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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8:55 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Explosions heard near Kyiv as Russian troops press closer to Ukraine's capital

CNN teams in Kyiv reported hearing explosions in the early hours of Saturday morning, with chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward describing "a nonstop volley ... of just heavy booms in the distance," continuing for several minutes.

It's not clear whether the explosions were Russian or Ukrainian strikes, she said.

Fighting is continuing on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, with the city's administration saying areas to the north remain the most dangerous, including the suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel, as well as the district of Vyshorod further north of Kyiv. Fighting has also escalated in Brovary, across the Dnieper River, east of the city.

As Russian forces press in from several directions, "the worry becomes ... that the intention is to fully surround the city, to starve the city, to bombard the city and then ultimately to try to overthrow (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky's government," Ward said. 

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told CNN the city currently only has resources — including food and medical supplies — for one to two weeks.

CNN's Ward added that "Ukrainian forces are everywhere" in Kyiv. "They have dug up defensive positions along all the main thoroughfares leading into the city, they've put tank traps around. This is a heavily fortified city now. And even if Russian forces are enable to encircle it, it will still be an almighty battle for them to get to the heart of it."

8:19 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

UK Defense Ministry: Russian airstrikes have targeted cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Russian air and missile forces have conducted strikes against the western Ukrainian cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk in the past 24 hours, the UK Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update on Friday.

"The staunch resistance of the Ukrainian air defence forces is compelling Russia to rely on 'stand-off' munitions to conduct attacks against targets deep inside Ukraine," the ministry said.

The ministry added that Russian tactical aircraft supporting ground forces are relying on "unguided 'dumb' munitions," which are "relatively inaccurate and indiscriminate and their use significantly increases the likelihood of civilian casualties."

6:38 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Biden detailed new measures to punish Russia in a 49-minute phone call with Zelensky

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Prior to his address on Friday, US President Joe Biden spent 49 minutes on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, detailing the new measures he was going to announce regarding US trade with Russia, two officials familiar with the call tell CNN. 

While most of Biden and Zelensky's calls since the invasion have hovered in the 30- to 40-minute range, this was one was a bit longer as Biden highlighted how the US was moving to suspend normal trade relations with Russia in another effort to punish the Kremlin.

Zelensky tweeted that he gave Biden an "assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population" and they agreed on "further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia."

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

Independent US agency calls on Biden administration to push for Russia's expulsion from Interpol

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks to the press at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2022.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks to the press at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2022. (Nicholas Kamm/POOL/AFP)

An independent US government agency is calling on the Biden administration to push for Russia to be permanently expelled from Interpol — a step further than the suspension the administration has already sought — citing the invasion of Ukraine and previous abuses by Russia, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland joined justice ministers from several allied countries to demand that Interpol immediately suspend Russia from accessing its systems, according to Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley.  

Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, is a global agency which facilitates police across its 195 member countries to collaborate on criminal investigations. Interpol issues what are known as Red Notices to request the location and arrest of an individual pending their extradition.

Friday’s letter from the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe commended the steps the US has taken so far, but added that the administration should call for the permanent suspension of Russia.

“We urge you to use the U.S. position in Interpol (and in particular Interpol's Executive Committee and its Advisory Group on Financial Matters) to make it clear that any failure to act against Russia's abuse of lnterpol will have grave consequences for the U.S. contribution to Interpol's budget and Interpol's legal immunities in the United States,” the letter, directed to Garland and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reads.

The commission — also known as the US Helsinki Commission — was created by Congress in 1976 with a focus on human rights, military security, and economic cooperation. It is led by Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Steve Cohen.

If Russia is suspended from Interpol, it would bar the country from continuing to participate and therefore put in requests for Red Notices, but it would not remove Red Notices that are already in the system, said Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an expert in Interpol.

6:33 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Core part of Kharkiv nuclear lab not damaged following shelling, institute director says

From CNN’s Philip Wang

A man walks past a damaged part of the National Science Center, Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology on Friday.
A man walks past a damaged part of the National Science Center, Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology on Friday. (Oleksandr Lapshyn/Reuters)

The core part of a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv has not been damaged following a relentless round of shelling, the head of the science institute said on Friday in an interview with Reuters.

The outside of the institute has been hit with “major destruction” by several shells launched from the Russian side, said Mykola Shulga, general of the National Science Center Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.

The facility is currently in working condition and safe, Shugla said, adding a warning that if the nuclear fuel tank were to become physically damaged, it could leak radioactive elements and severely harm the environment. 

"The facility, in working condition, doesn't present any danger whatsoever. However, if there is physical damage, nuclear fuel leak is possible, [with] radioactive elements escaping outside. This obviously would be a huge, huge problem for the environment. In other words, what would happen would be comparable to a similar situation at any nuclear power station," Shugla told Reuters.

There are 37 nuclear fuel cells that have been loaded into the core facility, according to Shulga. The institute was about to start working on the industrial utilization of the reactor.

This comes as CNN reported on Thursday that emergency services in Kharkiv were tackling a fire near the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.

5:53 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

It's Saturday in Kyiv. Catch up on the developments in Ukraine.

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Russian forces expanded their offensive to the west of Ukraine for the first time on Friday. Here's what you need to know about the advancements Russian forces have made in Ukraine and the areas that have been newly impacted.

Where Russian forces have advanced: There's growing evidence that the town of Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine has fallen to Russian forces and their allies in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. The city of Kherson appears to have been captured accrording to US defense intelligence.

The cities of Kyiv, Kharkhiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy continue to experience Russian onslaught and are under pressure.

Where recent attacks have happened, according to Ukrainian authorities: Major cities — including Dnipro and Lutsk — were struck Friday, Ukrainian officials said, with fatalities reported.

  • There was substantial damage to the airport at Lutsk in northwestern Ukraine, which is only about 70 miles (about 112 kilometers) from the Polish border.
  • The governor of the Volyn region said four missiles had been fired from a Russian bomber and two people were killed.
  • The military airfield at Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine was struck by missiles.
  • A missile strike on the outskirts of Dnipro killed one civilian and damaged a primary school building, apartment buildings and a shoe factory.
  • There were also overnight airstrikes in the Brovary district just east of Kyiv and a missile strike in the town of Baryshivka, some 45 miles (about 72 kilometers) east of the capital.
  • A soccer stadium and library in Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, have been badly damaged by an airstrike.

An update on the more than 40-miles-long Russian convoy: The convoy that had sat for nearly two weeks outside Kyiv has now largely dispersed, according to Maxar satellite imagery from Thursday. The forces appear to be regrouping.

New actions against Russia by the United States: US President Joe Biden announced that the US, along with the G7 and EU, will call for revoking "most favored nation" status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the US. Additionally, he said Russian imports of seafood, vodka and diamonds will be banned. Meanwhile, the G7 is also adding sanctions to more Russian oligarchs and their families as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

Russia says it has received applications from foreigners asking to join fight: The Kremlin has said volunteers from the "Middle East and Syria" can be sent to fight for Russia in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, claiming that over 16,000 applications have been received from abroad. The US has not seen the “actual arrival” of foreign fighters from the Middle East to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, but it does believe that Russia is moving in the direction of recruiting and using foreign fighters.

Refugee numbers keep climbing: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday that the number of people who have fled from Ukraine has now hit 2.5 million.

5:18 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry calls "abduction" of Melitopol mayor a "war crime"

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry published a strongly-worded statement on Facebook, calling the detention of the mayor of Melitopol by armed men a "war crime."

CNN has previously reported that the 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 Fedorov had committed terrorism offenses and was under investigation.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called Fedorov's detention an "abduction," saying it is one of the many "gross violations of norms and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as other human rights violations by the Russian military."

The Foreign Ministry said that the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols prohibit civilian hostages like Fedorov from being taken.

"We call on the international community to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people," the statement said. 

"The fact of the abduction of the Mayor of Melitopol, along with hundreds of other facts of war crimes by Russian occupiers on the Ukrainian soil, are being carefully documented by law enforcement agencies. The perpetrators of this and other crimes will be brought to the strictest responsibility," the post concluded.

You can read The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's Facebook post — including an English translation — below:

5:02 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

"No-fly zone" and "cluster bombs": Here are some of the terms you might hear as we cover the Ukraine invasion

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has devastated the country, killing hundreds of civilians, sparking a humanitarian disaster, and resulting in a wave of sanctions from the West.

The remains of a cluster bomb rocket and other ordnance are collected as Ukraine Army troops dig in at frontline trench positions east of the strategic port city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 10, 2022.
The remains of a cluster bomb rocket and other ordnance are collected as Ukraine Army troops dig in at frontline trench positions east of the strategic port city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 10, 2022. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

Following the constant flow of developments can be confusing and overwhelming.

As the war in Ukraine continues, here's a guide to some of the terms you may have heard or seen: What they mean, and why they matter.

No-fly zone

A no-fly zone is an area where certain aircraft cannot fly for any number of reasons. In the context of this invasion, it would likely mean a zone where Russian planes are not allowed to fly, in order to prevent them from carrying out airstrikes on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged NATO to institute a no-fly zone, but NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that it is not an option being considered by the alliance.

Shelling

Russia has relied heavily on shelling key Ukrainian cities and towns as it seeks to seize control of locations in the country.

Shelling refers to artillery fire from large guns and has been used against administrative and residential buildings. Dozens of deaths as a result of Russian shelling have been reported by Ukrainian emergency services.

Cluster and "vacuum" bombs

NATO's Stoltenberg has accused Russia of using cluster bombs as part of its attacks on Ukrainian cities. These are bombs that not only deliver an initial explosion on impact, but also contain multiple smaller bombs that spread over a wide area. They are largely condemned by the international community due to the risk of civilian casualties when they are used in populated areas.

To learn more about key terms relevant to the invasion of Ukraine, read here.

7:23 p.m. ET, March 11, 2022

WHO officials warn "certainly there'll be a rise in Covid-19" cases tied to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Ellie Kaufman

As Russia continues attacks in Ukraine, global health leaders warn that "certainly there'll be a rise in Covid-19."

Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization's technical lead on Covid-19 speaks during a recent interview.
Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization's technical lead on Covid-19 speaks during a recent interview. (Richard Juilliart/AFP/Getty Images)

Some activists in the region already have seen a spread of the disease.

"Some of our volunteers got infected with Covid while helping manage refugees at the border or refugee centers. And because in both Moldova and Ukraine the vax rate is so low, the pandemic is still on," Constanta Dohotaru, an activist involved in the refugee crisis in Moldova and working closely with the Moldovan government, told CNN.

The Covid-19 vaccination rate in Moldova is around 29% and in Ukraine it is about 34%, according to Our World In Data.

In a news briefing Wednesday, officials at the World Health Organization also said that as the pandemic continues, Russia's invasion will impact the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

"Unfortunately, this virus will take opportunities to continue to spread. We, as an organization, recognize that countries are in very different situations, they’re facing different challenges. There’s a lot of movement and refugees associated with this crisis," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, said Wednesday.

Van Kerkhove added that WHO will work with countries receiving refugees to ensure that Covid-19 testing and vaccinations continue. It is estimated that more than 2 million people have fled war-torn Ukraine, with most going to Poland.

In a Twitter post Thursday, WHO described the situation as "the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe for more than 75 years" and noted that it "is working closely with health authorities on meeting refugee needs," and supporting Ukraine’s health system.

"Certainly, there’ll be a rise in Covid-19 within the population within Ukraine, without a doubt, because — not testing, without access to treatment, with vaccinations stopped and there's already low vaccination. I think about 34% or 35% vaccination rate before the conflict," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said in Wednesday's briefing. 

"So, there are many people who still remain vulnerable to infection," Ryan said, but he added that the world should be careful not to perpetuate harmful prejudices and stereotypes around refugees and Covid-19.

"Let us be very careful with our rhetoric because this always arises, that in some way people fleeing the horrors of war are going to bring stuff with them," Ryan said in part. "Europe has plenty Covid as it stands, and it has got to deal with that — and Ukrainian refugees are not going to change the dial on that."