Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia may use phosphorus munitions in Mariupol

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian troops invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Russian forces have since been met with “stiff resistance” from Ukrainians, according to U.S. officials.

In recent days, Russian forces have retreated from northern Ukraine, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. After graphic images emerged of civilians lying dead in the streets of Bucha, a town northwest of Kyiv, the United States and European countries accused Russia of committing war crimes.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Apr 11, 10:20 am
Over 4.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 4.5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The tally from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to just over 10% of Ukraine’s population — which the World Bank counted at 44 million at the end of 2020 — on the move across borders in 47 days.

More than half of the refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the UNHCR said in a statement alongside the data updated Sunday.

“In the first five weeks, more than four million refugees from Ukraine crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country,” the agency noted. “In light of the emergency and the scale of humanitarian needs of refugees from Ukraine, an inter-agency regional refugee response is being carried out, in support of the efforts of refugee-hosting countries.”

Apr 11, 10:18 am
Talks begin between Putin and Austrian chancellor

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer started negotiations Monday in the Russian presidential residence, Russia’s semi-official Interfax reported, citing Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The two leaders plan to discuss the situation in Ukraine and natural gas deliveries, according to Peskov.

Nehammer tweeted about the meeting on Sunday, saying Austria is militarily neutral but that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must stop.

Apr 11, 10:14 am
Invasion to shrink Ukraine’s economy by 45%: World Bank

Russia’s invasion is expected to shrink Ukraine’s economy by about 45.1% this year, the World Bank said on Monday.

“Ukraine needs massive financial support immediately,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank vice president for the Europe and Central Asia region.

The World Bank said a $3 billion package is being prepared for Ukraine. Already $925 million in emergency funding has been mobilized for Ukraine to help pay wages for hospital workers, pensions for the elderly and social programs for the vulnerable. The Bank Group is also looking at how to support refugees in host countries.

Meanwhile, Russia, hit by unprecedented sanctions, has already plunged into a deep recession with output projected to contract by 11.2% in 2022, the World Bank said.

Apr 11, 10:03 am
Ukraine agrees to 9 humanitarian corridors from the east

Nine humanitarian corridors are expected to open in eastern Ukraine on Monday to allow civilians escape heavy fighting, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

She said in a statement via social media Monday that evacuation routes were agreed upon for those traveling by private cars from besieged Mariupol in the Donetsk Oblast, as well as from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast — all of which lead to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. Buses from Zaporizhzhia city were also waiting to pass a checkpoint in Vasylivka, according to Vereshchuk.

In the Luhansk Oblast, Vereshchuk said routes were established from the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske and Rubizhne, leading to the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast.

Apr 11, 8:48 am
Russia may use phosphorus munitions in Mariupol, UK warns

The United Kingdom is warning of Russia’s possible use of phosphorus munitions in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Russian forces have already been accused of using phosphorus bombs in Ukraine since launching an invasion on Feb. 24. When deployed as a weapon, phosphorus can inflict excruciating burns and lead to infection, shock and organ failure.

After withdrawing troops from the north, the Russian military is said to be refocusing its offensive on the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatist forces have been battling Ukrainian soldiers since 2014. Mariupol, in the Donetsk Oblast, and its residents have been under heavy Russian bombardment for over a month, but Moscow has so far failed to win full control of the strategic port.

“Russian forces prior use of phosphorous munitions in the Donetsk Oblast raises the possibility of their future employment in Mariupol as fighting for the city intensifies,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Monday in an intelligence update.

Meanwhile, Russian shelling has persisted in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, according to the ministry, “with Ukrainian forces repulsing several assaults resulting in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles, and artillery equipment.”

“Russia’s continued reliance on unguided bombs decreases their ability to discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes while greatly increasing the risk of further civilian casualties,” the ministry added.

Apr 10, 11:11 pm
Forces preparing to respond to Russian attack on eastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian forces are preparing to respond to a planned Russian attack on the eastern side of the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in his address on Sunday.

Russian troops are expected to move to an even larger operation in the east of Ukraine, which will enable them to carry out even more bombardments, Zelenskyy said, adding that Ukrainian forces are ready for the attack.

“We are preparing for their actions,” Zelenskyy said. “We will respond. We will be even more active in providing Ukraine with weapons. We will be more active in the international arena. We will be even more active in the information field.”

Zelenskyy added that he and other government officials are doing everything they can to ensure that Ukraine gets the world’s attention, especially as Russia continues to attempt to influence the narrative and justify the invasion.

This coming week will be just as important as previous weeks, Zelenskyy said.

“It will be just as tense and even more responsible,” he added.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 10, 5:00 pm
Thousands of refugees return to Ukraine

Nearly 23,000 Ukrainian refugees returned to Ukraine on Saturday after fleeing the country following the Russian invasion in February, according to Ukrainian and United Nations officials.

The repatriated Ukrainians are among the more than 4.5 million who left the country between Feb. 24 and April 9, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

More than half of the Ukrainian refugees fled to neighboring Poland, officials said.

The Polish border guard service is reporting that despite the war still raging in Ukraine, the number of refugees voluntarily returning to Ukraine reached the highest figure for a single day on Saturday since the war began, according to Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information.

The UNHCR estimated that as of April 8, more than 7.1 million people in Ukraine have been displaced due to the war.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 10, 3:58 pm
Death toll from Kramatorsk train station attack rises to 57

The death toll climbed to 57 on Sunday from an alleged Russian rocket attack Friday on a crowded train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, Ukrainian officials said.

Among those killed in the attack were five children, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk Oblast in the Donbas region. Another 109 people were wounded when two Russian rockets struck the train station.

“There are many people in a serious condition, without arms or legs,” said Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko according to the Associated Press.

The number of dead victims in the attack grew from 50 on Friday, officials said.

Ukraine’s state-owned railway company issued a statement on Facebook calling the attack “a purposeful strike on the passenger infrastructure of the railway and the residents of the city of Kramatorsk.”

Graphic images provided by Ukrainian officials showed the aftermath of the attack — bodies lying on the ground next to scattered luggage and debris, with charred vehicles parked nearby.

The remnants of a large rocket with the Russian words painted on its side reading “for our children” was also seen on the ground next to the main building of the train station.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed involvement of Russian forces was already ruled out by the Russian Ministry of Defense, based on the type of missile that was used — a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile.

“Our armed forces do not use missiles of this type,” Peskov told reporters during a press briefing Friday. “No combat tasks were set or planned for today in Kramatorsk.”

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