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Russia-Ukraine war updates for March 12, 2022

Ukraine’s president demands release of Melitopol’s ‘kidnapped’ mayor

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022.

Umit Bektas | Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded the release of the Mayor of Melitopol who Ukraine accused Russian forces of kidnapping, and violating international law, on Friday.

In a video message on Saturday, Zelenskyy demanded the release of Mayor Ivan Fedorov who was allegedly blindfolded and led away from an office by Russian troops on Friday, according to a video posted by Ukrainian officials Friday.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify these claims and it’s unclear who the people are in the video, when the video was shot, and who shot the video.

Zelenskyy said he had spoken about the alleged kidnapping to the leaders of France and Germany, Reuters reported.

Situated in southeastern Ukraine, Melitopol fell under Russian control very early on in the invasion. Russia has not commented on the alleged abduction.

Protests were held in Melitopol on Saturday in which residents called for the mayor’s release.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s foreign ministry says mosque in Mariupol shelled by Russia

Russian forces have shelled a mosque in Mariupol where 80 adults and children had taken refuge, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

“The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter, adding that “more than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey.”

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of blocking attempts to allow civilians to flee the besieged southern port city of Mariupol which Russian forces have surrounded and shelled for days.

The ministry did not say whether any people had been killed or injured in the shelling of the mosque. Russia has previously denied targeting civilians.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian military airfield southwest of Kyiv completely destroyed by Russian strike, mayor says

A Russian airstrike has completely destroyed a Ukrainian military airfield southwest of the capital Kyiv, the town’s mayor said on Facebook Saturday.

In a video message on Facebook, Mayor Natalia Balasynovych said Russian rocket attacks had destroyed the airfield in Vasylkiv and that explosions at a nearby ammunition depot were ongoing after the Russian airstrike.

Her comments come after a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reportedly told Russian news agencies that its armed forces have destroyed 3,491 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities to date during its “operation,” as Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted Konashenkov on Saturday as saying that “123 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,127 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 115 multiple rocket launchers, 423 field artillery and mortars, 934 units of special military vehicles” had been destroyed in total during Russia’s “operation” against Ukraine.

Interfax also cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying its forces had “disabled the military airfield” in Vasylkiv as well as a Ukrainian adio intelligence center in Brovary (on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv) “with a high-precision weapon strike.” CNBC was not immediately able to verify the claims.

Holly Ellyatt

Bulk of Russian ground forces around 15 miles from Kyiv’s center, U.K. intelligence says

World War II “tank trap” in the Kyiv Museum is used as a barricade in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 11, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The bulk of Russian ground forces are now around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the center of Kyiv, according to the latest intelligence update from the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence, with fighting continuing to the north-west of the capital.

“Elements of the large Russian column north of Kyiv have dispersed. This is likely to support a Russian attempt to encircle the city,” the ministry said on Twitter Saturday morning.

“It could also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counter attacks, which have taken a significant toll on Russian forces.”

The ministry’s latest assessment comes after satellite imagery appeared to show that a large Russian military convoy has fanned out through the towns close to Antonov airport on the outskirts of Kyiv, with howitzers thought to be situated in firing positions nearby. Ukrainian forces have heavily fortified the capital ahead of an expected Russian assault.

Beyond Kyiv, the Ministry of Defence said the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia not letting people out — or aid in — to besieged Mariupol, president says

A child among a group of civilians who managed to flee Mariupol on March 10, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of refusing to let civilians out of the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine.

“Mariupol remains blocked by the enemy,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address late on Friday local time. “Russian troops did not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people, our Mariupol residents.”

He said another attempt would be made on Saturday to deliver food, water and medicine to the city, which has been surrounded and shelled by Russian troops for days.

Zelenskyy said around 7,000 inhabitants of Bucha, Energodar, Hostomel and Kozarovichi managed to escape on Friday.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine Ministry of Defense claims drone strike destroys ‘enemy control point’ near Kyiv

The Ukraine Ministry of Defense on Friday night posted a video which it says shows a Ukraine drone attack on the “enemy control point” near Kyiv.

“A few minutes ago, the enemy control point in the Kyiv direction was destroyed. Our Air Force is working!” the Ukraine ministry’s post on Telegram said, according to an NBC News translation.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the content of the video.

A senior U.S. Defense official told CNBC on Friday that Russian forces near Kyiv have moved forward some of their rear elements, including troops and military equipment, but the frontline has not advanced on the capital.

Russian forces are about 10 miles (16 km) outside Kyiv’s city center, according to the most recent Pentagon assessment.

— Ted Kemp and Amanda Macias

Russia’s ‘dumb’ munitions are likely to increase civilian deaths, UK ministry says

Russian aircraft are relying on unguided, “dumb” munitions to support their troops on the ground, raising the likelihood of Ukrainian civilians being killed and wounded.

Dumb bombs and rockets are less accurate than guided weapons, which means they’re less likely to strike what they’re aimed at and more likely to randomly hit something else.

Russia is using rockets and other weapons that fire from greater distances — so-called “stand-off” weapons — so its pilots can avoid being shot down, the U.K. ministry said in an intelligence update on Friday night local time.

Civilian volunteers listen to a military instructor inside a bomb shelter in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Alexey Furman | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“The staunch resistance of the Ukrainian air defence forces is compelling Russia to rely on ‘stand-off’ munitions to conduct attacks against targets deep inside Ukraine,” the ministry said.

The ministry said Russian air and missile forces had carried out strikes on two cities in Ukraine’s west in the last 24 hours.

Ukraine’s Parliament reported strikes on Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk at around 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time respectively on Friday. Those locations are further west than most Russian attacks on Ukraine so far.

In a video message posted to Telegram on Friday morning, Yurii Pohuliaiko, head of the Lutsk regional council, said four rockets had been fired into the city’s military airport, killing two soldiers and injuring six.

— Ted Kemp and Chloe Taylor

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