Preliminary estimates suggest up to 22,000 have died in Mariupol, Donetsk military governor says
From CNN's Margaret Given and Nathan Hodge in Lviv
The situation in the besieged city of Mariupol was "difficult," the military governor of the Donetsk region said Tuesday, citing preliminary estimates that as many as 22,000 people had died in the city.
"The Mariupol situation makes it difficult to comment on the number of casualties, the city is under siege and blockaded," Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, told CNN. "We are currently discussing 20,000 to 22,000 people dead in Mariupol."
Independent estimates of casualties from the relentless Russian bombardment of the city are not available. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said "tens of thousands" have died in Mariupol.
Kyrylenko also addressed reports of a possible chemical attack in Mariupol, details of which have yet to be fully confirmed.
"We know that last night around midnight, a drone dropped some so-far-unknown explosive device, people who were in the area in and around the Mariupol metallurgical plant, three people began to feel unwell," he said. "What we have heard was that there were three people who were affected, taken to hospital, given medical assistance, at the moment their lives were not in danger."
The regional military governor said the reports from the scene were preliminary, so he could not "100% confirm or comment on them," but said he could confirm that the incident happened.
11:05 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
President of Belarus, a Putin ally, defends Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
From CNN's Mia Alberti
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday strongly defended Russian actions in Ukraine, claiming that if Russia was "just a little late with its military operation, the Russian territory would have suffered a crushing attack at its borders.”
"If somebody wishes to scream that we went somewhere we shouldn't have, started something we shouldn't have, just imagine what you would have had happened had you been at least two weeks or one month late,” Lukashenko told reporters during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin following a meeting between the two leaders in Russia’s far east Amur Region.
Some context: There is no evidence that Ukraine was going to attack Russia. Since last year, Russia was tightening its military grip around Ukraine, amassing tens of thousands of soldiers, as well as equipment and artillery, on the country's doorstep. Russian forces held joint drills with their Belarusian allies before the invasion.
The Belarusian leader went on to blame "Washington, Brussels and London" for causing the crisis in Ukraine, and he said the economic sanctions against Russia were "psychological operations" organized by the United Kingdom. He also accused the US of instigating Poland and Baltic countries against Moscow.
"Our recent history has not seen such a dangerous moment in our relationship with the West as today. ... Some of you said the Cold War is over and we shall live in a new civilized era based on mutual understanding and supremacy of international law. We thought so, but the West didn't; they didn't destroy us then, so they decided to start now,” he said.
Lukashenko also referenced Putin's unfounded claims of "denazification" as part of his justification to invade Ukraine.
"There used to be a public figure in the West in the 30s, 40s of the last century who also tried to install a new order and we know well how that ended. So, I think Washington must return to the recent past. Our fathers and forefathers endured then and were victorious and so shall we be victorious as we have been in our common 1,000-year history," he said.
Putin said Belarus was being "punched no less than Russia right now."
"We never had any doubts that if somebody is to offer their shoulder to us it would be Belarus,” he said.
Regarding the effect of sanctions in destabilizing Russian-Belarusian ties, Putin said they are "completely futile.”
"This trick is definitely not going to work on us. We will only become stronger,” he said, adding that “the (damage) that our enemies were counting on has not happened."
The measures agreed by the two leaders include projects for a common electrical power market, favorable prices for oil and gas for Belarusian domestic consumption — with payments in rubles, the joint construction of a nuclear power plant that should be commissioned by the end of 2021 and an increase in security on western borders, including joint military exercises.
10:50 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Russia has just over 80% of preassembled combat power available, senior US defense official says
From CNN's Michael Conte
Russia has “just above 80%” of the combat power that it amassed before its invasion of Ukraine still available, according to a senior US defense official.
The official also said that Russia has now launched more than 1,540 missiles against Ukraine.
“We would assess that Russian assessed available combat power — and again I want to remind you guys that that’s of the combat power that they’ve preassembled before their invasion — we estimate that they’re just above 80% in terms of what’s left of them,” the official said Tuesday during an off-camera briefing with reporters.
10:44 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
6 people were found shot dead in basement outside Kyiv, Ukrainian prosecutors say
From CNN' Daria Markina in Kyiv and Sarah Diab in London
Six people have been found shot dead in the basement of a building outside Kyiv, according to a statement Tuesday from the Ukrainian prosecutor general.
"The bodies of six civilians with gunshot wounds were found in a basement during an inspection of a private residence," said the prosecutor general, adding that the killings took place in Brovary, outside the capital Kyiv.
The statement does not identify the suspects in this case -- but does mention the killing of civilians by Russian service members during the occupation.
10:12 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Ukraine issues stamps immortalizing a soldier's defiant words to Russia
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv
Ukrposhta, Ukraine's postal service, announced Tuesday it had issued a postage stamp with the slogan, "Russian warship, go ****!" that was put into circulation today.
Roman Hrybov — the Ukrainian soldier who uttered the phrase, "Russian warship, go f**k yourself!" on the opening day of the war when ordered by a Russian warship to surrender — was invited to the ceremony unveiling the stamp, the service said in a statement on the Ukrposhta Facebook page.
Hrybov was captured by Russian forces and released in a prisoner exchange.
The phrase has become a popular Ukrainian slogan during the war with Russia.
"There would be neither postage stamp nor such strong resistance as exemplified by soldiers from Zmiinyi Island (Snake Island) without him," the statement read.
9:42 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Australia to investigate reports of possible chemical substances used in Ukraine, foreign minister says
From CNN's Wayne Chang in Taipei, Taiwan
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has called reports of a possible strike involving chemical substances in Ukraine "deeply concerning" and said Australia will work with its counterparts to verify such reports.
"Reports Russian forces may have deployed a chemical agent in Mariupol are deeply concerning. [Australia] is working with partners to verify these reports. Any use of chemical weapons would be a further wholesale breach of international law," Payne tweeted on Tuesday.
In a press conference Tuesday, Payne also called the reports, if confirmed, a “further indication of President Putin and Russia’s absolute violation of every single value and every single rules-based aspect of the rules based global order,” according to a transcript released by the government.
More context: 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.
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.
9:49 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Russian military-linked hackers target Ukrainian power company, investigators say
From CNN's Sean Lyngaas
A Russian military-linked hacking group has attempted to infiltrate Ukrainian power substations and deploy malicious code capable of cutting the power, Ukrainian government officials and private investigators said Tuesday.
The cyberattack appears to have been thwarted — the Ukrainian government Computer Emergency Response Team said it had prevented the attackers from “carrying out [their] malicious intent.”
The hack attempt did not affect the provision of electricity at the power company, Victor Zhora, a senior Ukrainian cybersecurity official, told CNN
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency was working closely with Ukrainian officials to understand the incident and share any relevant information to protect US infrastructure, CISA Director Jen Easterly tweeted Tuesday.
The hackers blamed for the incident — a group known as Sandworm that the US Justice Department has attributed to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency — are of top concern to cybersecurity researchers around the world because they cut power in parts of Ukraine in 2015 and 2016.
In this recent incident, the hackers tried to deploy malicious code “against high-voltage electrical substations in Ukraine” on April 8, and appeared to make preparations or the attack two weeks prior, according to cybersecurity firm ESET, which investigated the hack.
It’s the type of advanced cyberattack that many US officials and cybersecurity analysts predicted would accompany Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“A lot of people were expecting something like this to happen, with critical infrastructure targeted by really advanced malware,” Jean-Ian Boutin, ESET’s director of threat research, told CNN.
While this hack may have been thwarted, prior Sandworm hacks in Ukraine have been disruptive.
A 2015 cyberattack that US officials pinned on Sandworm cut power for about a quarter million people in Ukraine. A follow-up hack in 2016 at an electrical substation outside of Kyiv caused a smaller blackout, the malicious code used was more sophisticated, according to analysts.
The hacking tool used in the recent attempted cyberattack on the Ukrainian power company was a variation of the malicious software known as Industroyer that was used in the 2016 hack, ESET researchers said.
“It is something that we don’t see often. And the fact that Industroyer was used years ago … this is very significant,” Boutin said.
Some background: US officials have been closely monitoring suspected Russian cyberattacks against Ukrainian critical infrastructure before and after Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The White House on Feb. 18 blamed a separate hacking incident, which temporarily knocked Ukrainian government and bank websites offline, on the GRU.
8:47 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Obama says Putin acting in newly "reckless" manner
From CNN's Shania Shelton
Russian President Vladimir Putin is acting in a newly reckless manner with the invasion of Ukraine, former US President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show.
“Putin has always been ruthless against his own people as well as others. He has always been somebody who's wrapped up in this twisted, distorted sense of grievance and ethnic nationalism,” Obama said. “That part of Putin, I think, has always been there. What we've seen with the invasion of Ukraine is him being reckless in a way that you might not have anticipated eight, 10 years ago, but the danger was always there.”
The former president declined to directly answer a question about what, in hindsight, he would have done differently while in office, including when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Instead, he said it’s important to “not take our own democracy for granted” and to “stand for and align ourselves with those who believe in freedom and independence.”
8:18 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Putin says Russia’s military goals in Ukraine are "noble" and will be achieved, state media reports
From CNN's Zahra Ullah
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's military goals in Ukraine are "noble" and will be achieved, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Speaking at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia Tuesday, where he was meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said the "special operation" in Ukraine was the right step as Russia "had no other choice."
Putin said the goals of the "special military operation" was to help the people of Donbas, and "takes measures to ensure the security of Russia itself."
"Obviously, we had no other choice, that's right. And there is no doubt that the goals [of the special operation] will be achieved," Putin said on Tuesday.
"The main goal is to help people in Donbas, the people of Donbas, which we recognized, were forced to do this because the Kyiv authorities, pushed by the West, refused to comply with the Minsk agreements aimed at a peaceful solution to the problems of Donbas," Putin added.
Some background: Putin has framed the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "special mission" to protect Russian speakers from genocide at the hands of "neo-Nazis."
Three days before invading Ukraine, the Russian leader officially recognized the two self-proclaimed "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region as independent.
Ukrainian and Western officials have said in recent days they have observed movement of Russian troops to Donbas following major setbacks for Moscow in a push to take Kyiv.