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Ukraine recaptures pro-Russian politician Medvedchuk

April 12, 2022

Businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, believed to be a key Kremlin ally in Ukraine, has apparently been detained by Ukrainian authorities after weeks of being on the run.

A mural of a child's face next to a destroyed street in Zhytomyr, Ukraine
The war in Ukraine has now been going on for 47 daysImage: Pascal Bonniere/dpa/picture alliance
  • UNICEF says more than half of Ukraine's children displaced by fighting

  • US, UK probing unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons use

  • Putin described the war in Ukraine as 'noble'

  • Ukraine prepares for major Russian offensive in east

  • Zelenskyy publishes photo of pro-Russian politician in handcuffs

This live updates article is now closed. For the latest on Russia's invasion, please click here.

Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW 'concerned' by unconfirmed reports from Mariupol

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The OPCW was "concerned" by unconfirmed reports that chemical agents might have been used in Mariupol, the city besieged by the Russian forces.

Also, the watchdog has "uninterruptedly been monitoring the situation around declared chemical industrial sites" in Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatist denied using chemical weapons in the east of Ukraine. Separately,  top US diplomat Anthony Blinken the US was "not in a position to confirm anything" regarding the reports, and that Washington was "in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what actually has happened.

Ukraine war: Odesa prepares for the worst

Zelenskyy publishes photo of pro-Russian politician in handcuffs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy published a photo of businessman Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs. Medvedchuk is one of the richest men in Ukraine and is seen as a key Putin ally in Ukraine, having previously served as a chairman of the pro-Kremlin political party Opposition Platform for Life.

The businessman's daughter is Putin's godchild. Ukrainian authorities put Medvedchuk under house arrest last May on suspicion of treason. But this February, officials said Medvedchuk had fled.

The photo shared by Zelenskyy seems to show Medvedchuk wearing a camouflage uniform with Ukrainian markings. The president did not immediately provide details beyond praising Ukraine's intelligence agency SBU and saying the agency had conducted a "special operation."

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed seeing the photo of Medvedchuk but added that the photo's authenticity must be established before the Kremlin can issue an official comment. 

Germany's Scholz should visit Kyiv, says Ukraine's envoy

Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin Andrij Melnyk urged Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz to visit the Eastern European country.

It would be important for Scholz to come to Kyiv and talk to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government,  Melnyk told German broadcaster ProSieben and Sat1.

The leaders should discuss "how to help Ukraine even more considering this extermination war against the Ukrainian nation."

Melnyk also once again asked Germany to send Ukraine heavy weapons despite Germany's Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht recently saying her country could not ship any more weapons from its own stockpiles without jeopardizing Bundeswehr's own defensive capacities.

Germany's Steinmeier says he is not welcome in Kyiv

His comments come after Kyiv snubbed German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier over his alleged pro-Russia course in the past. Before taking on the largely ceremonial position as Germany's head of state, Steinmeier also served as Germany's foreign minister.

Melnyk also told Germany's ARD that Steinmeier had maintained a "spiderweb of contacts with Russia for decades."

Putin: Russia will continue to follow its plan

Russia's President Vladimir Putin restated his claims that the invasion of Ukraine was still on track.

Western analysts believe Russian forces suffered major losses and have been forces to refocus on eastern Ukraine. But Putin said that strikes in "various parts of Ukraine" were only aimed at "creating the conditions for more active operations on Donbass territory."

"I often hear the question: Can this be done faster? It can," he added. "This depends on the intensity of combat operations, and the intensity of combat operations, unfortunately, is linked with losses in one way or another."

He said Russia will work to minimize loses and act "rhythmically, calmly, according to plan" suggested by Russia's military leaders.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly warned that Russia is now preparing a major offensive in the east.

Putin: 'Our officers are taking part in a special military operation in Donbass'

Almost 2,700 people used humanitarian corridors in Ukraine today

Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said 2,671 people have been evacuated to safety on Tuesday. 

Most of the evacuees were from cities and towns in southern Ukraine, Vereshchuk said.

In eastern Ukraine, 328 people were evacuated from the cities of Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Kreminna and Popasna in the Luhansk region, she added.

According to Vereshchuk, columns of buses that were meant to evacuate people from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar, also in the south, are still blocked by Russian forces at a checkpoint.

Marine Le Pen against sanctions on Russian oil and gas

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, set to face off against Emmanuel Macron in the April 24 runoff vote, said she would block EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas.

"I don't want the French to feel the full force of consequences stemming from any decisions to stop the import of oil and gas," she told France Inter radio.

"I am perfectly in favor of all the other sanctions," she added.

EU member states are currently discussing another wave of sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, with some countries pushing for an embargo on Russia's massive energy sector. Others, including Germany, have been pushing back and saying energy imports are crucial to keep the economy running.

Last week, Le Pen's rival Macron called for more sanction on coal and oil following reports of Russian soldiers committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Can trade with Russia go on?

Ukraine claims it thwarted a Russian power grid cyberattack

Ukrainian officials said they were "very lucky" to avert a cyberattack that would leave two million people without electricity.

"The threat was serious, but it was prevented in a timely manner," said top Ukrainian cybersecurity official Victor Zhora.

According to Ukrainian officials, hackers working for Russia's GRU military intelligence service used malware known as Industroyer2 to target a power station. Their alleged goal was to knock out power in Kyiv on Friday afternoon, as people were returning home from work. However, the Ukrainian side was able to prevent power outages.

Zhora did not provide details on how the attack was averted or if any of Ukraine's allies took part in the effort. Separately, the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine thanked Microsoft and the cybersecurity firm ESET for their help in dealing with the attack. The team said that this attack had been planned for at least two weeks.

Mayor of Mariupol ups the death toll estimate

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko has said that, according to the latest estimates, 21,000 civilians have been killed in the port city.

The Ukrainian politician has left Mariupol since the invasion started and relies on sources from the scene. In televised comments on Tuesday, Boychenko said it was tough to calculate the actual number of deaths.

Yesterday, Boychenko told the AP news agency that at least 10,000 civilians have lost their lives and that the death toll might reach 20,000. He also said Russian forces were bringing in mobile crematoriums to dispose of the bodies and hide the real scope of civilian deaths.

The numbers could not be independently verified.

Ukrainians driven underground

Steinmeier says he is not welcome in Kyiv

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during his visit to Warsaw that he had plans to visit Kyiv, but this idea was not accepted by the Ukrainian authorities.

According to Stenimeier, Polish President Andrzej Duda had suggested that they travel to the Ukrainian capital together with the heads of state of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia "to send and set a strong sign of common European solidarity with Ukraine."

German president said that he was ready to visit Ukraine. "But apparently — and I have to take note — that was not wanted in Kyiv," Steinmeier said.

Ukrainian negotiator says Russia puts pressure on the talks

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podoliak said that peace talks between Ukraine and Russia were very hard, but they were continuing at the level of working sub-groups.

Earlier on Tuesday, speaking at a joint press conference with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine were at a dead-end.

According to Podoliak, Russia was trying to put pressure on the talks with its public statements.

'Russia not up to making diplomatic moves'

More than 335,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived to Germany

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the German federal police have identified 335,578 refugees from Ukraine. "The majority are women, children and old people," the Federal Ministry of the Interior said on Twitter. 

The actual number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is likely to be higher because Ukrainians can enter the country without a visa.

The number of Ukrainian students at schools and vocational schools in Germany is also rising.

According to the Conference of Ministers of Education, in the past week, these educational facilities have already taken in 58,225 children and young people. It is estimated that around half of the Ukrainian refugees in Germany are children and young people. 

An infographic illustrating where Ukrainian refugees go from Ukraine

Prominent Putin critic is placed under administrative arrest for 15 days

The court in Moscow placed Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr under administrative arrest for 15 days on charges of disobeying a police officer.

Kara-Murza was detained on Monday near his own house. The activist's lawyer said that the court's decision would be appealed. Kara-Murza pleaded not guilty.

Kara-Murza has frequently criticized Russia's assault on Ukraine. He received medical care for poisoning symptoms in 2015 and 2017. The activist nearly died of kidney failure in the first incident.  

Mayor of Bucha said 403 civilians found dead so far

Anatoliy Fedoruk, the mayor of the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, said authorities so far had found 403 bodies of people they say were killed by Russian forces during their weeks-long occupation of the area.

Russia is accused of crimes against civilians after many were left for dead on the street following Russia's withdrawal after a weeks-long occupation of the town.

Civilians in Bucha recount killings

Putin calls war in Ukraine 'noble'

Speaking in Russia's far east, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "goals are absolutely clear and noble," when it comes to his decision to invade Ukraine.

The Russian leader said Western economic sanctions were a "'blitzkrieg' that our ill-wishers were counting on," but said nonetheless, "Our financial system and industry are working rhythmically."

Putin called the war in Ukraine "a tragedy," but said, "There was simply no choice, the only question was when it would start. That's all."

He also denied that Russian forces were engaged in crimes against civilians in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb where several people were found dead on the street when Russian forces withdrew.

Fact-check: What really happened in Bucha?

World Bank has new $1.5 billion support package for Ukraine

World Bank President David Malpass said the bank is preparing a new $1.5 billion support package for war-torn Ukraine.

The aid package includes a $1 billion payment from the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries.

Speaking in Warsaw, Malpass said the package was made possible by approval Monday of $1 billion in International Development Association aid.

Malpass said the bank was providing critical services, including paying the wages of hospital workers, pensions and social programs.

Last month, the World Bank provided $923 million to Ukraine.

Ukraine war affecting developing world aid

Martin Frick, the Germany director of the World Food Program, told DW, "We have so many food-insecure countries that are depending on imports from Ukraine and also Russia, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region, but also in sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Africa."

Frick added, "Among the countries that are most dependent are, for example, Lebanon or Egypt or Libya."

Ukraine says 6 found shot dead in basement near Kyiv

Ukraine's prosecutor general said six people had been found shot dead in a basement in Shevchenkove, near Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

In a statement, the prosecutor general said those found "during an inspection of a private residence" had "gunshot wounds."

Zelenskyy urges EU to further cut Russian gas and oil

Addressing Lithuania's parliament on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that some European Union countries cannot decide on limiting their Russian energy use while war is raging in Ukraine.

"The European Union is discussing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia... And it is still unknown whether oil will be sanctioned. Even after the massacres in Bucha and other cities. Even knowing about the deportations, even watching the deliberate destruction of peaceful cities with Russian missiles and air bombs, some EU countries cannot decide when they at least limit the purchase of Russian energy," Zelenskyy said.

The president called on EU countries to set a deadline for ending imports of Russian gas or at least limit consumption of Russian gas and oil. "Only in this way will the Russian leadership come to the conclusion that real peace must be sought, that war is a catastrophe, first of all, for them," Zelenskyy said.

According to him, "oil must be added to the sixth package, Russian banks must be sanctioned, but all of them."

Addressing the Lithuanian lawmakers, Zelenskyy also said that Ukrainians would long remember the efforts and sincerity of Lithuanians who supported Ukraine in its war with Russia. "You were the first to come to Ukraine's aid," he said, seemingly in part referring to Lithuania cutting all Russian energy purchases earlier this month.

UN demands independent investigation into rape as a weapon of war

"We are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence [in Ukraine]. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability," the UN executive director for women, Sima Bahous, told a UN Security Council briefing.

She added, "The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags."

Lyudmila Deniova, the human rights commissioner in Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, said Russian soldiers had raped minors. She called on the UN to investigate.

Kryvyi Rih Olexander Vilkul, the head of Ukraine's military administration, also said Ukrainian women had been raped and victims in the Kherson region included a 16-year-old pregnant young woman and a 78-year-old woman.

A Human Rights Watch report said a 31-year-old woman had been raped several times by a soldier in the Kharkiv region. Amnesty International reported a case of a woman being raped several times after her husband was killed.

How would a chemical weapons attack be verified?

Ukraine investigating claims of chemical weapons use

Ukraine is investigating reports that a drone dropped chemical weapons on Ukrainian forces in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, under siege for weeks, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Tuesday.

Malyar said, "There is a theory that these could be phosphorous munitions. Official information will come later."

Russian-backed proxy forces in the semi-occupied Donetsk region have denied using chemical weapons, though the regional forces' spokesman threatened to do so the day before on Russian state television.

Zelenskyy warns Russia could use chemical weapons

Russian economy to contract by more than 10% in 2022

Alexei Kudrin, the former finance minister of Russia who serves now as the head of the Audit Chamber, said the Russian economy will contract by more than 10% in 2022, according to Russian state-run news agency RIA. 

The anticipated economic downturn, a result of sanctions, would be the biggest drop in Russia's gross domestic product since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Previous forecasts saw the possibility for 3% growth in 2022 after Russia expanded by 4.7% last year.

Russia is facing soaring inflation and capital flight as the country faces a possible debt default.

Putin and Lukashenko meet in Russia's east for Space Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko met in Blagoveshchensk where they visited the Vostochny Cosmodrome to mark "Space Day."

According to Russian state-run news outlet Tass, during the visit to the cosmodrome, Putin said, "A clash with the anti-Russian forces bred in Ukraine was inevitable, it was only a matter of time."

He added, "Today, our officers are participating in a special military operation in the Donbas, in Ukraine. They provide assistance to the people's republics of Donbas. They act courageously, competently, efficiently and effectively, they use the most modern types of weapons with unique, unparalleled characteristics."

Space Day is the anniversary of when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to complete one orbit around the earth in 1961.

Russian-backed separatists deny chemical weapons use

Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the Russian-backed separatists that have seized control of Donetsk, denied allegations that chemical weapons had been used against Ukrainian troops.

Basurin told Russian state-run Interfax that Moscow-backed proxy forces "haven't used. Any chemical weapons."

Unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons used in Mariupol

On Russian state television Monday, Basurin said separatists will use "chemical troops" against Ukrainian forces at a giant steel factory in Mariupol "to smoke them out of there."

Ukrainian forces in Mariupol claimed a drone had dropped a poisonous substance.

Nokia announces exit from Russian market

Finnish company Nokia has announced it will pull out of the Russian market. On Monday, rival Ericsson decided to suspend its operations in Russia indefinitely.

Hundreds of mostly Western companies have announced they are suspending business in Russia or will depart the Russian market following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24. 

The telecoms sector is exempt from some sanctions on humanitarian or similar grounds, though Nokia said quitting Russia was its only choice.

In an interview, CEO Pekka Lundmark said, " We just simply do not see any possibilities to continue in the country under the current circumstances."

Nokia said it halted deliveries to Russia in early March and "can now announce that we will exit the Russian market."

In 2021, Russia accounted for less than 2% of Nokia's net sales.

Russian forces prepare offensive in eastern Ukraine

Russian troops aim to seize the southeastern port city of Mariupol, home to 400,000, on Tuesday. Operationally, Russia hopes to connect occupied Crimea with Moscow-backed separatist territories in Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Ukraine force's General Staff said Tuesday morning that Russia will seek to also capture Popasna, a small town in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine and launch an attack on the town of Kurakhove from there. Russian forces are also currently amassing in the Belgorod and Voronezh regions of Russia on Ukraine's border.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian forces are "surrounded and blocked," Zelenskyy's advisor Myhaylo Podolyak said. However, Ukraine's army said, "the defense of Mariupol continues."

Russia says it destroyed ammunition depots

Russia's Ministry of Defense said its missiles destroyed ammunition depots in the Khmelnytskyi and Kyiv regions.

Russian forces struck an ammunition depot and airplane hangar at the Starokostiantyniv airbase in Khmelnytskyi region and an ammunition depot near the town of Havrylivka north of Kyiv, the ministry said on Tuesday.

Nine humanitarian corridors open in eastern Ukraine

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, said nine humanitarian corridors are open Tuesday for civilians, including from Mariupol which has been under siege for weeks.

In a statement, Vereshchuk said five of the nine corridors were from Luhansk in the country's east, which officials have said is under heavy shelling.

WTO gives bleak outlook

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has projected world trade growth could almost halve this year. 

What will happen to Ukraine's harvest?

The WTO said the war was a "severe blow" to the global economy which in the longer term could even mean a disintegration of the world's economy into separate blocs.

Japan imposes new sanctions

Japan is freezing the assets of 398 Russian figures, after the policy was endorsed by the cabinet.

The individuals targeted by the sanctions reportedly include Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughters and the wife of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Japan also intends to reduce its coal imports from Russia as a step towards a complete Russian coal embargo in the future.

Seven bodies found in Borodyanka, near Kyiv

Ukraine's state emergencies service said Monday that authorities discovered the bodies of seven people who died in the town of Borodyanka, which lies near Kyiv. The bodies were found under the rubble of two destroyed high-rise apartment buildings.

Hundreds of rescue workers are looking for missing citizens in the region after Russian forces pulled out of areas near the capital last month. The search is still ongoing. 

UN: Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine's children displaced

The UN's children agency UNICEF said nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes since the beginning of Russia's attack in late February. 

UNICEF Director for Emergency Operations Manuel Fontaine said 4.8 million of Ukraine's 7.5 million children have been displaced. He also said that in 31 years of humanitarian work, he had never seen such a rapid relocation of so many young people.

WFP: Ukraine war has sent a shock wave and the poor are its victims

"They have been forced to leave everything behind — their homes, their schools and, often, their family members," he told the UN Security Council. "I have heard stories of the desperate steps parents are taking to get their children to safety, and children saddened that they are unable to get back to school." 

US, UK working to investigate unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons use

The US and UK said they are working urgently to investigate unverified reports that Russia used chemical weapons in the southern city of Mariupol.  

Ukrainian MP Ivanna Klympush tweeted that an "unknown substance" had been used in the city, which causes respiratory failure and movement disorders.

"We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in response. "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."   

"We are working urgently with partners to verify details,' UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said of the reports. "Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account."    

However, Eliot Higgins, who runs the investigative agency Bellingcat with a history both of uncovering Russian involvement in major incidents and of demonstrating the use of chemical weapons in Syria, warned against jumping to conclusions. He quoted scientist Carl Sagan's maxim, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a Monday evening address that the Russian military could use chemical weapons, but did not say that they have already done so during the invasion.

Thousands flee Ukraine southeast

Prominent Putin critic detained by police in Moscow

Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. has been taken into police custody in Moscow, his lawyer said Monday. 

The reasons for his arrest have not been made clear. Kara-Murza, a journalist, has frequently criticized Russia's assault on Ukraine. 

Kara-Murza received medical care for poisoning symptoms in 2015 and 2017. He nearly died of kidney failure in the first incident.   

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Monday

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged additional weapons be sent to Ukraine in light of "horrific images" coming out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and in other parts of the country. German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said it is willing to supply used tanks to Ukraine.

During an address to South Korean lawmakers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the southern city of Mariupol "has been destroyed" amid constant siege by Russian troops. 

Mariupol's mayor told AP news agency that at least 10,000 civilians in the city have been killed in the siege so far. 

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Nehammer called the hour-long talk with Putin "very direct, open and tough." 

'The war must end for the people in Ukraine'

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell met with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Borrell said the bloc would provide financial assistance and help to the ICC in its investigation of war crimes in Ukraine.

Borrell also met with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. He said the bloc would continue talks on sanctioning Russia's lucrative oil and gas exports, but added that "no decision has been made today."   

Journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who boycotted the war during a Russian state-run news broadcast, will now work for Germany's Die Welt newspaper.    

A Russian parliamentary speaker suggested dissenters such as Osvyannikova should lose their citizenship. 

France said it would expel "six Russian agents under diplomatic cover." The French Foreign ministry said it uncovered a "clandestine operation carried out by the Russian intelligence services on our territory."   

Warsaw seized an abandoned Russian diplomatic compound and said it would be made available to the Ukrainian community. 

ar, jsi, wd/msh, aw (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)