April 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Matias Grez, Amy Woodyatt, Travis Caldwell, Jessie Yeung, Ivana Kottasová, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Jason Kurtz, CNN

Updated 8:06 a.m. ET, April 12, 2022
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10:03 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

US has not confirmed use of chemical weapons, but had previously warned Ukrainians of the possibility

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States has not confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol, but had previously warned the Ukrainians that Russia could use chemical agents in the southeastern Ukrainian city, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN Monday.

“Before today, there was credible information available to us that the Russians may have been preparing to use agents, chemical agents, potentially tear gas mixed with other agents, as part of an effort to weaken, to incapacitate the Ukrainian military and civilian elements that are entrenched in Mariupol, using these agents as part of an effort to weaken those defenses,” Price said.

“We shared that information with our Ukrainian partners. We are going to be in direct conversations with them to try and determine what exactly has transpired here, and as soon as we gain additional fidelity, we’ll be in a better position to say what this was or what this may have been,” he said.

Some context: After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, the Ukrainian President warned the possibility should be taken seriously, though a Mariupol official said any such attack remained unconfirmed.

The UK has said it is also working with partners to investigate the reports.

CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol. CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.

9:42 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Ukraine's prosecutor general says office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

The prosecutor general of Ukraine said Monday that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings every day.

Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” Iryna Venediktova said Ukraine has identified more than 500 suspects in the sprawling probe, including Russian politicians, military personnel and propaganda agents “who wanted this war, who started this war and who continued this war.”

“We want to prosecute these war criminals in our Ukrainian courts, named by Ukraine,” Venediktova said, while acknowledging the role of the International Criminal Court.

Her comments come as shocking atrocities in Ukraine, allegedly at the hands of Russian forces, have amplified calls to pursue war crimes charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. After images of at least 20 bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, Ukraine, emerged earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an end to Russian “war crimes.”

Russia has denied any involvement in the incident, claiming — without evidence — that the atrocities in Bucha were staged, and part of a “planned media campaign.” But witnesses who have spoken to CNN said the carnage in the town began weeks ago, when it was occupied by Russian forces, and a video depicts Russian forces appearing to indiscriminately fire at a civilian.

Read more:

9:24 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Brittney Griner can receive letters and see her representative in Russia twice per week, ESPN reports

Brittney Griner, an American basketball player detained in Russia, has been able to see her representative in the country twice a week and is able to receive correspondence, ESPN reported on Monday.

Ahead of the WNBA draft on Monday, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert reaffirmed the league's commitment to bringing Griner home.

"Obviously we're in a complex geopolitical situation with Russia-Ukraine, and so this continues to be complex,” Engelbert said at a news conference Monday.
“Obviously, we're getting a ton of support from the government, from specialists. Her representation are able to visit with Brittney, we know she's safe, but we want to get her home. It's just a very complex situation right now, and we're following the advice. There's not a day that goes by that we're not talking to someone who has views on what we've been doing and how we're moving forward. I know we're all frustrated, but we do need to be patient.”

ESPN reports that the WNBA and Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, are in discussions about the player and she will not be suspended this year. ESPN reports Griner will receive her full pay from the Mercury and there is a possibility the franchise will be given roster relief due to her situation.

Read more about Griner's detention in Russia:

8:29 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Reports of chemical attack on Mariupol unconfirmed but should be taken seriously, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Jen Deaton

After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, the Ukrainian President warned the possibility should be taken seriously, though a Mariupol official said any such attack remained unconfirmed.

In his nightly address Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia might be preparing to escalate attacks on the besieged southeastern city.

"Today, the occupiers issued a new statement, which indicates that they are preparing a new stage of terror against Ukraine and our defenders. One of the occupiers' spokesmen said that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible," Zelensky said.

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, posted on Telegram shortly before Zelensky’s address that information about a possible chemical attack "is not yet confirmed," adding, "details and clarifications later." 

"In any case, the announcement of the use of chemical weapons made by the occupier is not so simple," Andryushchenko said. "It is possible that the discharge of an unknown chemical is a test for the reaction in general. One scenario. But we are waiting for official information from the military."

UK investigates: Also on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that she was working “urgently with partners” to investigate the reports of a possible chemical attack in Mariupol.

“Reports that Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on the people of Mariupol. We are working urgently with partners to verify details. Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account," Truss wrote. 

CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol.  

CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.

8:32 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Ukrainian officials claim strike on Russian weapons depot in Luhansk region

From CNN's Celine Alkhaldi

Destruction of the weapons depot is seen in this screengrab taken from video.
Destruction of the weapons depot is seen in this screengrab taken from video. (from Telegram)

Ukrainian officials claim to have destroyed a Russian weapons depot in Novoaidar, Luhansk region.

CNN has geolocated a video and images shared to social media that appear to show the aftermath of that attack.

On Monday, Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said in a Facebook post that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a Russian "ammunition warehouse" near a Russian settlement in Luhansk.  

In a video shared by Russian state media RIA Novosti, Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) People’s Militia officer Roman Ivanov said the Ukrainian strikes on Novoaidar destroyed “more than 20 homes, along with a warehouse filled with chemical fertilizers.”

Haidai denied Russian claims that Ukrainians targeted residential buildings.

Burned out shells and rockets are seen scattered all over the ground in the video and images, and an agricultural equipment store is spotted in the distance.

7:09 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Pentagon concerned about potential Russian use of riot control agents in Ukraine, official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The Pentagon cannot confirm reports that Russian forces have used what may be a chemical weapon in Mariupol, Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Monday, but officials remain concerned about the potential Russian use of riot control agents.

The Pentagon is aware of the reports and will monitor the situation closely, Kirby said.

“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” Kirby said.

8:27 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

CNN tours Ukrainian villages decimated by Russian troops

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

(CNN)
(CNN)

In Ukrainian villages east of the capital of Kyiv where Russian forces have withdrawn, residents begin to slowly emerge from hiding and the new reality they’re facing is nothing short of devastating.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward toured a pair of villages that were occupied by Russians for more than a month. She reported that they found "endless accounts of horror, executions, arbitrary detentions and more."

One local school was taken over by Vladimir Putin’s invading army, used as a base, and left in shambles after being looted and ransacked by the troops.

Bloodstains speckle the main entrance, where the school’s principal is left to wonder how such an atrocity came to be.

“We are for education. Education is the future. Our students,” the woman told Ward. “It's such a shame that our occupiers didn't understand this. Why steal everything? This is a school.”

One chalkboard in a classroom Ward visited that was formerly occupied by Russians said, "Forgive us, we didn't want this war."

Nearby, a local cemetery houses the bodies of six Ukrainian men who authorities say were executed on the first day the Russians arrived.

“We dug very fast so they wouldn't shoot us,” a woman told CNN. “But there was shooting over there and heavy shelling.”

A pair of brothers are among the dead, Igor and Oleg. Their mother survived, but now mourns.

“They were very good boys,” she said. “How I want to see them again.”

One Ukrainian mother told Ward her daughter was taken on March 25. More than two weeks later she doesn’t know where she is, or whether she survived the Russians' invasion.

“They said they found information on her phone about their forces,” the mother told Ward. “They told me she was in a warm house. That she was working with them and she would be home soon.”

But as Ward revealed, “Victoria never came home.”

Amid the risk of certain death, the Ukrainian residents clung to one another, and their sense of pride, with one woman finding solace among blue and yellow stripes, Ward reported.

“We kept it, we kept it,” the woman tells Ward, showing the Ukrainian flag given to her husband for his military service. “We hid it.”

Now the flag can come out of hiding, as Russian forces have retreated. The village is decimated, but for the moment, it's once again free.

Watch Ward's on the ground reporting:

6:21 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

Jewish families in Poland open their homes to Ukrainian refugees

From CNN's Kyung Lah

Jan Gebert represents one of the many Jewish volunteers in Warsaw, Poland, assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country.

Gebert has opened his one bedroom apartment to host refugees. Since the start of the war, he's hosted three families.

"I just felt it's a part of me and I don't know if it's faith or tradition, it's just part of me. I have to do," he told CNN's Kyung Lah.

Gebert lives not too far from where his Jewish great-grandparents lived before the Holocaust. His great-grandmother was separated from her husband and child during the war. She was executed by Nazis at the Treblinka death camp. Gebert's great-grandfather was sheltered by a non-Jewish family.

His family home now serves as a shelter for refugees.

"We are alive because someone helped us. And thanks to that I can help other people," Gerbet said.

"It's our time to do what we needed to have done for us 80 years ago," Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Warsaw, said. Lah reports that the Jewish community in Warsaw has "plunged in" to help with the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, offering everything from child care, housing, to counseling.

Schudrich told Lah that Jewish philanthropies, mostly American, have donated about $100 million to help Ukrainian refugees, regardless of where they are or what their religious affiliation is.

More than 4.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to data from the UN.

Watch Lah's full report here:

6:35 p.m. ET, April 11, 2022

US secretary of state: "India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches" Russia's war in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Monday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Monday. (Michael McCoy/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Standing alongside the Indian ministers for foreign affairs and defense on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a pointed message about supporting Ukraine.

Blinken noted that the United States would continue to call on nations to back Kyiv, “just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow's increasingly brutal actions.”

In remarks at a news conference following the US-India 2+2 Ministerial in Washington, Blinken said, “Russia's war against Ukraine is an attack on Ukraine's people. It's also an attack on that rules-based order that we both adhere to and defend.”

The United States, Blinken said, "will continue to increase our support to the government and people of Ukraine and call on other nations to do the same, just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow's increasingly brutal actions."

Blinken declared that Russia’s war “stands in stark contrast to the vision that the United States and India share for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and noted that Moscow’s actions were having worldwide consequences.

India has continued to purchase Russian oil in the wake of the war in Ukraine and last week abstained in a vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

The US secretary of state also said Monday that “India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches” the Russian war in Ukraine and that the US believes “it is important that all countries, especially those with leverage, press Putin to end the war.”

“We, as a general proposition, are consulting with all of our allies and partners on the consequences of Putin’s war, the atrocities being committed against the people of Ukraine,” Blinken said at the news conference following the US-India 2+2 Ministerial.

Blinken said it was important that “democracies stand together and speak with one voice to defend the values that we share — and we do share, profoundly, the values of freedom, openness, independence, sovereignty, and those values need to apply everywhere.” 

The top US diplomat noted that “India's relationship with Russia has developed over decades, at a time when the United States was not able to be partner to India,” but “times have changed” and the US is “able and willing to be a partner of choice with India.”

“And I would also note that India is providing significant humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, notably medicines which are very necessary and in real demand,” he added.

Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar said that India is “against the conflict” and “for dialogue and diplomacy” and the “urgent cessation of violence.”

“We are prepared to contribute in whatever way to these objectives,” he said.

Blinken said that “when it comes to oil purchases, sanctions, etc, I’d just note that there are carve outs for energy purchases. Of course, we're encouraging countries not to purchase additional energy supplies from Russia.”

“Every country is differently situated, has different needs, requirements, but we're looking to allies and partners not to increase their purchases of Russian energy,” Blinken said.

On oil, Jaishankar said that the world should look to Europe, suggesting that Europe buys more Russian oil than India does.

Blinken said President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “had a very warm and productive conversation,” and “on Russia-Ukraine, they talked about ways of mitigating the profound impact that this is having on global food supplies and prices, commodity markets and working together to achieve that.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who also attended the event, spoke on the importance of the US and India remaining aligned.

"As strategic threats converge, especially following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is more important than ever that” the US and India “stand together to defend our shared values and to preserve the international rules-based order,” Austin said.