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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11:44 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

All of Ukraine is "a front line," Zelensky says, adding some "small towns just don’t exist anymore"

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva and Ivana Kottasová in Lviv and Eleanor Pickston in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 12.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 12. (Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is more united than ever as it faces the Russian invasion.

“This war, a difficult war, has truly united our nation. You are asking me how’s the situation on the front line … there’s a front line everywhere,” Zelensky said in a briefing on Saturday.

“A few small towns just don’t exist anymore. And this is a tragedy. They are just gone. And people are also gone. They are gone forever. So we are all on the front line. The people who died there, they died among us,” he said.

Zelensky said Ukraine has lost approximately 1,300 troops as of Saturday.

He added that negotiations to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “must begin with a ceasefire."

"Our diplomats are working on the details of the agenda of the possible meeting of Ukrainian and Russian delegations," he said. "I would like this to happen. So we can actually, not just on words, start the process of settlement, peace and the end of war."

“This is how the end to war starts in a civilized world,” he said.

Zelensky said that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have begun to talk rather than "exchange ultimatums” and that he is “pleased” with signals from the Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian president said he was hoping diplomacy could bring peace, saying there was “a signal” coming from the Russian side about being ready to negotiate, although he gave no details on what this signal was.

Zelensky emphasized that Western partners need to be more involved in discussions and even provide their own security guarantees to Ukraine, as Ukraine will “never be able to trust Russia after such a bloody war.”

He hit out at NATO nations for its reluctance to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying that the members “lack the courage to come together for Ukraine” and that there is “no agreed position” on whether Ukraine can join the alliance. Zelensky said his country is grateful for the bilateral support Ukraine has received from certain NATO countries but added that his country is “suffering now.”

3:00 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

White House directs additional $200 million drawdown for defense services to Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd and Jasmine Wright 

In a memorandum Saturday, US President Joe Biden delegated Secretary of State Antony Blinken to direct the drawdown of $200 million in defense articles and services, including military education and training, for Ukraine. 

Per the Department of Defense, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) allows a president to authorize the “disposition of United States property or services,” a drawdown, to foreign nations without legislative authority or budgetary appropriations, which is typically deployed in case of an emergency in a foreign country or region. 

Under such circumstances, an “ad hoc interagency process” including representatives from the National Security Council, Department of Defense and State Department “determines which existing statutory authority applies to the situation and identifies which articles and services should be provided” — in this case, education and training for Ukrainian military forces.

Per a White House official, today’s announcement brings the total amount of security assistance provided to Ukraine to $1.2 billion in the past year. Earlier this month, the administration authorized a $350 million drawdown package, which another official told reporters constitutes “the largest presidential drawdown package in history.”

An administration official said the $200 million drawdown will provide “immediate military assistance to Ukraine.”

This will include “anti-armor, anti-aircraft systems, and small arms in support of Ukraine’s front line defenders facing down Russia’s unprovoked attack,” the official said.

CNN's Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

11:12 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Ukrainian officials accuse Russians of planning a referendum for "independence" in southern region

From CNN's Paul Murphy, Tim Lister and Julia Kesa

A senior Ukrainian official in the southern region of Kherson, which is now under Russian occupation, has said that the Russians are pressing the regional council to agree to a referendum on the area's "independence" from Ukraine.

Serhiy Khlan, a deputy of the Kherson regional council, said "the occupiers are preparing a referendum on the creation of the People's Republic of Kherson."

He said local deputies were being called to ask if they are ready for "cooperation."

"I flatly refused to co-operate with them," Khlan said.
"The creation of the People's Republic of Kherson will turn our region into a hopeless hole without life and future."

He urged deputies to refuse to cooperate.

After Russian-backed separatists took control in 2014 of parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, people's republics were declared in both areas. 

There's been no word from the Russian side about any referendum plans.

11:42 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Former Ukrainian president calls Putin "war criminal," says Ukraine will keep fighting

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks with CNN on Saturday.
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks with CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" and said Ukrainian forces will not give up as Russian troops are now estimated to be about 15 miles away from Kyiv.

"Please don't trust Putin, please don't trust Russia. I think Putin is a war criminal. ... He is a mad person," Poroshenko told CNN while stationed with Ukrainian forces in the capital city.

"But we have less and less ammunition and ... we are not giving up. We are not forgive the Putin this type of things and I am absolutely confident that we will fight in every single house, every single street, and every single quarter in Kyiv, in Kharkiv ... in all of the cities would be the hell for the Russian soldiers and would be at the end of the day the hell for Putin," Poroshenko said to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"He underestimate unity of Ukraine and that he cannot blow up, cannot break our unity," he added.

He added that "only five nations support Russia" while "141 nations support Ukraine" — referring to the United Nations General Assembly vote to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine — and said that Ukraine is providing "the end of the Russian Empire." 

Poroshenko also said that Ukraine needs more military supplies from the West.

"We are ready to fight but we do not need your soldiers. But we need everything: military jet, antitank, anti-aircraft missiles, from nutrition to ammunition, everything," Poroshenko said.

Poroshenko also referred to the Kremlin's false, debunked claims about bioweapons in Ukraine as "propaganda."

"Me as a president of Ukraine can guarantee no chemical, no bacteriological weapons; Ukraine don't have, don't have it before and not planning to have it in the future. This is definitely confirmed. This is classical, very important example of the Russian propaganda," he said.

11:32 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Germany registers nearly 123,000 refugees from Ukraine

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Ukrainian refugees queue for food after their arrival at the main train station in Berlin, Germany on March 8.
Ukrainian refugees queue for food after their arrival at the main train station in Berlin, Germany on March 8. (Michael Sohn/AP)

While nearly 123,000 refugees have arrived in Germany from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion late last month, the absence of border checks at the country's border with Poland where most Ukrainian refugees are coming from could mean the number is significantly higher, according to Germany's foreign minister.

Germany is working with its allies to airlift people who have fled Ukraine to countries farther away as Ukraine's neighboring countries struggle to cope with all new arrivals from the war-stricken country, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

Baerbock told reporters in Chisinau alongside her Moldovan counterpart that Germany will take in 2,500 refugees from Ukraine who are currently in Moldova.

According to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian attack on Ukraine.

9:49 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Russia claims ownership of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Ukrainian management says

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

Russian officials have arrived to Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant, demanding to take control of the facility, according to a statement from Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-operated nuclear energy company.

Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Station has been occupied by Russian forces for more than a week now, with Energoatom previously claiming its employees have been forced to work at "gunpoint.”

Energoatom said 11 people from Rosatom, the Russian state atomic energy company, arrived to the plant on Friday and that a representative of the group said the plant now belonged to Rosatom.

“According to a representative of this group, they were sent to assess nuclear and radiation safety after the shelling and seizure of the station, as well as to provide assistance with repairs,” the statement said.
“Another reason for their appearance was voiced as the refusal of the pro-Ukrainian leadership and ZNPP personnel to cooperate with the invaders,” it added.

The statement said that two top-level engineers from Russian nuclear power plants in Balakovo and Rostov were among the 11 Russians that arrived on Friday.

The statement said that all six power units at the plant are in operation, but added that the station management is forced to agree on all technical issues with the Russians.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Saturday that two of the plant’s four high voltage offsite power lines have been damaged, but that the amount of power the plant needs in order to keep operating safely can be provided with one line available.

Rosatom has not commented on the issue.

10:02 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Ukrainian deputy PM calls on leading Taiwanese electronics manufacturer to cease business with Russia

From CNN’s Wayne Chang in Taipei, Taiwan

An ASUS sign is seen inside a shop in Tehran, Iran in 2021.
An ASUS sign is seen inside a shop in Tehran, Iran in 2021. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who is also the minister for digital transformation, called on leading Taiwanese electronics manufacturer ASUS to cease operation and business ties with Russia as its invasion into Ukraine continues, according to an open letter posted on Fedorov’s Twitter on Thursday.   

In the letter addressed to ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih, Fedorov called on the company and its affiliates to “end any relationships and stop doing business” in Russia, as well as cease relationships with Russia-based clients and partners, including “supplying hardware and electronics, providing technical support and services,” until “Russian aggression in Ukraine is fully stopped and fair order is restored.”     

“The IT industry always supports values of responsibility and democracy. We believe, your company also shares them. Now, responsibility is the choice, the choice that defines the future. And now, more than ever, people’s lives depend on your choice,” Federov wrote.   

“Russian tanks and missiles continue killing peaceful Ukrainians! @ASUS, Russians have no moral right to use your brilliant technology! It's for peace, not for war!" Fedrov said in a tweet preceding the letter.

This is the first Taiwanese multinational corporation directly called on by Ukrainian senior officials to cut business ties with Russia in relation to the invasion.  

A review of Fedorov’s Twitter activity shows that since Russia’s invasion, he has publicly called on a range of high-profile companies – including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Visa, Mastercard and Netflix – to ban Russian access to their products and services. 

CNN reached out to ASUS for comment. According to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency, ASUS said earlier on Saturday it “would not respond at this time.” 

Last Tuesday, Taiwan senior officials said it will join moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system, and it will “scrutinize” products exported to Russia in accordance with the Wassenaar Arrangement – which regulates export controls for weapons and dual-use goods and technologies – and won’t permit such exports “unless there are legitimate reasons.”

9:44 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

French and German leaders urge immediate ceasefire in call with Putin

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a joint press conference on February 8, in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a joint press conference on February 8, in Berlin, Germany. (Thibault Camus/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to call an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine during a 75-minute call on Saturday. 

Macron and Scholz also appealed to Putin to “move toward a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” according to German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit.

He said the conversation was part of ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine. The two sides agreed not to disclose any further details of the talks, he added.

Scholz spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prior to the call with Putin about his “assessment of the current situation," and "they agreed to remain in close contact,” according to the spokesperson.   

9:31 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Vatican says it's available for "any kind of mediation" to help stop war in Ukraine

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

People hold a Ukrainian flag in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 6.
People hold a Ukrainian flag in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 6. (Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Vatican is willing to do “everything possible” to assist in reaching a ceasefire and brokering an end to the war in Ukraine. 

The Holy See is “available for any kind of mediation,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, in an interview with Vatican News.

Parolin repeated Pope Francis’ appeal for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine during a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week. 

“I asked for an end to the fighting and for a negotiated solution to the conflict. I insisted on respect for the civilian population and on humanitarian corridors,” Parolin said, and he repeated the Pope’s rejection of Moscow’s claim that the war is a military operation. “Words are important, and to define what is happening in Ukraine as a military operation is to fail to recognize the reality of the facts. We are facing a war, which unfortunately claims many civilian victims, as all wars do.” 

The Pope’s “unprecedented gesture” of visiting the Russian embassy to the Vatican the day after the invasion of Ukraine was a “personal step” in order to “express to the authorities in Moscow his concern about the escalation of the war,” Parolin said. War is “madness,” he said, and appealed to the “consciences” of all people involved to cease fighting immediately.

“We have before our eyes the terrible images coming from Ukraine. The victims among the civilians, women, elderly people, and defenseless children who have paid with their lives for the folly of war. The anguish grows as we see cities with gutted houses, no electricity, sub-zero temperatures, lack of food and medicine, as well as millions of refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing the bombs. Over the last few days, I have come across a group of them, who have arrived in Italy from various parts of Ukraine: blank stares, faces without smiles, endless sadness. ... What is the fault of those young mothers and their children? We would have to possess a heart of stone in order to remain impassive and allow this havoc to continue, as rivers of blood and tears continue to flow. War is a barbarity,” he said.

It is “never too late,” to make peace, he urged. “It is never too late to retrace one's steps and find an agreement.”