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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7:59 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Zelensky claims deteriorating morale among Russian troops

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed the morale of Russian forces is crumbling.

In a Facebook message on Wednesday night, Zelensky said: "More and more occupiers are fleeing back to Russia, from us, from you, from all those who drive out the enemy with javelins, guns, tanks, helicopters - with everything that shoots. I wish you health, native Ukrainians, strong and kind, but not to the enemy!" 

"We are a nation that broke the enemy's plans in a week — plans those have been built for years, vile, calculated, with hate for our country, for our people, for any people who have 2 things: freedom and heart. But we stopped them and beat them."

Zelensky added, "Our military, our border guards, our territorial defense, even ordinary farmers capture the Russian military every day. And all the captives say only one thing: they do not know why they are here. Despite the fact that there are dozens of times more of them, the morale of the enemy is constantly deteriorating." 

He also mentioned the opposition to Russian forces of ordinary Ukrainians. "Blocking roads, people come out in front of enemy vehicles - it’s extremely dangerous, but how courageous. It is also salvation."

Zelensky accused Russian troops of looting.

"Let's throw them away with shame, as do those people who drive the occupiers out of grocery stores when the Russian military is trying to find food. These are not warriors of the superpower, these are confused children who were used. "

"They will not have peace here, they will not have food here, they will not have a single quiet moment here. The occupiers will receive only one thing from Ukraine — a rebuff, a worthy rebuff. They will always remember that we do not give up."

"Our army is doing everything to break the enemy completely. 9,000 Russians killed in one week," Zelensky said. 

CNN cannot confirm Ukrainian estimates of how many casualties Russian forces have suffered.

7:42 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

US defense secretary: "Any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous"

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in an interview, “any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous.”  

Austin was asked if he has seen any actions backing up President Vladimir Putin’s recent statements regarding Russia’s nuclear weapons. 

“Any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous, and I think we should avoid that if at all possible,” Austin told NBC’s Lester Holt during the interview that aired Wednesday. “It creates the climate, it creates the conditions for gross miscalculations, and we don’t want to see that happen,” he said.

Putin placed his strategic forces, including nuclear weapons, on a heightened state of alert over the weekend.

Austin said he is “comfortable” with the US’s nuclear posture, adding “I’m confident that we can defend not only ourselves, but our allies and partners.” 

Earlier Wednesday, Austin canceled a planned test of the Minuteman 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 spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon. 

7:47 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Police in St. Petersburg arrest at least 350 anti-war protesters, according to a local monitor site

From CNN's Philip Wang and Sahar Akbarzai in Atlanta

Law enforcement officers detain participants in an unauthorized rally against the Russian military operation in Ukraine, in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday, March 2.
Law enforcement officers detain participants in an unauthorized rally against the Russian military operation in Ukraine, in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday, March 2. (Valentin Yegorshin/TASS/Sipa USA)

Police in Russia’s second biggest city St. Petersburg have arrested at least 350 anti-war protesters on Wednesday, according to local monitor site OVD-Info. 

Multiple videos show that police arrested an elderly woman holding anti-war and anti-nuclear signs while protesters cheered and applauded for the woman. 

At least 7,615 people have been detained in anti-war protests in Russia since last Thursday according to OVD-info.

7:19 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

New EU sanctions target Belarus officials and exports

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan in Atlanta

The European Union approved new sanctions against Belarus on Tuesday for its involvement in the “unacceptable and illegal Russian military aggression against Ukraine," notably prohibiting the sale of a wide ranging type of machinery, including nuclear reactors.

In its 117-page official release, the Council of the European Union stated that “it shall be prohibited: to sell, supply, transfer or export, directly or indirectly, machinery as listed ... whether or not originating in the Union, to any person, entity or body in Belarus or for use in Belarus.” 

The new sanctions aim not only at Belarus' exports to the European Union, but also the Union’s exports of machinery to Belarus.

Sectors and products ranging from iron and steel, tobacco, wood, cement and rubber are targeted by the new restrictions. “It also prohibits the export to Belarus or for use in Belarus of dual-use goods and technology, exports of goods and technology which might contribute to Belarus’s military, technological, defence and security development, and exports of machinery”, the official release said.

Some sanctions also target 22 Belarusian military personnel and officials.

 No Belarusian banks were targeted with fresh sanctions for now.

8:03 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Kherson mayor indicates the city has fallen

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and Tim Lister

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaiev has said that the Ukrainian military is no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city’s administration” — indicating that the city has now fallen under Russian control. 

The announcement on his Facebook page follows several days of pressure on Kherson by Russian forces who had surrounded the city.  

Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet from the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. On Wednesday in Kyiv, the mayor had disputed Russian claims of control saying Ukrainian forces were still fighting in parts of the city. The new posting said Ukrainian forces had left.   

The mayor also told the New York Times in an interview that a group of about 10 armed Russian officers, including the commander of forces attacking the city, entered the city hall building Wednesday. He said he was informed by the Russian officers that they were planning to set up a new administration similar to those in two Russian-backed separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine, according to the NY Times interview.

What this means: If Kherson is now under Russian control, it would be a significant moment in the conflict, as it would mark the first major city seized by Russian forces. 

Late Wednesday, Hennady Lahuta, the head of Kherson regional administration, issued a message saying: “I ask everyone who is not at home now, or who is planning to go outside, not to do so. The occupiers are in all areas of the city and are very dangerous.” 

Without saying explicitly that the Russians controlled the city, mayor Kolykhaiev said on Wednesday night that “there were armed visitors in the city executive committee today.” 

"The team and I are peaceful people, we had no weapons, there was no aggression from our side."   

“I didn't make any promises to them. I just have nothing to promise. I'm only interested in the normal life of our city! I just asked not to shoot people.”  

In his Facebook message, he went on to say, “We do not have Armed Forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here!”  

Kolykhaiev said that there were now new rules in the city, which included a curfew and restrictions on transport in and out of the city.  

He said that another rule was that “Pedestrians walk one by one, maximum two. Don’t provoke the military.” 

He finished: “Let it be for now. The flag above us is Ukrainian. And in order to keep it the same, these requirements will have to be met. I can't offer anything else.”

7:29 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Rep. Crow: Putin views the conflict in Ukraine "as an existential threat to him and his legacy"

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Rep. Jason Crow
Rep. Jason Crow (CNN)

Dem. Rep. Jason Crow says it's "disappointing" to witness the events unfolding in Kherson, Ukraine, a city currently under siege.

Though Ukraine denies that the city has in fact fallen to Russia, it's undeniable that the situation there is dangerous and frightening. Crow, however, maintained a tone of optimism during a live conversation with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Let's also not forget that there were cities that fell to the Russians and then were retaken by the Ukrainians over the last couple of days, so let's not count the Ukrainians out," he said.

Meanwhile, said Crow, the Russian armed forces continue to struggle.

"They're having logistical problems, re-supply problems, fuel problems. Their morale is extremely low, they're encountering some desertions," he explained.

However, though Russia maintains "an overwhelming combat advantage on paper," Crow notes that conflicts aren't settled on paper.

"Odds don't fight and win wars, people do. So we have to continue to get the flow of weapons and equipment as fast as possible and get the things in the hands of the Ukrainians that they need to win this," he said.

Meanwhile, said Crow, this conflict is likely to continue for some time, with Russian President Vladimir Putin not likely to move away from his primary goal.

"This is going to be a long slog. I think if we expect Putin to take an off-ramp here or to de-escalate this because of the toll on his own army, I think we're not thinking about this in the way that Putin is thinking about this," Crow detailed.

"He views this as an existential threat to him and his legacy and frankly, he does not care about his own soldiers, so he's willing to just throw as much combat power at the problem as he needs to do to win this," said Crow.

"This is going to get worse and worse for the Ukrainians," Crow predicted, adding "time is on the Russian's side right now."

6:48 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

International Criminal Court begins war crime investigation in Ukraine

From CNN’s Josh Campbell

The Hague, The Netherlands
The Hague, The Netherlands (Adobe Stock/FILE)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands said on Wednesday it would immediately proceed with an active investigation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement 39 of the court’s member states had requested for the investigation to proceed. 

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” Khan said, noting the investigation will cover incidents in Ukraine from 2013 to the present.

Khan said his office "had already found a reasonable basis to believe crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court had been committed, and had identified potential cases that would be admissible."

The ICC's chief prosecutor implored all parties engaged in conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law.

6:48 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

UN records 752 civilian casualties in Ukraine conflict

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said that it has recorded 752 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

It said that until midnight on March 1, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 227 killed, including 15 under the age of 18, and 525 injured.

6:46 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

OSCE member killed in shelling of Kharkiv

A member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was killed during a shelling in Kharkiv on Tuesday, March 1, an OSCE spokesperson said in a statement. 

The member, Mayna Fenina, was a part of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM).

She was killed while getting supplies for her family in Kharkiv, the OSCE statement said.  

“Our deepest condolences and sympathies go to Maryna’s family. Maryna was a valued member of the SMM team, and our colleagues in Ukraine remain in close contact with her family to offer our support,” OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Foreign Minister of Poland Zbigniew Rau and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said in a statement. 

"Despite repeated calls from across the international community, and from across the OSCE, the unprovoked military operation against Ukraine continues. We strongly condemn the increased shelling in urban areas centres causing death and injury to civilians and reiterate our call on the Russian Federation for an immediate cessation of hostilities and to engage in a meaningful dialogue,” Rau and Schmid said.