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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4:02 p.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Putin still "determined" to achieve his objective in Ukraine, says French presidency source

From CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris

Russian President Vladimir Putin's state of mind remains "determined," according to an Elysee source speaking after a Saturday afternoon phone call among French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Putin.

The source said that since the three leaders last spoke on Thursday, Putin seemed to still be "determined to achieve his objectives in Ukraine," but that the fact that he continues to speak to the French and German leaders suggests that "he does not exclude the possibility of a diplomatic solution altogether.”

A source close to Macron and familiar with the conversation told CNN's Jim Acosta that Macron was disappointed with Putin's "insincerity" during the call, but that the French president remains committed to diplomatic solutions to end the conflict, including coordinated sanctions, banning Russia from activity within the international community, and a “continued firm and denuding dialogue.” 

Earlier Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Macron to press Putin for a ceasefire and to raise the issue of the detention of the mayor of Melitopol. The source said Macron and Scholz had done so.

"We pleaded for an immediate ceasefire," the source said, "and for the start of negotiations on three points: the questions relative to security, those that relate to Ukrainian sovereignty and third, those issues raised by both Ukraine and Russia recently."

Further sanctions are being planned by both the G7 and the European Union, the source said. The fresh European sanctions will be discussed next week in Brussels and will be aimed at sanctioning recent actions by Russian troops in Ukraine, the siege of Mariupol and the advance of Russian troops along the Dniepr River.

Asked about the possibility of European sanctions on Russian energy exports, the source repeated what Macron had said at the leader's summit in Versailles on Friday that nothing was "taboo," with no option off the table.

CNN's Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

11:51 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

UN says there have been more than 1,500 civilian casualties — including 42 children killed — in Ukraine so far

From CNN's Mia Alberti

The United Nations has recorded 1,581 civilian casualties — 579 who were killed and 1,002 injured — since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Among the dead are 42 children, with 54 children among the injured, according to the UN's latest report on civilian casualties. The largest number of victims was recorded in areas still under Ukrainian government control. 

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," according to the UN report.

The organization's human rights office believes the actual number of casualties is "considerably higher especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days" after reports of intense hostilities in regions such as Kharkiv, Mariupol and Donetsk, "where there are allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties."

11:30 a.m. ET, March 12, 2022

Russia sends warning to the US about transferring weapons to Ukraine, according to state media

From CNN’s Maija Ehlinger

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the United States about the potential consequences of transferring weapons to Ukraine, saying convoys with foreign weapons would be "legitimate targets." 

Ryabkov made these comments on Saturday on the state-run Channel One, according to Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. 

"We warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but these are actions that turn the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets," he added. 

Read more about the US and its NATO allies' efforts to assist Ukraine:

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.