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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2:33 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

France: EU will take measures on cryptocurrencies to prevent Russia from bypassing sanctions

From CNN’s Eva Tapiero in Paris and Pierre Meilhan in Atlanta

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks on Wednesday.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks on Wednesday. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union is planning to take measures on cryptocurrencies to prevent Russia from bypassing economic sanctions, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday.

"We have decided to work on additional measures to further strengthen the effectiveness of these sanctions and avoid any bypassing of the sanctions decided by the 27 member states. In particular, we will take measures on cryptocurrencies, which must not be used to bypass the financial sanctions decided by the European Union," Le Maire said during a news conference after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

Le Maire added that while the exact measures addressing cryptocurrencies are unclear, EU members are "determined" to focus in this area to ensure the effectiveness of the bloc's sanctions against Russia.

"We had a specific report that was put together by Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank. We are going to study all the means that would allow us to avoid the bypassing of financial sanctions by cryptocurrencies," he said.

2:26 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

White House reiterates sanctions on Russian oil and gas "not something we're prepared to do right now"

From CNN's DJ Judd

Oil tanks are seen at the Novokuibyshevsk Refinery in Russia on February 24.
Oil tanks are seen at the Novokuibyshevsk Refinery in Russia on February 24. (Yegor Aleyev/TASS/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden's senior adviser Cedric Richmond reiterated Wednesday that “everything is on the table,” including sanctions targeting Russia’s oil industry, while acknowledging “it’s not something we’re prepared to do right now.”

“When you talk about oil, you talk about increasing pain here at home for Americans and raising the price of gas and everyday expenses,” Richmond told CNN’s Ana Cabrera in an interview. “It's something we're definitely looking at; it is not something we're prepared to do right now. But I think the President was very clear when he said everything is on the table and he's not prepared to take anything off the table.”

Richmond took the opportunity to highlight the administration’s climate proposals, which he said “would lower energy prices for the average American family by $500 a month,” pointing to provisions in Biden’s Build Back Better legislation that he suggested would “lower Americans’ everyday costs.”

Here's what White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond said about Biden having to choose between targeting Putin or inflicting pain at the pump for Americans:

2:13 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Ukraine wants Russia to be severed from the global internet. Here's why experts say it's a risky idea.

From CNN’s Brian Fung

An employee inside the office of VK Company Ltd. works on a laptop overlooking Leningradsky Avenue in Moscow on January 19.
An employee inside the office of VK Company Ltd. works on a laptop overlooking Leningradsky Avenue in Moscow on January 19. (Andrey Rudkov/Bloomberg/Getty Images/File)

Over the past week, Ukraine's government has pressured major tech platforms to rethink how they operate with Russia, and it has been pretty successful.

Social media companies have reduced the reach of Russian state-backed media outlets, for example, and Apple has stopped selling its products and limited some services in Russia. 

But now Ukraine is pushing for something even more dramatic and consequential. 

On Monday, Ukraine's government called for Russia to be disconnected from the global internet. It sent a letter to ICANN, the US-based international non-profit that oversees the global system of internet domain names and IP addresses, with a plea.

"I'm sending you this letter on behalf of the people of Ukraine, asking you to address an urgent need to introduce strict sanctions against the Russian Federation in the field of DNS [Domain Name System] regulation, in response to its acts of aggression towards Ukraine and its citizens," wrote Andrii Nabok, who represents Ukraine on ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee.

Internet governance experts say Ukraine's request, if carried out, would effectively sever Russia from the internet, leaving Russian websites without a home. Email addresses would stop working and internet users wouldn't be able to log on. Russia would suddenly find itself on a digital island.

But those same governance experts are skeptical that Ukraine's request will ultimately be fulfilled. For one thing, they say, it would set a dangerous precedent that could give authoritarian countries license to make similar demands. For another, it is not clear that ICANN could make such a decision even if many wanted it to. 

Besides, they added, cutting Russia off from the rest of the digital world might be giving the Kremlin exactly what it wants: a citizenry unable to access outside information. 

Governments such as China's have sought to wall off their own people from the outside digital world. But Ukraine's request is unprecedented, according to Vint Cerf, widely considered one of the fathers of the internet.

"It is the first time in my memory that a government has asked ICANN to interfere with the normal operation" of the domain name system at such a scale, Cerf told CNN Business.

"The internet operates in large measure because of substantial levels of trust among the many components of its ecosystem," Cerf added. "Acting on this request would have negative consequence in many dimensions."

The letter was first reported by Rolling Stone. Angelina Lopez, an ICANN spokesperson, confirmed to CNN the letter had been received and that officials were reviewing it, but declined to comment.

Read more.

1:51 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Chelsea FC owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich will sell club

From CNN's David Close

(Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/Getty Images)
(Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/Getty Images)

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has announced Wednesday he plans to sell Chelsea Football Club, as it is "in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners."

No timetable was provided but Abramovich said the sale "will not be fast-tracked."

On Saturday, Abramovich declared he gave "stewardship" of the club over to trustees of the club's charitable foundation.

Some background: Last week, member of Parliament Chris Bryant called for Abramovich to lose ownership of Chelsea after seeing a leaked 2019 UK government document that said Abramovich was of interest due to his "links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices," the MP said in a Twitter post.

"Surely, Mr. Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?" he added.

Abramovich himself has not been sanctioned by the UK, according to the UK's sanctions list website.

In the House of Commons Wednesday, opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer questioned why Abramovich had not been sanctioned by the UK government. Abramovich has always denied claims he has links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here's Abramovich's statement in full:

"I would like to address the speculation in media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC. As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners.
The sale of the Club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process. I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club. Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.
Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the Club in this manner. However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the Club.
I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person. It has been a privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart."

1:43 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

United Airlines says flights are now avoiding Russian airspace

From CNN's Pete Muntean

United Airlines said its flights will now avoid Russian airspace, even though the country has not yet banned US aircraft from overflights. 

United spokesperson Leslie Scott told CNN that two routes between the US and India — San Francisco to New Delhi and Newark to Mumbai—will be canceled for the next few days. The airline is also rerouting flights between Newark and New Delhi and between Chicago O’Hare and New Delhi.

Delta Air Lines said it is no longer flying through Russian airspace for some Asia-bound flights as well. Last month, American Airlines began rerouting flights that operated over Ukraine.

Russia has banned dozens of western countries from operating in its airspace, but it has not yet banned US aircraft, even after the US announced it would block Russian flights in US airspace.

2:02 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

White House details new sanctions on Russian and Belarusian entities, including targeting Russian oil refining

From CNN's DJ Judd

Tatneft's oil refining and petrochemical complex in Tatarstan, Russia.
Tatneft's oil refining and petrochemical complex in Tatarstan, Russia. (Yegor Aleyev/TASS/Getty Images)

The White House detailed a new slate of economic measures levied against Russia and allied Belarus Wednesday, blasting Belarus for “enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.” 

Among Wednesday’s actions are new restrictions extending export control policies to Belarus, preventing diversion of tech and software to Russia through the country, which the administration said “will severely limit the ability of Russia and Belarus to obtain the materials they need to support their military aggression against Ukraine, project power in ways that threaten regional stability and undermine global peace and security.” 

In addition, the US and allies are identifying 22 Russian “defense-related entities,” including firms that provide technological and material support for Russia’s military.

The US and allies are also targeting “technology exports” in the oil refining sector, which they say could help the US move toward its goal of “degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time. 

“The United States and our Allies and partners do not have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy – which is why we have carved out energy payments from our financial sanctions,” the White House said in a statement, adding that sanctions on the oil refining industry will harm the Russian oil industry while still protecting American consumers. 

The US also details new sanctions on entities affiliated with Russian and Belarusian military forces and points to US President Joe Biden’s announcement last night banning Russian aircrafts from domestic US airspace.

2:05 p.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Catch up: How athletes and sports organizations are responding to the violence in Ukraine

From CNN's Wayne Sterling, Sammy Mngqosini, Aleks Klosok, Ben Morse, and Jason Kurtz

As the violence in Ukraine intensifies, athletes and sports organizations around the world are responding. 

Here are a few examples of the ways in which the world of sports is handling the conflict.

Motorsports governing body suspends licenses issued to Russia and Belarus: Motorsport UK announced on Wednesday that the licenses issued to Russia and Belarus have been suspended "with immediate effect."The governing body for four-wheel in the UK said that no Russian and Belarusian licensed teams are approved to enter competitions in the country or participate in motorsports events. In addition, no Russian and Belarusian national symbols, colors, flags on uniforms, equipment and cars will be displayed at Motorsport UK permitted events.

“The entire Motorsport UK community condemns the acts of war by Russia and Belarus in Ukraine and expresses its solidarity and support towards all those affected by the ongoing conflict," David Richards CBE, chair of Motorsport UK, said in a statement. 
“We stand united with the people of Ukraine and the motorsport community following the invasion and the unacceptable actions that have unfolded. This is a time for the international motorsport community to act and show support for the people of Ukraine and our colleagues at the Federation Automobile d’Ukraine (FAU).”

NHL’s Senators will play Ukrainian national anthem prior to all home games

The National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators have pledged to play the Ukrainian national anthem ahead of the opening face-off at every remaining home game this season.

To show support for the “valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people,” Senators owner Eugene Melnyk announced Wednesday that the Ukrainian anthem will be played along with the Canadian and US national anthems.

The Senators have 13 regular-season games remaining. The team’s next home game is March 10.

"We are all Ukrainians,” said Melnyk, who is Canadian and said his parents are from Ukraine.

He continued in an open letter, "The unprovoked assault and unnecessary campaign, economic and social destruction of a sovereign country is unspeakable and unacceptable in a civilized world.

"And, while the images from Ukraine show courage and resilience, they’re also a cry out for help."

The team pledges to help raise money through game day raffles and utilize its home arena for charitable causes to help humanitarian aid efforts.

The Senators shared Melnyk's open letter on Twitter. You can read that here:

Swiss billionaire wants to buy famed football team from Russian billionaire

Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss says he wants to buy Chelsea F.C. from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich announced that he plans to give the “stewardship” of Chelsea Football Club over to trustees of the club’s charitable foundation.

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC. I believe … they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans,” Abramovich wrote in a statement.

Abramovich is understood to want to retain his ownership of the club — which he has had since 2003 — but is reportedly concerned about possible UK sanctions and subsequent reputational damage.

Wyss, who founded medical device firm Synthes USA, says he and three other people received an offer to buy Chelsea from Abramovich, but there is no fixed selling price.

“I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owes him two billion. But Chelsea has no money,” Wyss said.

EA Sports pulls Russian teams and clubs from video games: EA Sports will remove the Russian national team and all Russian club teams from FIFA 22, FIFA Mobile, FIFA online, and NHL 22, the video game company announced on Wednesday.

"EA Sports stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and like so many voices across the world of football, calls for peace and an end to the invasion of Ukraine," EA Sports FIFA said in a statement. "In line with our partners at FIFA and UEFA, EA Sports has initiated processes to remove the Russian national team and all Russian clubs from EA Sports FIFA products including FIFA 22, FIFA Mobile, and FIFA Online. We will keep our communities up to date on any actions taken, and thank players for their patience as we work through these updates.”

EA Sports NHL added the following additional remarks, “Following the IIHF’s suspension of all Russian and Belarusian national and club teams from IIHF competitions, we will be removing these teams from NHL 22 within the coming weeks. We stand with the people of Ukraine and join the voices around the world calling for peace.”

Russian tennis player speaks out against violence in Ukraine: Russian tennis player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is using her platform as a professional athlete to condemn the conflict in Ukraine. “I just don't want violence. All we want right now, our hearts have broken. We just want peace and love and stop the violence,” Pavlyuchenkova told CNN.

“We don't have to be at war… right now it's more about our future and our life really. It's more than the sport right now,” she added.

Pavlyuchenkova, who has shared her sentiments on Twitter, also offered support for her Ukrainian fellow tennis players. "I understand them and I feel for them and my heart is broken as much as them. I also understand their position,” she said. “I just want that the violence stop.”

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.