March 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Maureen Chowdhury, Jason Kurtz and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:01 p.m. ET, March 7, 2022
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3:57 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Damage seen near Kyiv central train station after explosion heard 

From CNN's  Paul P. Murphy 

Video posted online, which CNN has geolocated and verified its authenticity, shows a damaged train platform just outside of Kyiv's central train station following a strike Wednesday evening. 

The damage seen in the video is at the Pivnichna train station, which is located just over 700 feet from Kyiv's central station. Hundreds of refugees attempting to flee the conflict in Ukraine are at the central train station in Kyiv.  

In the video, the damaged building appears to be a ticket station on the train platform. 

The sound of the blast could be heard across the city, according to CNN's team on the ground. 

According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, a major heating pipeline in Kyiv was damaged in the strike.  

3:54 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

UK "gravely concerned" by "reports of use of cluster munitions" by Russia in Ukraine 

From CNN's Dan Wright and Sugam Pokharel

Britain on Wednesday said it was “gravely concerned” by “reports of the use of cluster munitions” by Russia during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

The UK, which is also the President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), said in a statement that it condemns "any use of cluster munitions by any actor, remaining steadfast in our determination to achieve a world entirely free of any use of these weapons."

The convention "was born out of a collective determination to address the humanitarian consequences of these weapons, which have had a devastating impact on civilians in many conflict areas," it added.

The UK called on “all those that continue to use such weapons to cease immediately” and also urged all states that have not yet done so to join the Convention “without delay.”

Earlier on Wednesday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia was moving banned weaponry into Ukraine.

"We have seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, which has no place on the battlefield. That includes cluster munitions and vacuum bombs – which are banned under the Geneva Convention," she said.

3:59 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Pentagon: US cancels planned missile test to avoid misunderstanding during "heightened tensions" in Ukraine

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Oren Liebermann

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby conducts a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby conducts a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin canceled a planned test of the Minute Man III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that was initially scheduled to occur this week to avoid “any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued” during heightened tensions with Russia, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.  

“In order to demonstrate that we have no intention of engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defense has directed that our minute man three intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed,” Kirby said. 

Kirby said the secretary made this decision taking into account the “heightened tensions” caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement earlier this week directing a special alert of Russian nuclear forces. 

Kirby said the US military is taking this step to cancel the ICBM test to “demonstrate” that the US is a “responsible nuclear power.”

“This is not a step backwards in our readiness, nor does it imply that we will necessarily cancel other routine activities to ensure a credible nuclear capability,” Kirby said.

“We remain confident in our strategic posture as I’ve said before and our ability to defend the homeland, and our allies and our partners, remains fully intact and ready,” he added.

3:49 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

French president: "European defense must cross the next step" following Russian invasion of Ukraine 

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan in Atlanta

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that Europeans “cannot depend on others to defend ourselves."

He added, “European defense must cross the next step,” following Russia invasion of Ukraine.

“Europe has entered a new era,” Macron said during a televised address from the Elysee Palace as he announced a summit of European heads of state and government that will take place in Versailles on March 10 and 11 to discuss these topics.

3:41 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Secretary of State Blinken: US still open to diplomacy, but there’s no path unless Russia pulls back forces

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday. (Elizabeth Frantz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the US remains open to diplomacy with Russia to end the war in Ukraine, but said there’s no path unless Russia pulls back its forces.

“We of course remain open to pursuing any reasonable path, but it’s very hard to see any path when the bombs are dropping, the planes are flying the tanks are rolling,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department. “So de-escalation, pulling back forces, that would open a path of diplomacy.”

Blinken added that the US would help Ukraine diplomatically if Kyiv believes there’s a path that could end the war, but he noted that Russia often “goes through the pretense of diplomacy” while continuing on its aggressive path, noting the demands Moscow made in its first round of talks with Ukraine were “non-starters.” 

“If Ukraine thinks there is a path that would help advance its interests protect it end the war and we can be helpful in that, of course we’re fully prepared to do that,” Blinken said.

“But we really look to the Ukrainian government to what if anything might make sense. They’re engaged in talks with Russia. They had one round, there may be another one, we’ll see. But, of course, the demands Russia put on the table were beyond excessive, they were of course non-starters," he said.

4:22 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Former NATO commander: Putin "pushing for land corridor to Crimea"

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Ben Kirby

Richard Shirreff, NATO's former deputy supreme allied commander, speaks to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
Richard Shirreff, NATO's former deputy supreme allied commander, speaks to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “pushing for a land corridor to Crimea,” a former NATO commander told CNN Wednesday while commenting on Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.   

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, NATO's former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Richard Shirreff said: “It is quite clear that Putin is pushing for a land corridor to Crimea. I mean that is an obvious objective.”

“He’s had Crimea in the Russian Federation since 2014, he’s only been able to supply it across the Kerch Strait bridge, and so of course he’s looking to establish that land corridor down off the Sea of Azov,” Shirreff added.

Shirreff went on to say that Putin has been “humiliated” and his military “had not delivered” given the slow advances into the country.

“[Putin] is going to be ordering Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, to get cracking, to get stuck in, and to use whatever means he needs at his disposal,” Shirreff said. 

The former NATO Commander said he feared we would see an increase in civilian casualties and humanitarian catastrophe, with potentially the leveling of cities, as a result.

“I’m afraid to say I don’t think we have seen anything yet in terms of the destruction that’s likely to happen,” he said.

Watch former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Richard Shirreff explain why fighting in cities is "tougher on the attacker":

2:56 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

The US is imposing new sanctions on 22 Russian "defense-related entities," Secretary of State Blinken says 

From CNN's Michael Conte

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Elizabeth Frantz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, targeting 22 Russian “defense-related entities” as Russia pushes forward with its invasion of Ukraine.

The entities that will be sanctioned include “companies that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems,” Blinken said at a news conference at the State Department, “the very systems now being used to assault the Ukrainian people, abuse human rights, violate international humanitarian law.”

Blinken also announced export controls on Belarus “to hold the Lukashenko regime accountable for being a co-belligerent in President Putin’s war of choice.”

“We will choke off Belarus’s ability to import key technologies,” said Blinken. “And if Lukashenko’s support for the war continues, the consequences for his regime will escalate.”

2:37 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

"We are not at war with Russia," French president stresses

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a televised speech in Paris on Wednesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a televised speech in Paris on Wednesday. (Abaca/Sipa USA/AP)

"We are not at war with Russia," French President Emmanuel Macron said.

In an address to the nation on Wednesday, Macron said the war against Ukraine had created a "rupture" in Europe. 

Macron added he puts an importance on maintaining contact with both the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The French leader said he had kept up contact with Putin to try to "convince him to drop arms" and also to prevent the "enlargement of the conflict."  

2:55 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

US nuclear command and control aircraft have increased flights since Russia's Ukraine invasion, official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The US military’s nuclear command and control aircraft have increased their number of daily flights since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a US official tells CNN, a sign that the US strategic force has responded in some way to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The fleet of Boeing E-6 Mercury aircraft has flown more frequently since the invasion, which has not been previously reported. The commander of America’s nuclear weapons says the posture of the US strategic force has not changed, but the increased flights mark a shift in the last week, even before Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would put his own strategic force, including nuclear weapons, on heightened alert.

Notably, the increase in frequency of the flights occurred even before Putin made the move, which the Pentagon called “unnecessary” and “escalatory.” The more frequent flights began one day before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as US officials warned the assault could begin within hours.

“I am satisfied with the posture of my forces,” Admiral Charles Richard, the commander of US Strategic Command, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. “I have made no recommendations to make any changes,” he continued, saying that the nuclear command and control was the “most defended, most resilient” it has ever been.

The US retains a portion of its ballistic missiles under a state of heightened alert, ready to be launched within minutes should the order come down from the President. The US also retains a launch-under-attack option to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles in the event of a confirmed attack.

Richard told lawmakers he was staying in Omaha, Nebraska, the headquarters of Strategic Command, so he can “assess and be satisfied in terms of our defensive posture.”

More background: The fleet of E-6s have been flying approximately seven sorties each day since Feb. 23, according to airplane tracking data on ADS-B Exchange, a flight tracking website that picks up on an aircraft’s transponder signal. The increase in flights began as US and western officials warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent. Prior to that date, the E-6 fleet was flying approximately three to four sorties each day, tracking data shows.

The E-6 is a command-and-control aircraft designed as a platform for a “survivable, reliable, and endurable” link between the military’s top commanders, including the President as commander-in-chief, and the strategic and non-strategic forces who carry out those orders. 

The aircraft has the critical highly classified ask of communications with ballistic missile submarines and ballistic missile silos, known as the TACAMO mission, which stands for “Take Charge and Move Out.” The E-6 can also launch ballistic missiles from silos using the airborne launch control system (ALCS).

Capt. Ron Flanders, the spokesperson for US Strategic Command, which oversees America’s nuclear weapons, said, “The Department of Defense routinely conducts and varies its flight operations as appropriate. We do not comment on the specifics of these operations nor on the manner in which they are conducted.”

“The E-6 is meant to serve as a survivable and redundant means of airborne command and control, keeping links between the our civilian political leadership and nuclear forces intact in a crisis,” said Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

“I have no reason to believe the ongoing flights are anything but routine or parts of exercises,” he added.

Notably, the increased frequency of the flights occurred even before Putin placed his deterrence forces, including nuclear arms, on a heightened state of alert over the weekend, which the Pentagon called “unnecessary” and “escalatory.” The more frequent flights began one day before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as US officials warned the assault could begin within hours.

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said the E-6 flights happen routinely. The increased flights, he speculated, may be an extra precaution given the risks involved with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine so close to the US’s NATO allies.

“You could imagine there’s been an order that’s gone out that says we need to have this command-and-control system up and ready in case there are any crazy, unforeseen scenarios happening,” said Kristensen. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that therefore there’s a heightened nuclear alert status compared to what we normally have, but you can imagine they have that enhanced communication system up and running.” 

Kristensen also said the increased flights may be a way of sending a message to Russia that the US is watching.  

“That would be one way to communicate heightened vigilance so to speak," he said.