over the Russian Federation, all flights to the Russian Federation are suspended with immediate effect." 

Pegasus Airlines said it is suspending flights from March 13-27, citing operational risks and limitations under European sanctions.

The bigger picture: Airlines and countries are increasingly taking moves that leave Russia more isolated.

Earlier this month, US-based United Airlines said its flights will now avoid Russian airspace. Airbus suspended support to Russian airlines, while Boeing said it had suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed its office in Kyiv.

Most of the Western world has now closed airspace to Russian aircraft, including the United States.

What's happening in Russia: Moscow has also banned flights for carriers from dozens of countries.

Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, has suspended all flights abroad — except to Minsk, Belarus — according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. It comes after the majority government-owned carrier’s ability to sell seats was crippled after being removed from the global distribution system.

1:05 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Analysis: After more than 3 decades of covering Russia, I leave in despair

Analysis from CNN's Nic Robertson

CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson.
CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson. (CNN)

I leave Moscow angry and sad.

It feels like a passage out of darkness to light, but left behind are friends trapped in one man's tunnel vision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't just destroying Ukraine, but two nations, condemning Russians to an isolation they didn't necessarily choose.

Over the past couple of months while I've been reporting from Moscow, I've met many people who have been horrified, shocked and numbed by Putin's wanton aggression. Some of them believed him when he said he wouldn't invade Ukraine. Some even knew players in the Kremlin inner circle and thought they understood the President's red lines, but now that trust is blown and they fear he has no limits at all.

What makes Putin's actions all the more galling is how he executed his plot in plain sight. Distracting with one hand, transfixing attention on diplomacy, even while insisting falsely that his massed troops were carrying out exercises on Ukraine's borders.

Ordinary Muscovites didn't even flinch as he perpetrated this betrayal by marching the nation to war on a cocktail of carefully stewed grievances.

Putin's empire: Putin spent years building a false narrative along with his empire. The wishes that he was denied, such as NATO withdrawing to 1997 lines or barring Ukraine from membership, was the West's fault, he claimed.

But if Putin did believe Russia's security was threatened, and that the modern Western world was pitted against him, the truth was that he never adjusted to the changing dynamics of the 21st century.

This year, while I have been in Moscow covering the buildup and outbreak of war in neighboring Ukraine, it became painfully clear to me that, just as the Nazis did in Germany during the 1930s and 40s, Putin has had laws made to his order. And like many a strongman before him, the Russian President is ruthlessly unleashing the compliant and complicit state apparatus that he himself built, to obediently enforce them.

In short, his every wish is readily executed.

Read the full analysis here.

12:13 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

They fled their house in Ukraine, but a CNN Hero helped make Poland their new home

From CNN's Gabriel Kinder

Within 24 hours of reading a news story about Ukrainian refugees sleeping in a train station, Aaron Jackson left his Florida home for an area near the border between Poland and Ukraine.

"There I saw the true cost of war," Jackson wrote on Facebook of his visit to Poland. "Families fleeing their homes. Families separating from their loved ones. Families fleeing from the lives they knew."

Right away, he got to work helping refugees secure emergency housing.

Jackson is a 2007 CNN Hero and the founder of Planting Peace, a humanitarian and environmental non-profit 

While walking through a packed refugee center near the Krakovets border crossing, Jackson spotted a little girl playing with a toy. Speaking through a translator, he learned her parents were originally from Congo and had lived in Ukraine for the last 12 years.

The father, Donatien Tshikele Mubabinge, said that when Russian bombs fell too close to their home, he, his wife, Ngalula, and their 2-year-old daughter, Tushike, left everything behind, including their savings. They tried taking a taxi to the border, but when traffic got too backed up, he says they had to walk nearly 40 miles (about 60 km), much of it with Tushike on his back.

After learning of their ordeal, Jackson booked a hotel room for the family and began searching for more permanent housing.

"It's horrible why they're leaving, but it's inspiring at the same time — to see the human will and the human spirit and what they're willing to do to save their own lives and the life of their child," Jackson said.

Read the full story:

12:03 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know

Russia's 40-mile convoy near Ukraine's capital Kyiv has largely dispersed, and the UN nuclear watchdog says Kyiv has lost all communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are pushing a conspiracy theory about an alleged American bioweapons lab in Ukraine, and President Joe Biden is expected to announce Friday that the US will revoke "most favored nation" status for Russia.

Here's the latest developments:

  • Trade relations: Biden will announce Friday that the United States, along with the G7 and European Union, will call for revoking "most favored nation" status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the US, sources familiar with the move told CNN. Biden will make the announcement Friday and Congress then is expected to introduce legislation.
  • Bioweapons conspiracy: The UN Security Council will hold a meeting Friday at the request of Russia about the allegation the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said no chemical weapon or weapons of mass destruction were developed in the country. Meanwhile, the US' UN Mission spokeswoman Olivia Dalton said Russia has a track record of falsely accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetuating, and warned Russia is "gaslighting the world."
  • Chernobyl communications: Ukraine has lost all communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a statement Thursday. The statement came just a day after the Russian-controlled site lost external power. The IAEA said it is aware of reports that power has been restored to the site and is looking for confirmation.
  • Russian convoy: New satellite images taken Thursday show the Russian military convoy northwest of Kyiv that stretched more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) has "largely dispersed and redeployed," according to Maxar Technologies.
  • Evacuations: Zelensky said Thursday about 100,000 people had been evacuated via humanitarian corridors over the past two days. However, Mariupol and Volnovakha remain completely blocked, he said, adding that despite Ukrainian officials’ best efforts to make the corridor work, "Russian troops did not cease fire."