War in Ukraine live updates: More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes for safety

Published April 12, 2022 at 8:05 AM EDT
A man reaches up to touch a window of a passenger train painted yellow and blue.
Ronaldo Schemidt
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AFP via Getty Images
A man bids farewell to his wife as she leaves by train at Slovyansk central station in the Donbas region of Ukraine on Tuesday.

The U.N. said that more than 1,800 civilians have been killed and 2,800 injured — but cautioned that actual figures for civilian casualties are likely to be "considerably higher" because of the difficulty of getting information from areas where there is heavy fighting.

Here's what we're following today:

"This was not a friendly visit": Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer traveled to Moscow for talks that he described as direct and tough.

Russia leaves the Kyiv area studded with land mines: Russian troops have withdrawn, but the mines they planted pose a deadly threat to civilians.

An expert's take on Russia's culpability: Russia's actions look like a pattern of ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity, says a Washington University professor and special adviser to the International Criminal Court.

On the ground

A Russian military convoy is closing in on a town in eastern Ukraine

Posted April 12, 2022 at 12:18 PM EDT

A senior U.S. defense official says a Russian convoy continues moving south toward the town of Izium in eastern Ukraine. The convoy, which is about 35 miles north of the town, is seen as part of the Russian efforts to reposition troops in advance of a major offensive in eastern Ukraine in the coming days.

The official says the U.S. has limited details on the convoy, which has appeared in open-source satellite photos. But it is believed to include command-and-control elements, support units and be part of resupply efforts.

There is ongoing heavy fighting around Izium, and Russia also has forces about 12 miles to the south of the town, which had about 50,000 residents before the war.

The exact Russian intentions are not clear, but taking control of Izium and surrounding areas appears to be part of the Russian effort to seize an expanded part of eastern Ukraine and cut off Ukrainian troops in the region from Ukrainian military forces elsewhere in the country.

Business

Some 600 companies have withdrawn from Russia to some degree, Yale researchers say

Posted April 12, 2022 at 11:43 AM EDT
People walk on a city street past store windows covered up from the inside.
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AFP via Getty Images
People walk past empty retail space on Tverskaya Street in central Moscow last month.

About 600 companies have withdrawn from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, according to the Yale School of Management professor who has been tracking such activity over the past seven weeks. Meanwhile, several hundred others are defying those demands and continuing on with business as usual.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who runs the school's Chief Executive Leadership Institute, has been working with a team of experts, research fellows and students to keep tabs on which corporations are distancing themselves from Russia and what kind of actions they're taking.

Sonnenfeld says only a few dozen companies had announced their departure from Russia when the first version of their list was published the week of Feb. 28, days after the invasion began. It has since grown to include more than 1,000 companies.

The format and organization of the list — which was until recently housed in an Excel spreadsheet — has evolved, too. The team has replaced it with an interactive database that allows users to search by country and company.

And whereas researchers used to only sort companies into two categories, "withdraw" and "remain," they're now using a report card system of sorts, grading companies on a scale of A through F for the "completeness of withdrawal."

"We challenge companies to voluntarily curtail operations in Russia beyond the bare minimum legally required by sanctions," they wrote.

As of Tuesday, 269 companies earned an "A" for either totally halting Russian engagements or exiting the country completely. They represent a wide cross-section of countries and industries, from information technology and industrials to consumer discretionary and consumer staples.

On the other side of the spectrum, 218 companies have a failing grade for continuing their operations in Russia. Those include Chinese entities like railroads and banks, airlines like Qatar Airways and Air Serbia, and consumer brands like L'Occitane and Lacoste.

In between are the hundreds of companies that have distanced themselves from Russia in varying degrees.

Some 316 companies get a "B" for suspending operations, which researchers define as "temporarily curtailing most or nearly all operations while keeping return options open."

The "C" rating describes the companies that are scaling back some significant business operations while continuing others. The 92 companies in this category include U.S. entities like GE, General Mills, Deere, Mars and Pepsi, as well as financial entities like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.

And toward the bottom, 124 companies get a "D" for what the researchers call "buying time." They define that as postponing future planned investment, development and marketing while continuing "substantive business."

Those include many health care companies (including Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer in the U.S.) as well as a number of global industrial and financial entities. This list also includes food and consumer good companies like Barilla, Danone, Nestle and Subway.

Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian, the CELI research director, wrote in a New York Timesop-ed last week that it's too early to tell whether the withdrawing companies' actions will help push Russia to end the war in Ukraine, but that Western sanctions have shaken Russia's economy.

They argue that companies should continue to apply pressure and that consumers deserve to know whether the businesses they support are taking a stand against the war.

"Our goal is absolute, and some might even say extreme: Every corporation with a presence in Russia must publicly commit to a total cessation of business there," they wrote. "Russians who rely on the food or medicine those companies make or jobs they provide may suffer hardship. But if that’s what it takes to stop Mr. Putin from killing innocent Ukrainians, that’s what businesses must do."

Arrest

U.S. calls for the immediate release of a vocal Kremlin critic detained in Moscow

Posted April 12, 2022 at 10:32 AM EDT
A close-up of a dark-haired man with a beard, wearing a suit and looking  thoughtful.
Alexander Nemenov
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian journalist and activist Vladimir Kara-Murza attends a conference of Russia's leading rights group Memorial in Moscow in October.

Western officials are calling for Russian authorities to release prominent opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza after reports of his arrest emerged on Monday.

Kara-Murza was detained by police on the street near his Moscow home, according to the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency focused on security and human rights. His lawyer told the independent news outlet Sota that he had been detained, and activist Ilya Yashin also confirmed news of Kara-Murza's arrest on Twitter.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Monday that the U.S. is "troubled" by Kara-Murza's detention.

"We are monitoring this situation closely and urge his immediate release," he added.

Kara-Murza's lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said his client was arrested on charges of disobeying police orders and faced up to 15 days in jail or a small fine, The Guardianreports.

He is being held in a police station in Moscow, with a trial scheduled for Tuesday, according to theFree Russia Foundation and Helsinki Commission. Both organizations allege that authorities have denied him access to legal counsel in violation of his rights and are calling for his immediate release.

"Vladimir is not a criminal but a true patriot motivated by the potential of a democratic future for Russia and freedom for its people. He must be allowed access to his lawyer and should be released immediately," reads a joint statement by Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, co-chairman Rep. Steve Cohen and ranking members Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Joe Wilson.

Kara-Murza is a vocal critic of the Kremlin who held leadership roles in Open Russia and the Free Russia Foundation, organizations that the government has deemed "undesirable." He fell seriously ill in Moscow in 2015 and 2017 in incidents of suspected poisoning that he blames on the Russian authorities.

"Given the sophisticated type of poison, I think it's people who have been or are connected with the Russian special services," he told NPR in 2017.

Kara-Murza was also close friends with Boris Nemtsov — a former Russian deputy prime minister-turned-vocal Kremlin critic who was shot dead in Moscow in 2015 — and the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, at whose funeral he served as a pallbearer.

Kara-Murza has spoken out against Russia's war in Ukraine in recent weeks. He testified at a March 29 Helsinki Commission hearing and, in his opening remarks, described what he called two parallel wars launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous month.

"One, which continues to this day, was his unprovoked and unlawful aggression against Ukraine," he said. "The other, which was concluded effectively and swiftly, was his blitzkrieg against what remained of independent media in Russia."

As Kara-Murza noted, Russians who speak out against the war — and even use that term to describe it — can face up to 15 years in prison, under a restrictive new law that has prompted an exodus of independent journalists and foreign media from the country for fear of prosecution.

Kara-Murza has continued doing interviews with Western outlets and spoke to CNN just hours before his arrest. In that conversation, he referred to the Russian government as "a regime of murderers" and explained why he was staying in Moscow despite the risks.

"Look, I'm a Russian politician — I have to be in Russia, it's my home country," he said. "I think the biggest gift ... those of us who are in opposition to Putin's regime could give to the Kremlin would be just to give up and run. And that's all they want from us."

International criminal investigations

An expert says it may be hard, but not impossible, to prove atrocities in Ukraine are genocide

Posted April 12, 2022 at 10:24 AM EDT
A white church can be seen in the background. In the church yard is a large pile of dug up dirt in a trench shape.
Anastasia Vlasova
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Getty Images
A view of a mass grave by a church on April 4 in Bucha, Ukraine.

Should the atrocities in Ukraine be called war crimes, ethnic cleansing or genocide?

The terms can be difficult to differentiate, but experts say the separate labels are crucial to investigating perpetrators and seeking justice in international courts.

"We are definitely seeing evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes," says Leila Sadat, an expert on war crimes and international law at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Genocide requires this special intent, so we actually have to show that they're committing all these terrible crimes in order to destroy, in part or in whole, the particular group," Sadat says.

That's why genocide can be extremely difficult to prove before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, she says, because prosecutors have to get into the mind of perpetrators and show that specific intent existed. Past war crime allegations in Syria, Darfur and the former Yugoslavia show how challenging it can be to label crimes correctly in order to seek justice.

NPR's Leila Fadel spoke to Sadat about how experts view the brutal images and accounts coming out of Ukraine and what the allegations of war crimes may mean for future international criminal investigations.

🔊 Listen here or continue below for interview highlights.

Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

On whether Russia's actions in Ukraine constitute ethnic cleansing or genocide

That is a complicated question, Leila. The international community has said that sometimes ethnic cleansing can be a form of genocide. And we've seen that in early decisions from the International Criminal Court in the situation involving Darfur, where the prosecutor did charge genocide because there was in fact a pattern of ethnic cleansing, destroying villages, driving people away from their homes, terrorizing a civilian population. Very similar pattern to what we saw in the former Yugoslavia. What we saw in Darfur. And we are now seeing today in Ukraine.

On how Ukraine has prepared to seek justice through the ICC:

Fortunately, Ukraine had the foresight to declare that the International Criminal Court statute was applicable to its territory in 2014 and 2015. So unlike Syria's Assad, who would never, never accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, the Ukrainian president and parliament has done that. And so the ICC does have jurisdiction here.

On how crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing compare to genocide

Crimes against humanity are just as serious as genocide. There's no hierarchy here. Crimes against humanity is what the Nazis were charged with for the Holocaust. And so I know that the international community and victim groups tend to grab for this concept of genocide because we have a treaty on it and we don't yet have the treaty on crimes against humanity. So it seems as if they're less important. They're not less important. They are absolutely horrific crimes that involve attacks on a civilian population and the dehumanization of the human spirit and human beings. So it's really important to note that this idea of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is a very, very serious crime.

On whether it's hypocritical for the U.S. to promise to help with any investigation into possible Russian war crimes, when the U.S. is not a member of the ICC and does not appear to want to be held accountable for its own alleged war crimes

It is hypocritical, and yet it's a really good thing. The Biden administration is seriously considering dismantling some of the obstacles to cooperation with the International Criminal Court because it can see that this is exactly the kind of situation the ICC was created to address. We have a prosecutor already with jurisdiction. We have judges already to approve arrest warrants and hear confirmation cases. We don't have to staff up and hire new people and figure out what law should be applied. We have a court ready and willing to do the job, and those of us who have been involved with the International Criminal Court for 20 years have been making this argument for 20 years. So is the United States coming a day late to the party? It absolutely is, and I think it's great that it's finally getting there.

On the ground

Mariupol's last defenders are running out of ammunition

Posted April 12, 2022 at 10:01 AM EDT

With Russia preparing for another major offensive in eastern Ukraine, one of the last military units defending the key city of Mariupol says it is running out of ammunition and supplies and expects to fall soon.

The 36th brigade, part of the Ukrainian navy, complains in a statement on Facebook that it has been left without fresh weapons or reinforcements.

The marines write in the post, "The mountain of wounded makes up almost half of the crew. ... Gradually we are coming to an end. No one wants to communicate with us anymore."

The unit, which describes being surrounded at an industrial site in Mariupol, predicts they will soon be either killed or captured.

"Dear Ukrainian people," the post concludes. "I don't know what's next, but I really ask you to remember the Marines with a kind word and no matter how they develop further, do not talk badly about the Marines. They did everything possible and impossible."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that Russia has “destroyed” Mariupol and that "tens of thousands" are dead.

Diplomacy

The U.S. and India — democracies and friends — agree to disagree on the Ukraine war

Posted April 12, 2022 at 9:18 AM EDT
Indian and U.S. officials including President Biden sit  at a table while speaking with Prime Minister Modi via a large screen on the wall.
Carolyn Kaster
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AP
President Biden meets virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington on Monday.

India, the world's largest democracy, has not yet condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine — and the U.S. wants to change that.

President Biden tried to lobby for India's support during a virtual summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with their Indian counterparts.

NPR's India correspondent Lauren Frayer spoke withMorning Edition from Mumbai about the context and takeaways from those discussions.

Why has India remained neutral so far?

Modi condemned the civilian killings in Ukraine yesterday but didn't say who was responsible.

On the one hand, India shares democratic values with the U.S., Frayer says. On the other hand, India doesn't always trust the West. India has a colonial past, it was nonaligned during the Cold War, and it wants to make its own decisions. And it also buys a lot of weapons, fertilizer and oil from Russia.

It's also worried that if it alienates Russia, it could push Russia closer to China.

What is the U.S. doing to try to change India's stance?

A U.S. deputy national security adviser visited India a few weeks ago and warned of consequences for countries that circumvent Western sanctions on Russia. But the White House is also careful to say it respects India's decisions and doesn't want to tell it what to do.

In their public comments yesterday, Biden and Modi spoke about friendship and shared values. But a White House official said afterward that during their private meeting, Biden asked Modi not to accelerate purchases of Russian oil.

"So the U.S. isn't asking India to go cold turkey and cut off Russian oil completely, it just doesn't want it to accelerate buying it," she explains.

What is India saying?

India listened and made no promises, Frayer says, adding that Indian officials have bristled at the topic because Europe buys much more Russian oil and gas than it does.

"Probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon," India's external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, said at a press conference yesterday. "So you might want to think about that."

Modi and Biden also talked about defense cooperation and trade between their nations and are meeting in Tokyo next month with leaders from Japan and Australia to talk about countering China.

"At the end of the day, the U.S. would love to hear India condemn Russia, but the U.S. also really needs India's help on China," Frayer says. "So it may have to pick its battles."

World reaction

Holocaust museums in 4 countries condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine as war crimes

Posted April 12, 2022 at 9:05 AM EDT
A Menorah memorial at the entrance of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial outside Kharkiv was damaged in Russian shelling last month.
Sergey Bobok
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AFP via Getty Images
A Menorah memorial at the entrance of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial outside Kharkiv was damaged in Russian shelling last month.

More than a dozen Holocaust museums from four countries have come together to condemn Russia's acts of brutality in Ukraine and support an international investigation into alleged war crimes and genocide.

In a joint statement released Monday, signatories from 17 museums throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa said they were speaking out in response to reports of mass graves and acts of brutality against Ukrainian citizens by Russian armed forces.

The participating U.S. institutions are based in states including Illinois, Florida, Texas, Indiana, Washington, Ohio, California and Missouri. Others are located in England, as well as Canadian cities like Vancouver and Montreal, and the South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg.

They all said they were motivated by their shared mission of honoring survivors' wishes to educate people about the horrors of the past, as well as working toward a future in which such histories are not repeated.

"So it is with sorrow that we see yet another atrocity in Ukraine, 80 years after the ‘Holocaust by Bullets’ in which Jewish men, women, and children were shot and buried in shallow graves," they wrote. "We are angered by today’s stories of children with their hands zip tied and buried in shallow graves. We are angered by the horrific reports of rape and wanton destruction of lives by the Russian army. These are war crimes, and if we, as the bearers of history, do not speak out, then we have failed in our mission."

The signatories went on to express their support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into whether Russia committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. They also urged their governments to "do more to stop these atrocities and assist those who have been brutalized."

Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked World War II when announcing his decision to invade Ukraine in late February and has repeatedly described "denazification" as one of the goals of the offensive — a claim thatscholars told NPR distorts both history and reality. Notably, Russian attacks have damaged the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv and killed a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv.

On the ground

Zelenskyy accuses Russians of leaving thousands of mines behind in the Kyiv area

Posted April 12, 2022 at 8:53 AM EDT
Emergency workers conduct mine-clearing operations among destroyed vehicles on a street of Bucha outside of Kyiv last week.
Genya Savilov
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AFP via Getty Images
Emergency workers conduct mine-clearing operations among destroyed vehicles on a street of Bucha outside of Kyiv last week.

Russia has withdrawn its troops from the area around Kyiv, pulling them back across the border to Belarus. But they've left dangerous mines behind, which present an ongoing threat to civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the Russian military had left tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of explosive ordinance behind as they retreated.

Thousands of mines are being disposed of daily by Ukrainian officials, he said. Zelenskyy said the Russian military has left mines in homes, streets and fields, around cars and in doorways. He added that he thought it should be considered a war crime because these mines are designed to injure or kill civilians.

The presence of mines, some of which may not be found right away, is just another indication of how long it will take to regain a sense of normalcy in the formerly occupied areas.

International Dispatch
From Berlin

Austria's chancellor offers a pessimistic report from his meeting with Putin

Posted April 12, 2022 at 8:17 AM EDT
A man in a suit and striped tie speaks into several microphones while seated in front of flags.
Alexander Zemlianichenko
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AP
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks at a news conference after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down yesterday to talk with a Western leader for the first time since invading Ukraine in late February. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer traveled to Moscow for talks that he described as direct, open and tough.

Speaking at a solo online briefing afterwards, Nehammer was quick to dampen any hopes of a swift end to Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Very little of what I can report from my meeting with President Putin is optimistic, particularly in view of the fresh offensive the Russians are preparing for on a massive scale in eastern Ukraine," he said.

Nehammer had hoped to get Putin to agree to a cease-fire. Instead, he says he struggled to get him to even agree to guarantee humanitarian corridors.

The Austrian chancellor’s visit has raised some eyebrows and drawn criticism, not least in Ukraine. Europe’s biggest tabloid Bild reports that Sergey Orlow, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, has asked how anyone can meet with Putin and attempt to conduct business as usual.

But Nehammer insists that meeting the Russian president in person is the only way to get through to him.

"This was not a friendly visit," he added. "I was there to confront Putin with the facts of this war."

Nehammer, who was in Kyiv at the weekend for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy, says he’s seen with his own eyes the evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha. He added he would not be in Moscow if Zelenskyy had objected.  

Austria belongs to the European Union but is not a NATO member and considers itself neutral. In condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, however, Vienna stresses it is neutral only in military terms, not when it comes to morals.

While Nehammer was meeting with Putin in Moscow, EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss a possible Russian oil embargo and the need to send more weapons to Ukraine as the armed forces there run out of ammunition.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the EU had been informed about Nehammer's talks with Putin ahead of time.

"Each attempt to make clear to Putin what the reality is beyond the walls of the Kremlin is surely worth making," he said.

But with Austria reliant on Russia for 80% of its gas, it finds itself financing Putin's war — at least until the EU decides to impose an embargo.

International Dispatch
From Lviv

The U.N. says more than 1,800 civilians have died in the Ukraine war

Posted April 12, 2022 at 8:06 AM EDT
Wooden crosses bearing blue and yellow flags mark graves in a cemetery.
Sergei Supinsky
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AFP via Getty Images
Residents walk past graves in a cemetery in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine on April 5.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is now in its seventh week, and some 10 million civilians have fled their homes for safety — from the violence that has caused a rising number of civilian deaths.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says that more than 1,800 civilians have been killed since the invasion began on Feb. 24. That's in addition to the nearly 2,500 injured civilians the organization has documented.

The office acknowledges that actual figures for civilian casualties are likely to be "considerably higher" because it is difficult to collect information from areas where heavy fighting continues to occur.

Most of these casualties, the U.N. said, were caused by explosive weapons like artillery and rocket systems, as well as missile and airstrikes.

Separately, a report by Ukraine's prosecutor general found that 183 children have been killed as of Monday.