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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 12


An armored vehicle of pro-Russian troops is seen in the street during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 11, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of April 12
FIGHTING
* Russian hackers attempted to launch a destructive cyberattack on Ukraine's electricity grid last week, Ukrainian officials and cybersecurity researchers said.
* Ukrainian marines defending Mariupol accused the country’s leadership of abandoning them with no ammunition left, saying that it might be their last day of fighting.
HUMANITARIAN
* Civilians were fleeing from areas of eastern Ukraine ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive.
* More destruction and death has been uncovered in Ukraine’s northernmost region after Russian forces withdrew from the area.
* French forensic experts have arrived in Bucha near Kyiv to help Ukraine authorities establish what happened in the town where hundreds of bodies have been discovered since Russian forces withdrew.
DIPLOMACY
* President Vladimir Putin said peace talks with Ukraine had hit a dead end.
* The EU aims to address rising wheat and fertilizer prices and expected shortages in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East with "food diplomacy" to counter Russia's narrative on the impact of its Ukraine invasion.
* Admiral Rob Bauer, head of NATO’s military committee, said it is the sovereign right of countries such as Sweden and Finland to decide if they want to join the alliance.
SANCTIONS
* Russia can afford to wage a long war in Ukraine despite being hammered by Western sanctions aimed at crippling its ability to sustain the campaign, defence experts and economists say.
* Telecom giant Nokia has announced it is pulling out of Russia, the latest in a flood of foreign companies that are leaving amid punishing Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's war in Ukraine.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the European Union to sanction Russian oil, all banks in the next sanctions package.
ECONOMY
* The Russian government has defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time in more than a century.
MEDIA
* A Colombian citizen in Moscow has been arrested on charges of “spreading false information” about Russia’s armed forces on social media, in one of the first known cases of a foreign national facing possible prosecution under Russia’s new “fake news” law.

For the latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all times EDT

8:45 p.m.: In a video released Tuesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed Russia exchange captives for fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who was detained in Ukraine on Tuesday. "I propose Russia to exchange your guy with our men and women in Russian captivity," Zelenskyy said in his evening national address, according to The Associated Press.

Medvedchuk, both the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, was detained in a special operation carried out by the country's SBU secret service, AP reported.

7:55 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden, during a speech in Iowa, referred to Russia's attack on Ukraine as genocide for the first time, saying Tuesday “your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away." He stood by his remark, later saying, "we’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me."

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Biden’s choice of words in a tweet.

7:20 p.m.: Ukraine said Tuesday that it had captured the Kremlin’s most high-profile ally in Ukraine and if Russia want him to be freed, Russia must release Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Ukraine said Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Opposition Platform - For Life party, had been apprehended. He had escaped house arrest in February after a treason case was opened. Medvedchuk, who says President Vladimir Putin is godfather to his daughter, has denied wrongdoing.

6:49 p.m.: Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov told Izvestia newspaper that Moscow is ready to sell oil and oil products to "friendly countries in any price range," Interfax news agency said on Tuesday.

6:10 p.m.: Every day, more evidence emerges of death and destruction in Ukrainian communities that have been occupied by Russian forces. In the village of Buzova, near Kyiv, a mother was overcome with grief when she found the body of her son in a well. (WARNING: Viewers may find this video disturbing.)

5:25 p.m.: Tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews have fled, but about 80% remain in Ukraine, according to estimates from Chabad, one of the largest Hasidic Jewish organizations in the world. Inside and outside Ukraine, a nation steeped in Jewish history and heritage, people are preparing to celebrate Passover, which begins at sundown on April 15. It’s been a challenge, to say the least, The Associated Press reported.

4:55 p.m.: Russian forces showered a Kharkiv residential neighborhood with anti-tank mines, forcing local people to stay indoors while a specialist demining unit arrived. Ukrainian officials said this was the first time the tactic had been used since Russian forces began attacking the city at the start of their invasion. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

4:00 p.m.: Ukrainians have generally been able to cross the U.S.–Mexico border with little delay, unlike many Latin American migrants who have been stuck for weeks or months. Agence France-Presse has this report.

3:26 p.m.: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, a spokesperson said Tuesday. Chemical weapons production, use and stockpiling is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. The global chemical weapons watchdog also said it had "uninterruptedly been monitoring the situation around declared chemical industrial sites" in Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russia since end February. Russia's defense ministry has not responded to a Reuters request for comment. Russian-backed separatist forces in the east denied using chemical weapons in Mariupol, the Interfax news agency reported.

3:02 p.m.: Members of the U.S. Congress said the Biden administration and its allies will not stand by if chemical weapons were used in the Russian war with Ukraine. Lawmakers monitoring developments during a trip to Poland said Tuesday the U.S. is investigating reports, but determining the nature of the attack in Mariupol could take time. The Democratic lawmakers, all members of the House Intelligence Committee, are bracing for a long war in Ukraine. They said at a press briefing that Congress is looking at next steps in sending additional military and other aid to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

2:42 p.m.: Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine was marked by “the forces of evil” because it was leaving in its wake abominations such as the massacre of civilians, Reuters reported. Francis made his comments to participants at an inter-religious pilgrimage of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine organized by the Israeli-based Elijah Interfaith Institute. “The suffering inflicted on so many frail and defenceless persons; the many civilians massacred and the innocent victims among the young; the desperate plight of women and children. … All this troubles our consciences,” he said in the message read on his behalf.

2:29 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday announced the capture of prominent pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk after what he said was an operation by security forces. In February, Ukrainian authorities said Medvedchuk, the leader of the Opposition Platform - For Life party, had escaped from house arrest. Last year authorities opened a treason case against Medvedchuk, who says Russian President Vladimir Putin is godfather to his daughter, and who denies wrongdoing. The Kyiv Independent posted a photo of the handcuffed Medvedchuk on Twitter.

2:13 p.m.: Boeing has removed 141 airplanes from its backlog of pending orders, many of them because of what it termed geopolitical considerations including restrictions on sales because of sanctions like those imposed on Russia for its war against Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

1:52 p.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden discussed boosting military and economic support to Ukraine on Tuesday as well as the need to end Western reliance on Russian oil and gas, a spokeswoman for Johnson's office said. "The leaders discussed the need to accelerate assistance to Ukraine, including bolstering military and economic support, as the Ukrainian forces prepare for another Russian onslaught in the east of the country," a Downing Street spokeswoman said. "The pair also agreed to continue joint efforts to ratchet up the economic pressure on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and decisively end Western reliance on Russian oil and gas."

1:38 p.m.: Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday promoted a list of films by Ukrainian filmmakers, saying they help “give a better understanding of Ukraine, its history and culture.”

1:17 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday peace talks with Ukraine had hit a dead end, using his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to vow his troops would win and to goad the West for failing to bring Moscow to heel, Reuters reported. In the strongest signal to date that the war will grind on for longer, Putin said Kyiv had derailed peace talks by staging what he said were fake claims of Russian war crimes and by demanding security guarantees to cover the whole of Ukraine. "We have again returned to a dead-end situation for us," Putin told a news briefing during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome 3,450 miles east of Moscow.

1:09 p.m.: Prefabricated housing for 350 internally displaced people has been constructed in Lviv, western Ukraine, as the city struggles to cope with a massive influx of people fleeing fighting in the south and east of the country. Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said some 50,000 of the displaced may stay in the city in the longer term. Anna Brovko has this story for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

12:44 p.m.: French forensic experts have arrived in Bucha near Kyiv to help Ukraine authorities establish what happened in the town where hundreds of bodies have been discovered since Russian forces withdrew, Reuters reported. As the group from the French Gendarmerie's forensic science department looked on, workers in Hazmat suits dug earth from a shallow grave and lifted out a heavy mass wrapped in an orange blanket. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said over the next couple of weeks the French experts would help the Ukrainian authorities establish what happened to the people in Bucha. "We have now a lot of jobs unfortunately with war crimes," Venediktova said at the churchyard site, where locals hastily buried people who died during the town's occupation.

12:32 p.m.: The Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, said on Twitter Tuesday that more atrocities committed against civilians are being discovered in the Kyiv region, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the area.

12:27 p.m.: A United Nations agreement aimed at sparing populated areas from explosive weapons is near completion and is expected to be finalized in early June. Some 200 delegates from more than 65 states participated in negotiations last week at the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva. The new international agreement would oblige states to reduce harm to civilians by limiting the use of explosive weapons including airstrikes, multi-barrel rocket systems, and mortars in cities and towns. As VOA’s Lisa Schlein reports, these weapons are designed for use in open battlefields and have devastating consequences when used in populated areas.

12:06 p.m.: In Ukraine, the governor of the Donetsk region says it is “too early to tell if Russia used chemical weapons in Mariupol,” the Kyiv Independent reported Tuesday. Pavlo Kyrylenko said it is too early to know “what substance was distributed in Mariupol” on Monday, which allegedly injured three people.

11:31 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting corn-rich Iowa Tuesday to announce he will suspend a federal rule preventing the sale of higher ethanol blend gasoline this summer, as his administration tries to tamp down prices at the pump that have spiked during Russia’s war with Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

11:03 a.m.: A prosecutor-general's office says it has arrested a Russian national on suspicion that he allegedly collected information about Poland's military units, their supplies, and staff members at the request of Russian intelligence. The prosecutor’s office in the northern Polish city of Gdansk said on Tuesday that the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, has been placed in pretrial detention for three months. It gave no further details on the case, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

10:51 a.m.: A senior U.S. defense official in his Tuesday briefing said Russia is focusing its airstrikes in Ukraine on the southern city of Mariupol and also in the eastern Donbas region, as a Russian resupply convoy moves 60 kilometers north of Izyum. He said Russia is down to “just above 80 percent” of the combat power it initially deployed against Ukraine. He said the U.S. cannot yet verify claims by Ukraine that Russia may have used chemical weapons or white phosphorus in Mariupol, saying, “It’s certainly something you can’t track easily from the air. These are difficult things to prove when you are not proximate,” but he says the U.S. is taking it seriously given Russia’s history. VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin shared more details on Twitter.

10:20 a.m.: A Colombian citizen in Moscow has been arrested on charges of “spreading false information” about Russia’s armed forces on social media, in one of the first known cases of a foreign national facing possible prosecution under Russia’s new “fake news” law, according to The Guardian. Giraldo Saray Alberto Enrique, 40, is accused of “publicly spreading knowingly false information about the Russian armed forces”. If found guilty, he faces a fine of up to five million rubles and up to 10 years in jail, the Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported, but offered no details of what was written. The Russian parliament last month passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news which can include any mention of Russian forces harming civilians or suffering losses on the battlefield.

10:14 a.m.: Russian Orthodox deacon Dmitry Bayev, who openly criticized President Vladimir Putin and the government for launching an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, has left the country for an unspecified destination amid pressure from security authorities. Bayey told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Tuesday that he left his job at the John the Baptist Church in the city of Kirov a day after Russia launched its attack on Ukraine on February 24. He then placed several posts on the VKontakte social media network calling for an end to the war in Ukraine and for Putin to be brought to justice at an international court.

9:51 a.m.: The EU aims to address rising wheat and fertilizer prices and expected shortages in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East with "food diplomacy" to counter Russia's narrative on the impact of its Ukraine invasion, EU diplomats and officials say. Food insecurity was causing "resentment" in vulnerable countries in these regions, while Moscow was portraying the crisis as a consequence of Western sanctions on Russia, one European Union diplomat said. This posed a potential threat to EU influence, the diplomat said, which it plans to tackle with "food diplomacy and a battle of narratives."

9:36 a.m.: Ukrainians have been arriving in the Czech Republic’s second-largest city, Brno, attracted by courses designed to teach them essentials and skills to safely handle lethal rifles while being able to inflict damage on their enemy, The Associated Press reported. Besides learning to shoot, the courses teach them the basics about guns, movement around a battlefield, and a lesson in providing first aid, something that can save lives if they are mobilized by their embattled country or decide to return home as volunteers to join the Ukrainian army.

9:20 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended the war in Ukraine as a "noble" mission that would achieve its goals as his troops massed for a new offensive amid allegations of rape, brutality against civilians and possible use of chemical weapons, Reuters reported. Putin, speaking in Russia's Far East at a ceremony marking the 61st anniversary of the Soviet Union putting the first man into space, spoke defiantly despite Western abhorrence at his actions and the imposition of wide-ranging international sanctions on his country. Asked by space agency workers if the operation in Ukraine would achieve its goals, Putin said: "Absolutely. I don't have any doubt at all. "Its goals are absolutely clear and noble," Putin said. "We didn't have a choice. It was the right decision."

9:13 a.m.: The World Trade Organization is predicting that trade in goods will grow much less than previously expected this year, The Associated Press reported. The Geneva-based WTO on Tuesday pointed to multiple uncertainties in its forecast over the next two years because Russian and Ukrainian exports of items like food, oil, and fertilizer are under threat from the war. Director-General Ngozi Okonio-Iweala described a “double-whammy” from the conflict and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

8:52 a.m.: Russian hackers attempted to launch a destructive cyberattack on Ukraine's electricity grid last week, Ukrainian officials and cybersecurity researchers said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The group, dubbed "Sandworm" by security researchers and previously tied to destructive cyberattacks attributed to Russia, deployed destructive and data-wiping malware on computers controlling high voltage substations in Ukraine, the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA) said in a statement on its website. Officials managed to prevent the attack from taking place, it added.

8:44 a.m.: More than 40 people were killed during the Russian occupation of Andriyivka, near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, which has now been re-taken by the Ukrainian Army. Locals recall a man being summarily shot after photos of Russian military vehicles were found on his phone -- and meeting Russian troops who said they were looking for "Nazis." Borys Sachalko with Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this story.

8:10 a.m.: The head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian Church is “unreservedly” condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying there’s “no justification” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “destroy a country, to raze it to kill,” The Associated Press reported. Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC Tuesday that the invasion is “an unacceptable situation” and that Putin’s actions have “no logic.” The archbishop said he’s distraught that people are being killed and questioned whether the Russian leader is “in his right mind.” The archbishop added that he’d be the “first to go and bless a defensive war,” but the “egoism, if not the stupidity” of the Russian leadership “knows no bounds.”

7:48 a.m.: Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the government was checking unverified information that Russia may have used chemical weapons while besieging Mariupol. "There is a theory that these could be phosphorous munitions," Malyar said in televised comments. The United States and Britain said they were trying to verify the reports. The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said he had seen incident reports on possible chemical weapons use in Mariupol but could not confirm them, according to Reuters.

Graves of civilians killed during Ukraine-Russia war are seen next to apartment buildings in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 10, 2022.
Graves of civilians killed during Ukraine-Russia war are seen next to apartment buildings in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 10, 2022.

7:42 a.m.: Civilians were fleeing from areas of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive, Reuters reported. The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, urged residents to evacuate using five humanitarian corridors agreed for the east.

The battle for Mariupol, where the regional governor said tens of thousands may have been killed, appeared to be reaching a decisive phase, with Ukrainian marines holed up in the Azovstal industrial district. Should the Russians seize Azovstal, they would be in full control of Mariupol, the lynchpin between Russian-held areas to the west and east.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that aside from trying to take control of Mariupol, Russian forces were intent on capturing Popasna, a town about two hours drive west of Luhansk, and were set to launch an offensive in the direction of Kurakhove in Donetsk. Ukrainian troops had repulsed attacks in both Luhansk and Donetsk, it said.

7:26 a.m.: Ukraine’s State Investigations Bureau says it seized 10 Russian cargo ships and two tankers, the Kyiv Independent reported Tuesday. The ships, which were prevented from leaving Ukraine, are worth over $34 million. According to Ukrainian law, the state can seize Russian property without compensation.

7:21 a.m.: The Russian military says it has hit Ukrainian arsenals with long-range cruise missiles, The Associated Press reported. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the military used air- and sea-launched missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and a reinforced hangar for warplanes at Starokostiantyniv in the Khmelnytsvi region. Konashenkov said that another strike destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Havrylivka near the capital Kyiv.

7:07 a.m.: With the war in Ukraine in its seventh week and Moscow pressing its campaign more forcefully in the east and south, fighting could become more brutal as the guerrilla-style tactics Ukrainians used around Kyiv to repel Russian forces shift to a more conventional battle of military might. The Kremlin's calculus also appears to be shifting. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty spoke with Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King's College London and author of The Future Of War, to get a better understanding of what this new stage of the conflict will look like.

6:58 a.m.: More destruction and death has been uncovered in Ukraine’s northernmost region after Russian forces withdrew from the area, the Kyiv Independent reported Tuesday, quoting local residents as saying both high-rise apartment buildings and individual houses were targeted in Chernihiv and nearby villages. According to local authorities, 700 people including 200 civilians were killed in the regional capital alone. The death toll in neighboring villages is impossible to count as many are still left under the rubble.

6:51 a.m.: Russia can afford to wage a long war in Ukraine despite being hammered by Western sanctions aimed at crippling its ability to sustain the campaign, defense experts and economists say. Russia’s invasion has driven up the price of the oil, gas and grain it exports, providing it with a substantial windfall to fund its “special military operation” - now entering a new phase as Moscow focuses on the eastern Donbas region after failing to break Ukraine’s defense of the capital Kyiv. Reuters has this analysis.

6:48 a.m.: The Russian government has defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time in more than a century, according to S&P Global, the ratings firm that tracks the creditworthiness of governments and major businesses around the world. Russia’s failure to make payments to its bondholders was a result of the various sanctions that have been put in place to punish the country’s government for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. VOA’s Rob Garver has this story.

6:37 a.m.: Telecom giant Nokia has announced it is pulling out of Russia, the latest in a flood of foreign companies that are leaving amid punishing Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's war in Ukraine. "We just simply do not see any possibilities to continue in the country under the current circumstances," the Finnish company's chief executive officer Pekka Lundmark was quoted as saying on Tuesday. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

6:25 a.m.: Germany's gas reserves would last until at least late summer should Russia decide to stop supplies now, the head of the country's network regulator told a German weekly. Speaking in an interview with Die Zeit, Klaus Mueller, who heads Germany's Bundesnetzagentur, said current reserves now looked slightly better than three or four weeks ago and could even last until early fall in case of an immediate supply halt, Reuters reported.

6:18 a.m.: Ukrainian marines defending Mariupol came out with a public statement criticizing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the army command, the Kyiv Independent reported Tuesday. The 36th Marine Brigade accused the country’s leadership of abandoning them in the besieged port city with no ammunition left, saying that it might be their last day of fighting. “For over a month, the marines fought without replenishment of ammunition, without food, without water, drinking from a puddle and dying in batches,” reads the plea published on the brigade’s Facebook page. The Kyiv Independent could not contact the brigade directly to confirm the message posted on their official Facebook page.

6:15 a.m.: Ukrainian police said they have launched a war crimes investigation after a 64-year-old man was killed by a mine left behind in an area from which Russian forces recently retreated, The Associated Press reported.

Police said the unidentified local man was driving Monday near the village of Krasne in northern Ukraine and had pulled over his car to greet acquaintances when he struck an anti-tank mine left at the side of the road.

Ukrainian authorities have issued repeated warnings of mines and explosive traps left in areas where Russian troops have been operating.

6:00 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin flies into Russian far east for Ukraine talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Reuters reported. Putin and Lukashenko are set to meet Tuesday to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to news agencies in both countries.

Putin said Tuesday “it’s certainly impossible to isolate anyone in the world of today, especially such a huge country as Russia.” He repeated his claim that Russia’s “special military operation” was meant to protect people in eastern Ukraine and ensure Russia’s security, adding that Russia “had no other choice” and will achieve its goals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visit the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagovesh
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visit the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagovesh

Britain’s defense ministry said earlier on Tuesday that it expects fighting in eastern Ukraine “will intensify over the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts there.” The ministry statement said Russia is withdrawing more of its forces from neighboring Belarus and redeploying them to eastern Ukraine.

5:15 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the European Union to sanction all Russian banks and halt imports of Russian oil, as he issued his latest appeal Tuesday for support in ending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking by video to lawmakers in Lithuania, Zelenskyy said if European nations continue to trade with Russia, then Russian leaders “know they will go unpunished.”

EU members have issued multiple rounds of sanctions targeting Russian officials and businesses, but have been reluctant to quickly cut off imports of Russian gas and oil as Zelenskyy has urged. Some European leaders have expressed concerns about how such actions would affect their economies due to their reliance on Russian energy supplies.

5:00 a.m.: Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the war in Ukraine has pushed up the price of natural gas, a key ingredient in fertilizer, and has led to severe sanctions against Russia, a major exporter of fertilizer. Higher fertilizer prices are making the world’s food supply more expensive and less abundant, as farmers skimp on nutrients for their crops and get lower yields. While the ripples will be felt by grocery shoppers in wealthy countries, the squeeze on food supplies will land hardest on families in low-income countries. The Associated Press has the story.

4:30 a.m.: A spokesman for Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has denied using chemical weapons to uproot Ukrainian troops in the port city of Mariupol, The Associated Press reported.

Eduard Basurin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying Tuesday that the separatist forces “haven’t used any chemical weapons in Mariupol.” Basurin’s assertion followed his statement Monday on Russian state TV that the separatists will use “chemical troops” against Ukrainian soldiers holed up at reinforced positions at a giant steel factory in Mariupol “to smoke them out of there.”

A Ukrainian unit defending Mariupol claimed without providing evidence that a drone had dropped a poisonous substance on its positions. It indicated there were no serious injuries, The AP added.

4:05 a.m.: The Japanese government is concerned about possible use of nuclear weapons in the crisis in Ukraine, the top government spokesman said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

“We are seriously concerned about the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons during Russia's invasion of Ukraine,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference.

“We, as a sole country that has suffered nuclear attacks during war, intend to keep on appealing firmly that any threat of the use of nuclear weapons, let alone their actual use, should never be allowed.”

3:30 a.m.: The chair of NATO’s military committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, said on Tuesday that it is the sovereign right of countries such as Sweden and Finland to decide if they want to join the alliance, Reuters reported.

Speaking to reporters in Seoul, Bauer said NATO was not a demanding association, and had not pressured any state to join, or for any countries to provide weapons to Ukraine.

2:30 a.m.: All options would be on table in response to any use of chemical weapons in Ukraine by Russia, British armed forces minister James Heappey said on Tuesday.

British foreign minister Liz Truss on Monday said Britain was working with its partners to verify the details of reports Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on Mariupol, Reuters reported.

“There are some things that are beyond the pale, and the use of chemical weapons will get a response and all options are on the table for what that response could be,” Heappey told Sky News.

1:56 a.m.: Fighting in eastern Ukraine will intensify over the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts there, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense tweeted in its daily battleground intelligence bulletin on Tuesday.

Russian attacks remain focused on Ukrainian positions near Donetsk and Luhansk with further fighting around Kherson and Mykolaiv and a renewed push towards Kramatorsk, British military intelligence said. The report also said that Russian forces continue to withdraw from Belarus in order to redeploy in support of operations in eastern Ukraine. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

1:46 a.m.: Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said 9 humanitarian corridors have been agreed on for Tuesday, including from Mariupol by private cars, Reuters reported.

1:30 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the U.S. is closely monitoring the arrest of a prominent pro-democracy Russian statesman and outspoken Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza in Moscow and called for his immediate release.

12:55 a.m.: A group of religious leaders is visiting Ukraine Tuesday in a show of support for people affected by the violence.

The delegation includes monks, rabbis, Muslim clerics, Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, BBC reported. The group will meet internally displaced people who have fled violence in eastern Ukraine and relocated to Chernivtsi in the west.

Pope Francis has endorsed the visit and called for an Easter ceasefire. During Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square, he called the war a “folly” causing “heinous cruelty” to innocent people.

12:00 a.m.: Austria’s chancellor held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, amid warnings that the Kremlin is preparing to launch a large offensive in the eastern Donbas region. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.

After Talks With Putin, Austria Warns Russia Is Planning 'Massive Offensive'
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Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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