March 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Tara John, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Joe Ruiz and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 12:06 a.m. ET, March 13, 2022
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11:39 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Multiple explosions heard near Lviv

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv

Multiple explosions were heard shortly before 6 a.m. local time Sunday on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Lviv, near Ukraine's border with Poland.

The explosions were heard by a CNN team on the ground. 

9:50 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

New mayor installed in Russia-controlled Melitopol after kidnapping. Here’s what we know

Galina Danilchenko
Galina Danilchenko (Melitopol Acting Mayor's Office)

A new mayor has been installed in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which is under Russian military control, after the elected mayor was kidnapped on Friday, according to the Zaporozhye regional administration.

Here's what we know about the situation in the city:

  • Melitopol is a city in southern Ukraine that lies between the besieged city of Mariupol and the now Russian-occupied city of Kherson. Russian forces occupied Melitopol within days of the invasion beginning, but the city has seen sporadic protests since.
  • On Friday, Melitopol mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was seen on video being led away from a government building in the city by armed men. 
  • A short time later, the Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor claimed that Fedorov had committed terrorism offenses and was under investigation. According to a message on the Luhansk prosecutor's website, Fedorov is being accused of assisting and financing terrorist activities and being part of a criminal community.
  • Fedorov's detention by the armed men is the first known instance of a Ukrainian political official being detained by Russian, or Russian-backed forces, since the invasion began.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded his immediate release, saying it was "crime against democracy" and Russia has "switched to a new stage of terror" in its invasion by "trying to physically eliminate representatives of the legitimate local Ukrainian authorities."
  • The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called Fedorov's detention an "abduction" and a "war crime."
  • Hundreds of people protested the kidnapping outside Melitopol's city hall, with the crowd chanting "Freedom for the Mayor."
  • On Saturday, the Zaporozhye regional administration installed a new mayor, Galina Danilchenko, a former member of the city council.
  • In her televised statement, which was posted by the regional administration on Telegram, Danilchenko said that her "main task is to take all necessary steps to get the city back to normal." 

8:42 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Tato and Mama gave me a home in Ukraine. Now they're under attack

From CNN's Mayumi Maruyama

They're not my parents, but after two years of living in Ukraine, they grew to become my Tato and Mama — Ukrainian for "mom" and "dad." 

Five years ago, they welcomed me into their home like a daughter — now they're living under Russian bombardment, the sound of shelling punctuating every precious call.

Tato, a white-haired man in his early 60s, tells me on the phone he can see explosions from the front yard of their home in a small village outside the northern city of Chernihiv. Mama, who's a few years younger, sobs as she tells me they have no water, no power, and no safe way to leave. 

Their only form of transportation is a rundown Soviet-era car that's so rusted you can see the ground rush by through a hole in the floor. And Mama's 91-year-old mother, Babusya, is so frail she rarely leaves her bed.

Ukrainians in some other cities have been been able to flee their homes, escaping the Russian attacks via temporary evacuation corridors, but no clear route exists out of Chernihiv or their village. 

Just over a week ago, Tato sent me a photo of black smoke billowing into the air from explosions near his village.

"If we survive, maybe we'll see each other," his text read.

Read the full story:

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

Zelensky pleads for more aid, says 12,729 Ukrainians successfully evacuated Saturday

From CNN's Mallory Gafas

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was grateful for international support and pleaded with allies for more aid in an address Saturday.

“I keep reiterating to our allies and friends abroad; they have to keep doing more for our country, for Ukrainians and Ukraine. Because it is not only for Ukraine, but it is for all of Europe,” he said. “The evil which purposefully targets peaceful cities and ambulance vans and explodes hospitals will not stop with just one country if they have the strength to keep going.”

Zelensky also said humanitarian corridors in Ukraine have been “working,” announcing 12,729 people were evacuated Saturday.

“All of the humanitarian corridors, by the way, which were agreed to – they have worked,” he said, adding “and then there will be humanitarian aid to Mariupol [but] because of difficulties, they had to stop in Gdansk.”

Zelensky also vowed to bring Russian occupiers and their sympathizers to justice, saying “all the occupiers and all the collaborators will know that Ukraine will not forget. Never, nothing. Ukraine will not forget. Ukraine will find them and will call them to responsibility, each one of them.”

6:51 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Seven civilians killed while trying to evacuate Kyiv region, Ukrainian Defense Ministry says

From CNN Staff

Seven civilians, including women and a child, were killed while trying to flee Ukraine's Kyiv region, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed Saturday.

"Russians shot at a column of women and children in Kyiv region, who were trying to evacuate along a previously agreed 'green' corridor. The result of this brutal act - seven dead. One of them is a child," a tweet from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

However, an update from the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine said the civilians were fleeing on a route that was not an agreed-upon "green corridor." 

The group of women and children were attempting to evacuate near the village of Peremoga in Kyiv on Friday when they were shot at by Russians, according to Ukraine's intelligence agency.

Russia did not immediately comment on this incident, but has denied targeting civilians since invading Ukraine last month.

6:20 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Chernobyl nuclear plant running on generators with staff "living" there since Russian attack

From CNN Staff

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a close view of Chernobyl nuclear facilities, Ukraine, on Thursday, March 10.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a close view of Chernobyl nuclear facilities, Ukraine, on Thursday, March 10. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

Repairs to Chernobyl's electrical system, damaged during a Russian attack on March 9, are ongoing, as the nuclear power plant is now dependent on external diesel generators to keep its reactors operating, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Saturday. 

Alexey Likhachev, the director general of Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom, told the IAEA additional fuel arrived on March 11. 

Ukraine's nuclear power plant operator Energoatom told the IAEA that Chernobyl's 211 personnel and guards "have still not been able to rotate, in effect living there since the day before Russian forces took control."

"[IAEA] Director General Grossi has repeatedly stressed the urgent need to ensure they can properly rest and rotate, saying this is also a vital element for safe and secure nuclear power operation," IAEA said in a statement. 

Regarding the situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Ukraine said the site remains under Russian control and that Moscow is planning to take "full and permanent control." It also said 400 Russian soldiers are "present full time" at the site. 

Russia said experts are present at the Zaporizhzhya plant but denied it "had taken operational control" or it has plans to take on permanent management of the site, according to the IAEA.

Power supplies to this plant remain unchanged, despite damage to two of its four power lines, the IAEA said.

The IAEA added eight of Ukraine's 15 reactors remain in operation, "including two at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine" and that "radiation levels remain normal."

5:21 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

New mayor installed in Russia-controlled Melitopol after the Ukrainian city's elected mayor was detained

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Josh Pennington

The Zaporozhye regional administration says a new mayor has been installed in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which is under Russian military control, after the elected mayor was detained on Friday. 

Ivan Fedorov, the elected mayor of Melitopol, was detained by armed men on Friday and accused of terrorism offenses by the prosecutor's office for the separatist Russia-backed Luhansk region.

The newly installed mayor is Galina Danilchenko, a former member of the city council, according to a statement on the Zaporozhye regional administration website.

Danilchenko, who was not elected by the people, was introduced as the acting mayor on local TV, the statement said.

In her televised statement, which was posted by the administration on Telegram, Danilchenko said her "main task is to take all necessary steps to get the city back to normal." 

She claimed there were people still in Melitopol who would try to destabilize "the situation and provoke a reaction of bad behavior."

"I ask you to keep your wits about you and not to give in to these provocations," Danilchenko said. "I appeal to the deputies, elected by the people, on all levels. Since you were elected by the people, it is your duty to care about the well-being of your citizens." 

Danilchenko proposed the creation of a "People's Choice Committee" to "solve all the critical issues for Melitopol and the Melitopol region." 

4:01 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

It's 11 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As a new day nears for Ukraine, these are the latest updates from on the ground:

Russian troops loom near Kyiv: The bulk of Russian ground forces are currently about 15.5 miles from the center of the Ukrainian capital, the UK's Ministry of Defence said Saturday in its latest intelligence assessment.

Significant destruction seen in cities and towns: In Mariupol, satellite imagery showed damage and fires in apartment buildings and gas stations. An emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders told CNN that the city is in "the disaster phase now."

In Makariv, a village 30 miles west of Kyiv, apparent Russian airstrikes hit apartment complexes, schools and a medical facility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said "a few small towns just don’t exist anymore. ... They are just gone."

Casualties mount: The United Nations has recorded 1,581 civilian casualties — 579 who were killed and 1,002 injured — since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Among the dead are 42 children, with 54 children among the injured, according to the UN's latest report on civilian casualties.

French and German leaders speak with Putin:French official told CNN that Putin seemed still to be "determined to achieve his objectives in Ukraine" but the fact that he continues to speak to the French and German leaders suggests that "he does not exclude the possibility of a diplomatic solution altogether." Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was holding out little hope for a negotiated settlement to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

3:59 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Bipartisan delegation of US senators arrives in Poland, meets with US ambassador and troops

From CNN's Joe Johns and Sarah Fortinsky

A bipartisan US congressional delegation, including Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, arrived Saturday in Warsaw, Poland, where they met with US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski and traveled to Rzeszow to meet with US troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.

The delegation plans "to meet with senior government officials and visit refugee sites to affirm the United States' commitment to Poland, Ukraine, and other allies in response to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine," according to a Saturday news release from Wicker's office.

Senate staff familiar with the trip tell CNN the delegation will also visit the Ukrainian border on Sunday.