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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4:01 p.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Russian ministry of defense acknowledges military casualties in Ukraine, according to briefing on state media

From CNN staff

The remains of Russian military vehicles line a road in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 1.
The remains of Russian military vehicles line a road in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 1. (Serhii Nuzhnenko/AP)

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that 498 Russian military personnel have been killed since the invasion of Ukraine and 1,597 have been wounded. 

"Unfortunately, we have losses among our comrades who are participating in the operation," Konashenkov said in a briefing carried on state television. 

Russia's armed forces employ a mix of contract soldiers and draftees. Konashenkov said Russian draftees were not fighting in Ukraine. 

"I want to emphasize once again that neither conscripts nor cadets of educational institutions of the Russian Ministry of Defense are participating in a special operation," he said. "The information spread by many Western and individual Russian media about the supposedly 'innumerable' losses of the Russian force is deliberate disinformation."

Ukrainian officials have acknowledged casualties on their side and estimate Russian casualties to be much higher.

1:38 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Sanctions have sharply raised chance of a Russian default, JPMorgan warns

From CNN’s Matt Egan

People walk by sign displaying currency exchange rates in Moscow, Russia, on March 2.
People walk by sign displaying currency exchange rates in Moscow, Russia, on March 2. (Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/Getty Images)

Russia’s stock market remains shut down. The ruble is worth less than a penny. And Western businesses are fleeing. JPMorgan warns a Russian default could be next.

“Sanctions imposed on Russia have significantly increased the likelihood of a Russia government hard currency bond default,” JPMorgan emerging markets strategists wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.

It’s not necessarily that Russia doesn’t have the cash to make its debt payments. The Central Bank of Russia lists a staggering $643 billion of international reserves.

However, JPMorgan said sanctions leveled by the United States on Russian government entities, countermeasures within Russia to restrict foreign payments and the disruption of payment chains “present high hurdles for Russia to make a bond payment abroad.”

For instance, sanctions on Russia’s central bank and the exclusion of some banks from SWIFT, the high-security network banks used to communicate, will impact Russia’s ability to access foreign currency to pay down debt, according to Capital Economics. That includes Russia’s stockpile of reserves as well as cash from export revenue.

Russia has more than $700 million in payments coming due in March, mostly with a 30-day grace period, according to JPMorgan. 

Some believe the Kremlin could be setting the stage for an intentional default to punish the United States and Europe for crushing its economy.

“Putin is 100% going to default,” hedge fund manager Kyle Bass told CNN in a phone interview on Wednesday. “The West is strangling him. Why would he agree to pay the West interest right now?”

Capital Economics noted that Russian authorities have already prohibited the transfer of coupon payments on local currency sovereign debt to foreigners, underscoring the point that authorities are “acting with scant regard for foreigners’ holdings of Russian assets.”

“Russia could use default as a way of retaliating against Western sanctions to inflict losses on foreign lenders. It’s not far-fetched to think that the Russian authorities could ban foreign debt repayments,” Capital Economics wrote.

Russia, currently the 12th largest economy in the world, last defaulted on its debt in 1998, setting off a crisis that spread overseas.

1:01 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

There's been no "significant change on the ground" in Ukraine since yesterday, a senior defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte, Ellie Kaufman and Barbara Starr

There has not been “significant change on the ground” in Ukraine since yesterday, a senior defense official said.

The US is currently estimating that Russia has committed 82% of its available combat power that had been staged outside Ukraine into the country. This figure represents just a small increase from the 80% the US estimated Tuesday.

Though there has been “no appreciable movement” of Russian forces advancing on Kyiv since yesterday, Russia has increased its “missiles and artillery targeting the city,” the official continued.

The official also said similarly that while Russian forces are assaulting Chernihiv and Kharkiv, there has been “no appreciable movement by the Russians to take either one.”

The official describes Russian forces as currently being “stalled” outside those cities. However, Russian forces have made more progress in the south, the official said.

Though the official notes that the US sees the city of Kherson as being “contested,” Russia claims that they have in fact taken control of the city.

The official also shared that though there had been no moves on Mariupol by Russia, there were “preliminary indications” that Russian forces would try to move on the city from the Donetsk region, with an assault on the city likely from multiple directions.

The US also believes a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy outside of Kyiv is “stalled,” the senior US defense official told reporters.

“We’ve seen indications that at times and at certain places, the convoy may have been resisted by Ukrainian forces, and I really think I have to leave it at that,” the official said.

12:58 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

White House discourages Americans from going to fight in Ukraine

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

The White House discouraged Americans from traveling to Ukraine to help defend the country from a Russian invasion on Wednesday, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked foreigners to come join the fight.

“Ukrainians have shown their courage and they are calling on every resource and lever they have to defend themselves,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One. “We applaud their bravery, however our travel advisory remains.” 

She reiterated, “US citizens should not travel to Ukraine.” 

In a statement on Sunday, Zelensky addressed "all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy," saying, "Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals."

12:59 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Biden administration does not "have a strategic interest" in banning Russian oil exports, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Pumpjacks are seen at the Novo-Yelkhovskoye oil field in Tatarstan, Russia, on February 28.
Pumpjacks are seen at the Novo-Yelkhovskoye oil field in Tatarstan, Russia, on February 28. (Yegor Aleyev/TASS/Getty Images)

The White House appeared to walk back its openness to ban Russian oil exports to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin, declining to rule it out entirely but saying that doing so was not in the US strategic interests due to disruptions to the global oil supply and the impact it would have on prices at the pump.

“We don't have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Jean-Pierre said that an export ban “would raise prices at the gas pump for Americans,” something that the White House is “very aware of.”

She lauded US companies that have cut ties with Russia, and said the administration “(welcomes) those announcements.”

But, Jean-Pierre said, the administration is more strategically focused on impacting Russia’s energy status over time. 

“We and our allies and partners have a strong collective interest to degrade Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time. That's why we've been talking about diversification. That's why we shut down Nord Stream 2. That's why we're helping to accelerate diversification for Russian gas. And that's why denying critical technology inputs that Russia needs to maintain its production capacity in oil and gas,” she said.

These more tempered comments come after US President Joe Biden Biden said sanctioning Russian oil exports remained a possibility.

“Nothing is off the table,” Biden said when specifically pressed on banning Russian oil exports earlier Wednesday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN this morning the administration would strongly weigh the possibility of significant disruption to US and global oil markets when making a decision. 

“What he (Biden) does not want to do is topple the global oil markets or the global marketplace, or impact the American people more with higher energy and gas prices. And obviously, the announcement that was made yesterday to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve here and do that in the united way, in a coordinated way with the global community, is an effort to address that and mitigate the impact, but that's something we heavily weigh.”

12:52 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Russia has conducted "more than 450 missile launches" on Ukraine, US defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman

People walk past the site of Tuesday's airstrike that hit Kyiv's TV tower.
People walk past the site of Tuesday's airstrike that hit Kyiv's TV tower. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia has conducted “more than 450 missile launches,” since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Wednesday.

The missiles being launched include “all stripes and sizes,” the official said, including “short-range, medium-range, surface air missiles, cruise missiles.”

The airspace over Ukraine also remains contested, the official added.

“Ukrainian air and missile defense capabilities remain intact and viable, but then again so do the Russians,” the official said.

There has not been “significant change on the ground” in Ukraine since yesterday, according to a senior defense official, with the US estimating that Russia has committed 82% of its available combat power that had been staged outside Ukraine into the country, just a small increase in the 80% the US estimated had been committed yesterday.

And though there has been “no appreciable movement” of Russian forces advancing on Kyiv since yesterday, Russia has increased its “missiles and artillery targeting the city,” according to the official, including targeting infrastructure in the city.

The official said similarly that while Russian forces are assaulting Cherniv and Kharkiv, there has been “no appreciable movement by the Russians to take either one,” with Russian forces “stalled” outside those cities.

However, Russian forces have made more progress in the south, according to the official, though the US sees the city of Kherson as “contested,” despite Russian claims that they had taken control of the city.

The official said that though there had been no moves on Mariupol by Russia, there were “preliminary indications” Russian forces would try to move on the city from the Donetsk region, with an assault on the city likely from multiple directions.

12:38 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Nigeria says it has evacuated citizens fleeing Ukraine

From Nimi Princewill

Nigeria says it has evacuated citizens fleeing Ukraine and they will arrive back into the country Thursday.

Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry said Monday it had so far documented more than 2,000 nationals who fled Ukraine for neighboring European nations as Russian forces invaded the country last week.

The ministry said 650 Nigerians were received by the embassy in Hungary and another 350 in Poland. It added that 940 others were received in Romania and 150 arrived via Slovakia where they were processed for return back to their country.

“Furtherance to our efforts to evacuate Nigerians from the neighboring countries surrounding Ukraine, we can confirm that chattered flights will depart on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, to pick up Nigerian evacuees back home,” the ministry’s statement said.

“We assure Nigerians that we are working round the clock to bring our citizens back home safely," it added.

Foreigners, including Nigerian and Indian students, had complained of poor treatment and racism at the hands of Ukrainian security forces and border officials as they fled the country.

The reports of racism against African citizens at the Ukrainian border sparked global outrage with African nations on the UN Security Council calling for “the mistreatment of African peoples on Europe’s borders…to cease immediately.” 

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Wednesday that Africans and other non-Ukrainians attempting to flee the country should “have equal opportunities to return to their home countries safely.”

12:28 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

WHO leader says "critical" oxygen shortage in Ukraine will impact ability to treat Covid-19 patients

From CNN Health’s Virginia Langmaid

World Health Organization leaders on Wednesday spoke about need to deliver oxygen to Ukraine to treat Covid-19 patients and those with other conditions. 

“Critical shortage of oxygen will have an impact on the ability to treat patients with Covid-19 and many other conditions. At least three major oxygen plants in Ukraine have now closed and we're seeking ways of accessing oxygen from neighboring countries and ways to deliver it safely to where it's needed,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news briefing.  

Tedros said there is an “urgent need” to establish a corridor so supplies can be transported in the region. 

“I think the estimate just last week was 2,000 people on oxygen, high-flow oxygen for Covid,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said, adding that the number has likely risen since then, including people who need oxygen for non-Covid conditions. 

“Oxygen is not just life-saving in Covid, oxygen is life-saving full-stop. And you need it when you need it. You can't wait until tomorrow for oxygen. You can't wait until next week. You can't be put on a waiting list for oxygen. You can’t stand in the queue for oxygen. Oxygen saves your life right now. And when you need it, you need it,” he said.

“If we do not get oxygen into the system and other critical drugs, people will die needlessly. Well, they're dying needlessly start with, but there's a secondary level of needlessness," he added/

12:41 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Here's why some countries in the Middle East aren't condemning Russia for invading Ukraine

By CNN's Nadeen Ebrahim

The United Arab Emirates surprised its Western allies last week when it abstained on a US-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The move amounted to a declaration of neutrality from one of America's closest Middle East allies in a war that has polarized the international community.

Anwar Gargash, adviser to the UAE president, said taking sides "would only lead to more violence," and that the UAE's priority is "to encourage all parties to resort to diplomatic action and to negotiate to find a political solution."

The war in Ukraine, which began less than two months after the UAE took a seat at the Security Council, has thrust the country's changing foreign policy onto the world stage, showing how the Gulf state tries to juggle its ties between traditional allies and burgeoning partnerships. It also demonstrates the struggle faced by the West in getting unequivocal condemnation of Russia's invasion from its allies.

The UAE called for a "peaceful solution" to the "Ukraine crisis in a way that guarantees the interests and national security of all parties," the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi said in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. They also discussed energy cooperation.

Other Arab states have also refrained from condemning Russia's invasion. Saudi Arabia, which counts Russia as its main partner in the OPEC+ alliance to coordinate oil output, said Tuesday it "supports international de-escalation efforts in Ukraine."

The Arab League on Monday also called for de-escalation and restraint in a joint communique. Neither has condemned Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"The UAE [shouldn't] be projected as a puppet of the United States anymore," said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political science professor in the UAE. "Just because we have such great relations with America, we do not take orders from Washington, and we have to do things consistent with our own strategy and priority."

The UAE's apparent paving of an independent foreign policy comes amid Abu Dhabi's frustration with the Biden administration's treatment of issues of significance to the Gulf nation. Soon after Biden came to office, he removed the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen from the US list of terrorist organizations. Less than a year later, the Houthis have begun a campaign of fatal strikes on Abu Dhabi. The US has pledged to bolster UAE defenses, but Abu Dhabi wants a redesignation of the Houthis as terrorists.

In December, the UAE suspended talks for a $23 billion deal with the US to acquire F-35 fighter jets after the talks were stalled by the administration. Then, last month, it announced that it was buying fighter jets from China for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, ties with Moscow have only grown stronger.

Read the full report here.