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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8:32 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Putin claims Russia and Belarus will actually benefit from Western sanctions

From CNN's Sarah Dean

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow, Russia on March 11.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow, Russia on March 11. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AP)

Western sanctions are an opportunity for Russia to strengthen its technological and economic sovereignty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.

“Recent years have shown that where Westerners imposed restrictions against us, we acquired new competencies and restored old ones at a new technological level," Putin said in opening remarks of his in-person meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow.

“This is a time of opportunity to move towards strengthening technological and economic sovereignty,” Putin added.

Putin also said he believes Russia and Belarus will get through these difficulties and will even “acquire more competencies, more opportunities to feel independent, self-sufficient, and ultimately benefit [from them], as it was the case in previous years.”

Lukashenko echoed Putin’s sentiment, saying Belarus has everything it needs for restoring its economy under sanctions.

“We need to rebuild our economy. And we have all we need to restore our own economy, we can do without them. We have everything to continue normal life and work,” the Belarusian President said.

Lukashenko also said he was glad the war in Ukraine started, citing false allegations regarding biological weapons and nuclear power stations being at risk if Russia did not invade. Lukashenko also made an unfounded claim that Ukraine was “preparing to attack not only Donbas, but also placed positions to attack Belarus.”

Some key context: Western sanctions against Russia have been devastating for the country's economy.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday outlined the economic and financial damage caused by sanctions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union in recent weeks.

"We have isolated Russia financially. The ruble has been in a free fall. The Russian stock market is closed. Russia has been effectively shut out of the international financial system," Yellen said, adding that the Russian central bank's access to its reserves has been largely cut off.

On Wednesday, one US dollar could buy 117 rubles in Moscow after the currency fell 10% and hit a new record low.

Fitch Ratings slashed Russia's credit rating on Tuesday and warned that a default was "imminent."

7:34 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

UK slaps hundreds of Russian lawmakers with sanctions

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Britain has added 386 Russian lawmakers to a raft of sanctions it has imposed on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Under the measures, politicians who supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine face travel bans and asset freezes, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement Friday. 

The lawmakers are members of Russia’s Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, which recognized the independence of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and authorized the permanent presence of Russian military there, “acting as a pretext for Russia’s invasion.”

“We’re targeting those complicit in Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and those who support this barbaric war," Truss said. "We will not let up the pressure and will continue to tighten the screw on the Russian economy through sanctions.” 

Britain has now sanctioned 800 of Russia’s most “significant and high-value individuals, entities and subsidiaries,” including banks, Putin’s inner circle and oligarchs, she said.

 Read more:

8:02 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

WHO recommended Ukraine destroy high-threat pathogens in health labs to prevent potential spills

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

As Russia continues its invasion, the World Health Organization has "strongly recommended" to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine to safely destroy "high-threat pathogens" that might be housed within the country's public health labs in order to prevent "any potential spills," WHO confirmed to CNN in an email Friday.

WHO's recommendation was first reported by Reuters.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine puts public health facilities at risk of damage. Similar to other nations, scientists in Ukraine sometimes conduct research involving pathogens to better understand their biology, how they spread and how they might cause illness in humans.

"WHO also promotes biosecurity at laboratories, e.g. prevention of accidental or deliberate release of pathogens. As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills," Jašarević said.

WHO noted in its email that it encourages "the safe and secure disposal of any pathogens" and would assist as needed and wherever possible. 

"WHO routinely assists Member States in improving their public health capacities, including by facilitating improved safety and security of laboratories holding samples of pathogens of public health concern," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević wrote in an email to CNN on Friday. 

"WHO’s country office in Ukraine has been working for several years with the Ministry of Health and other partners, including other WHO Member States, to support the enhancing of biosafety and biosecurity of labs, as well as the capacity of lab personnel, in particular to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic," Jašarević said.

7:32 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Soccer stadium and library in Ukrainian city of Chernihiv hit in airstrike 

From Eoin McSweeney and Celine Alkhaldi, CNN

A soccer stadium and library in Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, have been badly damaged by an airstrike.

Video footage circulating on Telegram Friday shows debris scattered outside the gates of the city's Olympic sports training center, which was built in 1936, and is where the local soccer team FC Desna Chernihiv and the women's national team play their home games. 

Large holes can be seen blown into a nearby library, where hundreds of books are scattered across the ground. A large crater, similar to the ones seen in the aftermath of strikes in Mariupol, lies between the two sites.

Chernihiv is surrounded by Russian forces and parts of the city have sustained significant damage, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show.

The Ukrainian football association confirmed the strikes in a statement and released pictures showing damage to the stands and pitch. 

"For the third time, the Muscovite occupiers fired on the most dangerous military infrastructure facility in the city -- the stadium of our home team. In the photo -- the consequences of the night bombing", the statement said sarcastically. 

"But we will be able to rebuild all this, we will only become stronger and better, and you, 'neighbors,' will live with it all your life," it added.

8:12 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Baltic countries rename addresses of Russian embassies to honor Ukraine

From CNN’s James Frater in London

A worker hangs street signs reading “Ukrainian Heroes Street” on the section of road where the Russian embassy is located in Vilnius, Lithuania on March 9.
A worker hangs street signs reading “Ukrainian Heroes Street” on the section of road where the Russian embassy is located in Vilnius, Lithuania on March 9. (Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in the Lithuanian of capital Vilnius have renamed the section of road where the Russian embassy is located to “Ukrainian Heroes Street” in an act of support for the people of Ukraine.

The business card of every employee of the Russian embassy will be decorated with a note honoring Ukraine's fighting,” the mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Šimašius, said in a statement.

He added that “everyone will have to think about the cruelty of the Russian regime against the peaceful Ukrainian nation when writing this street name.”

This follows a similar move by neighboring Baltic country Latvia, whose capital also changed the address of the Russian embassy in Riga to “Independent Ukraine Street.”

Kaspars Līcītis from Riga's city council told CNN the renaming of the street was to support the “heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people against the hostilities launched by the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.” 

7:59 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Kharkiv mayor describes "merciless shelling" and freezing conditions

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesa

Damaged buildings are seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 10.
Damaged buildings are seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 10. (Andrea Carrubba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Civilians have been left with no heating in sub-zero temperatures amid relentless shelling and missile strikes, the mayor of Kharkiv said Friday. 

Ihor Terekhov said that for "all 16 days of war the Russian army has been mercilessly shelling Kharkiv with air strikes. But we are holding up and we will win."

He added that a lot of apartment blocks have been destroyed and that heating systems cannot be restored in more than 400 houses.

Terekhov said: "Severe frosts are coming so I'm calling on you, whose homes are left without heating due to shelling to please go into the metro stations, shelters, schools and kindergartens, that haven't been destroyed yet."

He said that 48 schools had been destroyed so far.

Separately, the State Emergency Service said that a residential home for the disabled near Izium was hit by an airstrike. There were no casualties among the 30 staff and 300 patients, most of whom are elderly, it said.

10:47 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

UN "gravely concerned" as Ukraine death toll rises

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

The casing of a Russian rocket capable of carrying cluster munitions is seen east of the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, on March 10. NATO says Russia is using cluster bombs during its assault on Ukraine.
The casing of a Russian rocket capable of carrying cluster munitions is seen east of the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, on March 10. NATO says Russia is using cluster bombs during its assault on Ukraine. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Friday it remains "gravely concerned by the rising death toll and human suffering in Ukraine" and called "for an immediate end to the attacks."

"Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas. These include missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets, as well as airstrikes," spokesperson Liz Throssell said in a statement.

The OHCHR said it had recorded 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries since the invasion began, "although the actual figure could be much higher."

Schools, hospitals, and kindergartens have been hit – with hugely devastating consequences," Throssell said. 

On March 3, 47 civilians were killed when Russian airstrikes hit two schools and several apartment blocks in Chernihiv and on March 9, a Russian airstrike hit a Mariupol hospital injuring at least 17 civilians, she added.

"We are still investigating reports that at least three civilians may have been killed in the airstrike."

Sources in Mariupol, Throssell added, said the hospital was "both clearly identifiable and operational when it was hit."

The OHCHR also received "credible reports of several cases of Russian forces using cluster munitions, including in populated areas," said Throssell.

The use of one cluster munition was reported on February 24 in the Central City Hospital in Vuhledar, in Donetsk, killing four civilians and injuring t10. At least nine other civilians were killed and 37 injured in "other cluster munition attacks" in several districts of Kharkiv, she said.

"Due to their wide area effects, the use of cluster munitions in populated areas is incompatible with the international humanitarian law principles governing the conduct of hostilities," Throssell said. 

"Civilian casualties are rising daily, as is general human suffering. We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes," she added.

The OHCHR, she added, was also concerned by reports of “arbitrary arrests and detention” of Ukrainians who voiced opposition to the Russian attack, including in peaceful protests.

"We believe that those detained are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

OHCHR is also concerned "by the pejorative use of labels such as 'saboteurs' and 'mercenaries,' with the intent or effect of exposing certain individuals to higher risks of harm," she said.

"We call on the parties to fully respect the rights of everyone under their control," Throssell said. "Those who have laid down their weapons ... including prisoners of war, must be treated humanely, and be protected from any form of torture or degrading treatment."

6:46 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Finland's President to speak with Putin today

The Finnish President Sauli Niinistö arrives for a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on March 5.
The Finnish President Sauli Niinistö arrives for a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on March 5. (Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

The Finnish President Sauli Niinistö spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on Friday and is also expected to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Presidents discussed the situation of the war in Ukraine and Finland’s support and aid for Ukraine. Particular themes were the need to secure a safe evacuation of civilians through humanitarian corridors and the safety of nuclear facilities. The Presidents agreed to continue their contact,” a Finnish government statement said. 

A conversation between Niinistö and Putin is planned for later Friday, it added.

Finland borders Russia and the two countries have long had a neutral relationship. Finland is not a member of NATO.

However, Niinistö expressed his sympathy for the Ukrainian people "fighting bravely for their country" during a meeting with US President Joe Biden on March 4 in the Oval Office.

6:31 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Everything is going to plan, Russian defense minister tells Putin

Russia's defense minister has said that its invasion of Ukraine is being carried out successfully, despite claims from Western leaders that Russia's military has encountered unplanned obstacles and resistance. 

“All is going according to the plan, we report to you here every day this week,” Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a televised Security Council Meeting on Friday.

Shoigu also claimed that the Russian army has received over 16,000 applications from volunteers in the Middle East wanting to join the war in Ukraine.

We receive a huge number of applications from all sorts of volunteers from different countries who would like to come to the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics in order to participate in what they consider to be the liberation movement."

The defense minister also asked Putin for more weapons to arm the separatist regions of Donbas; in particular, air defense systems, including MANPADS, along with light anti-tank missile launchers.

Shoigu added: “We have accumulated a large number of Ukrainian weapons: tanks, armored vehicles and all types of small arms, quite a lot of artillery. In addition, there are many Javelin and Stinger complexes. It is also proposed to transfer this to the Luhansk and Donetsk republics, to the militia, so that they can more effectively carry out the defense of their republics.”

Putin supported both suggestions saying Russia needs to help volunteers willing to fight in Donbas get transferred to the front lines.

“If you see that there are people who want on a voluntary basis, especially not for money, to come and help people living in Donbas, well, we need to welcome them and help them move to the war zone,” Putin said.

Read more on the situation on the ground here: