April 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Travis Caldwell, Jessie Yeung, Matias Grez and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Updated 4:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022
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7:35 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

There are unconfirmed reports of a chemical attack in Mariupol on Monday. Here's what we know

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Investigations are ongoing into a possible chemical attack in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Monday, CNN has learned. 

CNN cannot independently verify that there was any kind of chemical strike, or how many casualties were caused by any such incident.

Here's what we know:

Who reported the alleged attack? The reports emerged in a Telegram statement on Monday night from the Azov battalion, a Ukrainian unit defending Mariupol. They said Russian forces dropped "a poisonous substance of unknown origin" from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) onto Ukrainian military and civilians in the city.

Victims showed signs of "respiratory failure," and the consequences "were being clarified," the statement added.

Andriy Biletsky, Azov's first commander, said on Telegram that three individuals suffered from the effect of the unknown substance.

What did Mariupol officials say? A chemical attack has not been confirmed, Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, posted on Telegram. He said city officials were awaiting additional information from military forces, and speculated that in one possible scenario, the "discharge of an unknown chemical" could be "a test for the reaction in general." 

How about the Ukrainian government? President Volodymyr Zelensky did not confirm a chemical attack but warned the possibility of one should be taken seriously. In his nightly address Monday, Zelensky said Russia could be preparing a new stage of terror.

"Today, the occupiers issued a new statement, which indicates that they are preparing a new stage of terror against Ukraine and our defenders. One of the occupiers' spokesmen said that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible," Zelensky said.

What was he talking about? Zelensky may have been referring to an earlier statement by a spokesperson for the militia of the pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine.

In a Russian state television talk show, DNR spokesperson Eduard Basurin alluded to using chemical weapons to attack a Mariupol steel plant that is a stronghold for Ukrainian forces.

"Azovstal is a factory that was built during Soviet Union times," Basurin said. "It is made of lot of concrete and iron. There are multilevel underground floors there, so it makes no sense to take this target by storm. Because you can lose a lot of your soldiers, and the enemy will not suffer the same losses.
"So at the moment we need to deal with blockade of this plant, find all exits and entrances — it is possible to get this done. And then turn to, I think, the chemical troops who will find a way to smoke moles out of their burrows."

What have other countries said? The US has not confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol, but had previously warned the Ukrainians that Russia could use chemical agents in the city, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN Monday.

In a statement Monday, press secretary John Kirby said The Pentagon cannot confirm the reports but US officials remain concerned about the potential Russian use of riot control agents.

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted about working "urgently with partners" to verify the unconfirmed reports.

7:16 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, in Borodianka, Kyiv region, on Monday.
Rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, in Borodianka, Kyiv region, on Monday. (Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

At Monday's United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting, the director of UN Women said the organization is increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence being committed in Ukraine. Sima Bahous told the meeting the allegations "must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability."

Bahous added that the risk of human trafficking is increasing as the situation becomes more desperate, with young women and unaccompanied teenagers particularly at risk.

Here's the latest from the war in Ukraine:

  • Russian troops start pouring into east: A large column of Russian military vehicles facing the Donbas region was seen in a video shared on social media that CNN has geolocated in Russia’s Rostov region. The vehicles are seen facing north-west, in the direction of the Donbas region.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children displaced: UNICEF says two-thirds of Ukrainian children are now displaced due to the ongoing conflict. UNICEF's emergency programs director Manuel Fontaine told the UNSC on Monday that he had "rarely seen so much damage caused in so little time."  
  • Russia accused of more than 5,800 war crimes: Ukraine's prosecutor general told CNN Monday that her office is building more than 5,800 cases accusing Russia of war crimes, starting "more and more such proceedings" every day.
  • More devastation near Kyiv: After Russian troops withdrew from areas surrounding the capital to focus their theater of war on eastern and southern Ukraine, residents returning or emerging from hiding are confronted by the invasion’s devastating aftermath. CNN’s Clarissa Ward toured a pair of villages that were occupied by Russians for more than a month and reported they found "endless accounts of horror, executions, arbitrary detentions and more."
  • Russian troops leave thousands of mines: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troops retreating from the north of the country had deliberately left thousands of mines in their wake, in what he considered a war crime.
  • Mariupol defense: Ukrainian Marines in the besieged port city of Mariupol said they are "holding out to the end" despite being surrounded by Russian forces and running low on supplies. The head of the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic said Monday the city's port had fallen to Russian and Russian-backed forces, Russian state news agencies reported, which could not be immediately verified. Ukrainian officials have said about 100,000 civilians remain in the city.
  • Unconfirmed reports of chemical attacks: After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, Zelensky warned the possibility should be taken seriously, though a Mariupol official said any such attack remained unconfirmed. Other nations such as the UK said they are working to verify details. CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol.  
  • More than 4,000 evacuated Monday: A total of 4,354 people were evacuated from areas where fighting continues, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, including more than 500 from Mariupol. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly decried Russian forces for often not allowing safe passage of citizens away from combat zones.
  • Russia hit by further Japanese sanctions: Japan imposed additional sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, freezing the assets of 398 Russian citizens, including President Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters, Katerina Tikhonova and Mariya Vorontsova, according to a news release from Japan's Foreign Ministry.
  • Austrian leader visits Moscow: A face-to-face meeting between Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow was ''not a friendly visit," Nehammer said in a statement. "I have just come from Ukraine and have seen with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression,” he said.
  • Russia to resupply forces in Donbas: Russia is attempting to resupply and reinforce its forces in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official, as evidenced by a convoy of vehicles approaching the city of Izyum from the north. The vehicle line includes a “command and control element, a support battalion, basically enablers, perhaps rotary-wing aviation support, and other infantry support,” according to the official.
6:40 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Nokia announces it will exit the Russian market

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Nokia has officially announced its exit from the Russian market.

"It has been clear for Nokia since the early days of the invasion of Ukraine that continuing our presence in Russia would not be possible," the Finnish telecoms company said in a press release Tuesday.

Nokia said its top priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of its employees.

"For humanitarian reasons, Western governments have expressed concerns about the risk of critical telecommunication network infrastructure in Russia failing," the press release read.

They have also emphasized the importance of ensuring the continued flow of information and access to the internet which provides outside perspectives to the Russian people.

"Therefore, as we exit we will aim to provide the necessary support to maintain the networks and are applying for the relevant licenses to enable this support in compliance with current sanctions," Nokia added.

Nokia said that it does not expect this decision to impact its financial outlook and that Russia accounted for less than 2% of its net sales in 2021.

This comes after Swedish telecoms company Ericsson said Monday it was suspending its business in Russia indefinitely.

6:34 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Ukrainian Marines are "holding out to the end" in besieged city of Mariupol

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Chernivtsi and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Residents walk near a destroyed building in Mariupol, on April 10.  
Residents walk near a destroyed building in Mariupol, on April 10.   (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian Marines in the besieged port city of Mariupol said they are "holding out to the end" despite being surrounded by Russian forces and running low on supplies.  

"We are the defenders of Mariupol, the 36th Marine Brigade, which is holding the defense of this city to the last," one of the marines said in a video on Facebook.

"We did not give up our positions. We kept every inch of this city as best as we could. But the reality is that the city is under siege, in a ring. There has been no supply of ammunition or food. We have been holding out to the end. We are grateful to every Ukrainian who believed and continues to believe in the Marines. We have held on to this faith for so long. We did not leave our positions. We have always remained faithful."

Independent analysis of the situation in Mariupol on Sunday published by the Institute for the Study of War assessed that the defense of Mariupol had reached a critical stage. 

"Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in two main locations: The main port of Mariupol in the southwest and the Azovstal steel plant in the east," the analysis stated.

CNN cannot independently verify the situation on the ground in the areas of heaviest fighting in Mariupol. The city, which has been battered by weeks of relentless bombardment, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resolve in the war against Russia. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said "tens of thousands" have died in Mariupol, a figure that cannot be independently verified.

6:21 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Ukrainian officials report more shelling in east but hope rains will impede Russian advance

From Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv, Maria Kostenko in Chernivtsi and Tim Lister

Ukrainian officials have reported further shelling by Russian forces and civilian casualties in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have become the focus of Russian attacks.

Serhii Haidai, head of Luhansk regional military administration, said the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Kreminna, Novodruzhesk and Rubizhne had been targeted again, with 12 residential buildings struck in the last day.

"Unfortunately, there were casualties in Lysychansk -- one man died, three more people were injured," Haida said. "The number of missile and air attacks on the Luhansk region has increased significantly.

Yesterday Lysychansk was bombed from planes and there was a missile attack."

"It is most difficult to evacuate people from the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne," he said, as they were partially occupied by Russian forces. "Our troops repel constant attacks. We can't go to certain areas of cities and pick up people due to constant shelling."

"In the cities of Kreminna, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk evacuation takes place daily," Haidai said, adding it can sometimes be as many as 2,000 people.

He said that hospitals are still operating in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

Haidai said that heavy rains could impede Russian efforts to advance.

"Within last two days they began to collect hundreds of units of heavy equipment, pulling it closer to the front line. This suggests that the offensive should begin today and tomorrow, but it is raining today. According to the forecast, it will rain for several days."

He said the rains would force vehicles to use roads, "and this makes an easy target for our defenders. I hope the rains slows down the offensive."

Ukrainian officials say Russian attacks by air are moving further west to the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Mykola Lukashuk, head of Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council, said that the night in the Dnipropetrovsk region was "restless."

"We had two air attacks on Synelnykiv district at the border of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions," Lukashuk said, adding there were no casualties.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Tuesday that Russian forces continued to regroup along Ukraine's eastern borders and said it expected further ground attacks towards Popasna in Luhansk region and Kurakhove in Donetsk, "with the aim of reaching the administrative boundaries of Donetsk region."

It accused Russian forces of "placing their military equipment and troops directly in residential facilities," as well as in "agricultural enterprises, energy and social infrastructure facilities."

The Armed Forces claimed that six Russian attacks in the east had been foiled Monday and tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems had been destroyed.

As the fighting in the east continues, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced nine evacuation corridors Tuesday, including from Mariupol and Berdiansk on the southeast coast, and Severodonetsk, Rubizhne and Lysychansk.

7:16 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children now displaced, says UNICEF

From CNN's Richard Roth and Yulia Kesaieva

A woman and a child, along with other refugees from Ukraine, wait in the ticket hall of the railway station in Przemysl, eastern Poland, on April 7.
A woman and a child, along with other refugees from Ukraine, wait in the ticket hall of the railway station in Przemysl, eastern Poland, on April 7. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children are now displaced due to the ongoing conflict, UNICEF has said.

UNICEF's emergency programs director Manuel Fontaine told the UN Security Council on Monday that he had "rarely seen so much damage caused in so little time" after returning from a visit to Ukraine.

"They have been forced to leave everything behind: Their homes, their schools, and often, their family members," he said.

Fontaine said the UN had verified the deaths of 142 children with 229 injured as of Sunday, but that "the true figures are most certainly much higher given the scale of attacks."

Meanwhile Liudmyla Denisova, commissioner for human rights of the Ukrainian Parliament, said Tuesday that 186 children had died and 344 had been injured.

"It is not possible to establish the actual number of dead and wounded children due to the fact that the occupying forces are actively fighting in Ukrainian cities," she added, stating that the figures were according to the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations and "other sources that need confirmation."

In his Security Council comments, UNICEF's Fontaine also drew attention to the 3.2 million children estimated to still be in their homes.

"Nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food," he said. "Attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people without access to water in Ukraine. Another 4.6 million people have only limited access.

"The situation is even worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson, where children and their families have now gone weeks without running water and sanitation services, a regular supply of food, and medical care. They are sheltering in their homes and underground, waiting for the bombs and violence to stop."

He also said unaccompanied children in Ukraine face a "much higher risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and trafficking," and pointed to the impacts of school closures on 1.5 million students in higher education and 5.7 million school-age children.

5:49 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

"All options are on the table" for the West’s response if Russia uses chemical weapons

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

In this file photo, James Heappey, Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, leaves the Cabinet Office on Whitehall on February 17.
In this file photo, James Heappey, Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, leaves the Cabinet Office on Whitehall on February 17. (James Manning/PA Images/Getty Images)

"All options are on the table" for how the West will respond if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, Britain’s junior Armed Forces minister said Tuesday.

It comes as unconfirmed reports of a possible strike involving a chemical substance in the Ukrainian port city if Mariupol emerged Monday, which the UK has been unable to verify, James Heappey told Sky News.

"I think it’s useful to maintain some ambiguity [...] over exactly what the response would be, but let’s be clear, if they are used at all, then [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin should know that all possible options are on the table in terms of how the West might respond," Heappey said.

It would be an "effective" and "well considered" response, he added.

CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol.

CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.

"These are appalling weapons to even think about using," Heappey said.

"That they are part of the discussion is sobering. There are some things that are beyond the pale, and the use of chemical weapons will get a response, and all options are on the table for what that response could be."

He cautioned: "But it’s important to recognize that there are all sorts of ways in which these things could be used, from the use of tear gas which is effectively a riot control measure all the way through to utterly devastating lethal chemical weapons systems.

"So I don't think it’s helpful to be too binary about the situation because these are highly nuanced."

Heappey said some Ukrainian troops will be arriving in the UK in the coming days to learn how to operate 120 British armored vehicles that will be sent to Ukraine, along with defense and anti-tank missiles as part of a new package of high-grade military equipment. 

"We are getting as much to the Ukrainian MoD as we can," he said in a separate interview with LBC radio in London.

4:38 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Russian military column seen heading towards Donbas

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Chernivtsi and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

A large column of Russian military vehicles is seen near Matveev Kurgan, a settlement in Russia’s Rostov region.
A large column of Russian military vehicles is seen near Matveev Kurgan, a settlement in Russia’s Rostov region. (Telegram)

CNN geolocated a video shared to social media on Monday showing a large column of Russian military vehicles near Matveev Kurgan, a settlement in Russia’s Rostov region.

The vehicles are seen facing north-west, in the direction of the Donbas region.

A senior Ukrainian official on Monday also said a Russian offensive in Ukraine's Donbas region "has already started," warning that Russia continued to amass forces in the region.

In remarks on national television, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, said:

"From my point of view, this big offensive [in the East] has already started. We have to understand it's not going to be the repetition of Feb 24th, when the first airstrikes and explosions started and we said: 'The war has begun.' The big offensive de-facto has already started."

Ukrainian and Western officials have said in recent days they have observed a redeployment of Russian troops to Donbas following major setbacks for Moscow in a push to take Kyiv.

"Yes, there are still no major battles that are being discussed so much in the past few days. But in general we could say the offensive has already started," Denysenko said.

2:00 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022

Appeal hearing in Russia for detained US citizen Trevor Reed will be held Tuesday, state media says

From CNN’s Catherine Carter

Trevor Reed is escorted to a hearing in Moscow in March 2020.
Trevor Reed is escorted to a hearing in Moscow in March 2020. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Trevor Reed, an American citizen detained in Russia for nearly three years, has an appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Reed had started a second hunger strike in protest of his treatment by Russian authorities, according to his parents, who met with President Joe Biden last month after holding a protest outside the White House to bring awareness to their son's case.

Regarding the upcoming court appeal, parents Joey and Paula Reed said in a statement they "have little hope for a successful judicial outcome," but believe their son's appeal rights should be pursued "vigorously."

"Over the weekend, we were able to re-establish indirect contact with Trevor who remains in hospital as far as we know. We have not been able to confirm that directly, nor are we able to confirm Trevor is receiving any meaningful medical care," Reed's parents said in the statement.
"As we have said, Trevor has been to this ‘prison hospital’ numerous times and has received no medical care. Over the past 970 days, Russian authorities have lied repeatedly about Trevor’s health and continue to believe he likely has TB and is out of time. We urge the Administration to act urgently to bring our son home before it’s too late.”

Some context: Reed, a former US Marine, was detained in Moscow in 2019 for purportedly endangering Russian police officers during an altercation. In 2020, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

His father told CNN last month that an attorney was able to pass along a handwritten note from Reed in which he said "he's OK," but is coughing up blood and was only receiving aspirin for treatment.

"Trevor had some sort of injury where he thinks he might have a broken rib. Plus, he has all the symptoms of active tuberculosis. He went to a prison hospital for about 10 days. And then they didn't treat him. They took an X-ray that didn't work," Joey Reed said.
"And when they brought him back to his prison he said, 'I need to go back. I'm still hurt and sick.' And they put him to solitary confinement again, where he had been for most of the last seven months. So he is protesting that. That's against all Russian regulations and European human rights."

Joey Reed had previously said he’s concerned the Russian invasion of Ukraine will worsen his son’s fate.