The Netherlands detained additional Russian owned yachts, Dutch government says
From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels
The Dutch government said Tuesday that a total of 20 yachts with Russian ownership are now unable leave the Netherlands after customs officials placed a further six vessels under “increased surveillance,” as part of the sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
While authorities investigate the ownership of the yachts, they are not allowed to be delivered, transferred, or exported, the Dutch finance ministry said in a statement.
As part of their investigations, Dutch customs confirmed that "two yachts have been found to be linked to a person on the EU sanctions list.”
The vessels are allowed to make take part in sea trials within a defined area. During one trail “the Coast Guard and Customs kept an eye on the yacht, both physically and electronically,” the statement explained.
Of the 20 yachts, which range from 8.5 meters (30 feet) to 120 meters (390 feet) in length. Fourteen are in construction, two are in storage and four are under maintenance according to the ministry.
4:13 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
German president says his offer to visit Ukraine was "not wanted" by Kyiv
From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that he had offered a visit to Ukraine with Baltic leaders, but the trip was “not wanted” by Kyiv.
Steinmeier said Polish President Andrzej Duda suggested the two leaders travel to the Ukrainian capital together with the heads of state of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to “send a strong signal of common European solidarity with Ukraine.”
“I was ready for it. But apparently […] that was not what was wanted in Kyiv,” Steinmeier told reporters while visiting Warsaw.
The German president is considered to have had close relations with Russia in his previous political roles. Ukraine has previously been critical of Steinmeier over his links with Russia and the leading role he played as former foreign minister in improving relationships with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The German president's comments come as other European leaders have made visits to Kyiv. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer made separate visits to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.
4:31 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Top US intelligence official says US still watching in case Russia intelligence disclosures "burned" sources
From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis
The intelligence community continues to monitor whether its disclosures of previously-classified information surrounding Russia’s war in Ukraine have compromised any of its closely-guarded “sources and methods,” the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, said Tuesday.
“We are cautious, but continue to look to see whether or not we made the right calculation in doing that, because it's a long term thing to see whether or not you actually burn your sources and methods through disclosures,” Haines said during public remarks at the Meridian International Center.
The intelligence community “took a little bit of additional risk than I think we might otherwise take” in releasing information related to Russia’s planning for the invasion, Haines said, but “we all agreed to it and achieved consensus” within the intelligence community.
Her remarks provide a rare window into the closely-guarded deliberations within the Biden administration and the intelligence community around a series of remarkable intelligence disclosures made over the past four months.
Since December, the Biden administration has released a series of previously classified intelligence revealing Russian moves as Moscow massed troops on the Ukrainian border.
Officials have previously told CNN those releases were carefully coordinated among the National Security Council, the intelligence community and other national security agencies in an effort to disrupt Russian planning, blunt the effectiveness of any “false flag” operations and, ultimately, deter military action.
Although the tactic earned broad bipartisan support, some former intelligence officials did express surprise about the level of detail that the administration was providing publicly and raise questions about how that could be done without compromising sources and methods.
US officials told CNN at the time that the decision to downgrade any one piece of information went through normal processes, led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and that no disclosure was made that could expose the means by which the United States gathered the information in the first place.
“The intelligence community used its standard declassification procedures, which are in place to protect sources and methods,” a US intelligence official said in February.
Haines said on Tuesday that she and other intelligence officials were also initially concerned that the tactic might draw the intelligence community — which is designed to operate apolitically and independent of policymakers — too far into the realm of dictating policy.
“You as an intelligence community want to maintain your distance from policy to some extent,” Haines said. “And one of the concerns that was raised… was that we not be perceived as a tool of policy and that our credibility would stand on its own, and we tried to be careful about that too.”
2:54 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Blinken: US can't confirm use of chemical weapons, but had info Russia could use chemical agents in Mariupol
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The United States could not confirm the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, but noted that they “had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents."
Blinken said these include "tear gas mixed with chemical agents that would cause stronger symptoms to weaken and incapacitate entrenched Ukrainian fighters and civilians, as part of the aggressive campaign to take Mariupol.”
“We're in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what, what actually has happened,” Blinken said at the State Department.
“So this is a real concern. It's a concern that we had from before the aggression started. I think I pointed to the possibility that these kinds of weapons would, would be used and it's something that we're very, very focused on,” he added.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that the US has provided equipment to Ukraine “to protect them from the potential use of chemical weapons.”
Price also said the US is ready to help Ukraine with investigating the potential use of chemical agents.
“We have been in direct conversations with our Ukrainian partners as they are collecting facts and evidence. We do stand ready to assist in case we can be useful in terms of that investigation, whether it is any sort of technical capability or anything else,” he said in response to a question from CNN’s Kylie Atwood.
More background: After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.
2:16 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Ukrainian first lady warns no one in Ukraine is safe from Russian forces: "The number one target is all of us"
From CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Emmet Lyons
When Russian troops invaded their homeland, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and first lady Olena Zelenska refused to flee or to give in, opting instead — like many of their countrymen and women — for defiance in the face of aggression.
While the President's focus has been on the military fightback against Russian forces, the First Lady has concentrated on humanitarian and children's issues, working to raise global awareness of ordinary Ukrainians' suffering as a result of the war.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed Zelenska over email. Her responses have been translated from Ukrainian.
It's Tuesday evening in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine war
From CNN staff
Speaking at a news conference earlier Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said talks with Ukraine had hit a "dead end." He appeared next to his ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
In response, a presidential adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that "negotiations are extremely difficult" but "they are ongoing." The official's statement on negotiations came as Ukrainians respond with outrage to the uncovering of widespread killing of civilians by Russian troops and an expected Russian offensive.
"It is clear that the Ukrainian delegation works exclusively within a framework that is pro-Ukrainian and transparent. It is also clear that the Russian side adheres to its traditional tactics of public pressure on the negotiation process, including through certain public statements," Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine and a lead negotiator, said in a statement released by the Ukrainian presidential office.
If you're just joining us, here's what else you should know:
Ukraine issues stamps saying "Russian warship, go ****!": 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. The stamps immortalize the words by Roman Hrybov, who told a Russian warship to "go f**k yourself!" on the opening day of the war when he was ordered to surrender. The phrase has become a popular Ukrainian slogan during the war with Russia.
Russian military-linked hackers target Ukrainian power company: A Russian military-linked hacking group has attempted to infiltrate Ukrainian power substations and deploy malicious code capable of cutting electricity, Ukrainian government officials and private investigators said Tuesday. The cyberattack appears to have been thwarted.
Meanwhile,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.
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. Separately, the military governor of the Donetsk region cited preliminary estimates Tuesday, saying that as many as 22,000 people had died in the city since the beginning of the invasion.
Where things stand in Mariupol: The Pentagon assesses that Mariupol remains contested amid Russia’s bombardment of the strategically important port city, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. “Our assessment today is that Mariupol is still contested and that the Ukrainians are still fighting to defend Mariupol from the Russian seizure of it,” Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday. “You’ve seen images yourself, you’ve seen the devastation that Russian airstrikes have wrought on Mariupol and the city, but our assessment is the Ukrainians are still fighting for it.”
Tuesday's evacuations: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced that nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated Tuesday from areas in southern and eastern Ukraine affected by fighting. Vereshchuk said that only 208 people had been able to leave Mariupol, which has been devastated by weeks of fighting. A total of 2,135 people had been able to leave the Russian-occupied cities of Berdiansk and Melitopol, as well as two other towns in the Zaporizhzhia region.
2:07 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Blinken: Global backsliding of human rights starkly evident in Russia's war in Ukraine
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the global backsliding of human rights is starkly evident “in the Russian government's brutal war on Ukraine.”
“That's especially true in recent weeks, as Russian forces have been pushed back from towns and cities they occupied or surrounded and evidence mounts of their widespread atrocities,” Blinken said in remarks at the State Department while releasing the 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
“We see what this receding tide is leaving in its wake. The bodies, hands bound, left on streets. Theaters, train stations, apartment buildings reduced to rubble with civilians inside. We hear it in the testimonies of women and girls who have been raped, and the beseeched civilians starving and freezing to death. In response people and governments in every region are voicing their condemnation and calling for those responsible to be held accountable,” the secretary of state described.
“In its disdain for human life and dignity, the Kremlin has reinvigorated a belief in people worldwide, that there are human rights that everyone everywhere should enjoy and underscore why these rights are worth defending,” he said. “At the same time, civil society, governments, and people around the world are rightly pointing out that Ukraine is tragically far from the only place where gross abuses are being perpetrated. They want the international community to shine a spotlight on human rights abuses wherever they're being committed, and to bring the same urgency to stopping abuses and holding perpetrators accountable," he said.
3:24 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
The Biden administration is preparing to roll out a new program for Ukrainian refugees, officials say
From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Kevin Liptak
The Biden administration is preparing to roll out a new program intended for Ukrainian refugees that would expedite the process for those trying to come to the United States, according to two administration officials.
The program comes on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s commitment to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees through a range of legal pathways and a focus on family reunification. More than two weeks since that announcement, the administration has yet to provide additional details and hundreds of Ukrainians have decided to go to the US-Mexico border to gain entry to the country.
The new parole program, which could start as early as next week, is expected to help people interested in coming to the US and allow them to stay in the country for a temporary period. According to one administration official, individuals would need to have a sponsorship application filled out on their behalf to come to the US. Details of the plan were still being finalized.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are involved in the program, according to the administration official. The approach is similar to the one taken with Afghans following the fall of Kabul.
CNN reached out to the White House for comment. The State Department referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not immediately return request for comment.
Since Biden announced he would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians last month, officials have been in discussions about how best to prioritize applicants, including how to accommodate refugees fleeing potential persecution, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
One official said the White House was focused partly on protecting vulnerable refugees, including those with specific medical needs or individuals from third countries who had already fled to Ukraine to escape persecution elsewhere — including dissidents, journalists and LGBTQ people.
The policy process, including which mechanism people fleeing Ukraine could use to come to the United States, has been a topic of ongoing conversations among administration officials since the announcement.
Still, Biden’s aides continue to believe most of the more than 4 million people who have fled Ukraine would prefer to remain in the region rather than come to the United States.
The 100,000 figure Biden unveiled while visiting Brussels in March doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of refugees US officials believe will ultimately seek entry to the United States, an official said.
The US has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to help countries neighboring Ukraine — including Poland, where Biden visited with refugees and aid workers last month.
On Monday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi met with officials from the National Security Council at the White House to discuss the refugee crisis in Europe. He also met Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.
More background: The usual refugee resettlement route to the US is a slow and cumbersome process. It often takes years from when a person applies to be a refugee to when that individual is resettled in the United States. In March, only a dozen Ukrainians came to the US through the program and they likely applied years ago, well before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Dozens of Ukrainians are often resettled to the US monthly, but the closure of commercial airspace in war-torn Ukraine led to canceled flights and kept Ukrainians prepared to come to the US as refugees from coming, according to refugee advocates. Their flights are gradually being rebooked from other countries.
In a recent bipartisan letter, lawmakers, mostly Democrats, suggested that the administration also “utilize existing administrative options to improve efficient processing for Ukrainians outside of the United States who already qualify for immigration benefits.” That includes, the lawmakers said, providing additional resources to US embassy personnel in Europe who are involved in processing immigrants and refugees and waiving immigration application fees.
Refugee advocates, who are intimately involved in the resettlement of refugees, have expressed concern about admitting Ukrainians through parole because it keeps them from access to benefits.
“They’re inventing this new approach through parole, which provides no security, no safety net and so that’s worrisome and leaves the applicant at the mercy of the backlog and broken asylum system if they want to stay here permanently,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement organization.
1:39 p.m. ET, April 12, 2022
Johnson and Biden discuss need to "accelerate assistance" to Ukraine, prime minster's office says
From CNN's Luke McGee and Jorge Engels in London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday spoke with US President Joe Biden to talk about Johnson’s recent visit to Kyiv and "the need to accelerate assistance" to Ukraine, Downing Street said in a statement.
“The leaders discussed the need to accelerate assistance to Ukraine, including bolstering military and economic support, as the Ukrainian forces prepare for another Russian onslaught in the east of the country,” said the statement.
Johnson told Biden that the UK’s latest package of aid — including anti-ship missiles and military vehicles — would be arriving in Ukraine “in the coming days and weeks."
The British leader also said the international community needed to commit to Ukraine in the long-term to “ensure the Ukrainian people’s vision for their country’s freedom could be realized again,” according to the statement.
Johnson lauded the “US’ colossal military contribution to Ukraine,” and both leaders agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin could not break Ukrainians’ resolve, according to Downing Street.
“The pair also agreed to continue joint efforts to ratchet up the economic pressure on Putin and decisively end Western reliance on Russian oil and gas,” said Downing Street.