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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6:43 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

International Atomic Energy Agency says Ukraine has requested help safeguarding nuclear plants

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the extraordinary meeting of agency's board of governors in Vienna, Austria on March 2.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the extraordinary meeting of agency's board of governors in Vienna, Austria on March 2. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has received a request from Ukraine's nuclear power authority "to provide immediate assistance in coordinating activities in relation to the safety of the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) NPP and other nuclear facilities."

The request came as Russia notified the IAEA that its forces have taken control of the territory around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Tuesday. The Russian letter to the IAEA said personnel at the plant continued their “work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation. The radiation levels remain normal.”

Social media video footage verified by CNN Wednesday showed workers at the NPP blocking access roads to the plant, one of the largest nuclear power plants in Europe. 

Russian forces seized control of the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, last week.

The IAEA said Grossi will be holding consultations and maintaining contacts in order to address Ukraine's request.

The agency added: "The Director General has repeatedly stressed that any military or other action that could threaten the safety or security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants must be avoided. He also said that operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure."

The IAEA also said that on Tuesday, Ukraine informed the agency that all its nuclear power plants remained under the control of the national operator.

In an update Wednesday, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) said it maintained communications with the country’s nuclear facilities and that they continued to operate normally.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest of Ukraine’s nuclear power sites, with six out of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors.

6:35 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Kremlin says Russian economy is taking "serious blows" when asked about Biden's State of the Union speech

From CNN's Moscow bureau and Maegan Vazquez

The Russian economy is being impacted as a result of sanctions imposed by the West, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged when asked about US President Joe Biden’s remarks in his State of the Union speech.

“Russia’s economy is experiencing serious blows,” Peskov said in call with foreign journalists on Wednesday. “But there is a certain margin of safety, there is potential, there are some plans, work is underway.” 

“[The economy] will stay on its feet,” he concluded.

In his speech on Tuesday, President Biden said the Russian economy had been left “reeling” from all the sanctions.

Speaking to political leaders in Washington, Biden began the address by underscoring unity against Russia within the United States and among its allies.

He closed with a resounding sense of optimism and unity as the world watches Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying his confidence in the American people is what gives him assurance that democracy will prevail at this critical moment.

Now is the hour, our moment of responsibility. Our test of resolve and conscience, of history itself. It is in this moment that our character is formed. Our purpose is found. Our future is forged," Biden said in closing.

"Well, I know this nation. We will meet the test. To protect freedom and liberty, to expand fairness and opportunity. We will save democracy. As hard as these times have been, I am more optimistic about America today than I have been my whole life," he continued.

The President said, "The state of the union is strong, because you, the American people, are strong."

"We are stronger today than we were a year ago," Biden added. "And we will be stronger a year from now than we are today. Now is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time."

On Tuesday, Peskov told CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be watching Biden’s State of the Union speech, but that he would get a written report on it.

6:23 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

China says it will "continue to play a constructive role"

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at press conference in Beijing, China, on March 1.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at press conference in Beijing, China, on March 1. (Eyepress/Reuters)

China said it "will continue to play a constructive role in easing the tension over Ukraine," after Ukraine's top diplomat appealed to China's foreign minister for their help in mediating a ceasefire in Russia's invasion. 

"China always supports and encourages all diplomatic efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, welcomes the launch of peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, and hopes that the two sides will continue the process of dialogue and negotiation and seek a political solution that accommodates the legitimate security concerns of both sides," Foreign Minister spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a briefing on Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, China's foreign minister Wang Yi had a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, who said Ukraine is willing to maintain communication with China and “expects China's mediation for the realization of a ceasefire," China's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Kuleba also told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that the Chinese are “ready to seek a peaceful solution” in diplomatic talks to end the war and that he appealed to Wang to "take advantage of their leverage on Putin, of their relations with Russia, and urge Putin to stop this war immediately.” 

Wenbin's comments come a day after China started evacuating its citizens from Ukraine.

Unlike nationals from many other countries, Chinese nationals in Ukraine did not receive instructions to leave the country before Russia's invasion began. Prior to Russia's attack, Chinese officials pushed back on warnings from the United States and its allies that an aggressive move from Moscow was imminent.

However, China appeared to change course this week.

Some 400 students based in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, and another 200 from the capital, Kyiv, left the country on Monday, according to state-run tabloid Global Times, which cited the Chinese Embassy in Ukraine. Another 1,000 citizens were expected to be evacuated into neighboring countries on Tuesday, it added.

6:13 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Oil hits $113 as Russia fears mount

From CNN's Matt Egan 

The relentless rally in oil prices hit new milestones on Wednesday as Brent soared beyond $113 a barrel for the first time in nearly eight years on deepening concerns about Russia’s oil supply. 

Brent, the world benchmark, jumped 5.4% in recent trading to $110.20 a barrel. At one point it hit $113.02 -- up nearly 8% on the day and the highest intraday level since June 2014.

US crude jumped another 4% Wednesday morning to $107.42 a barrel. US crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), spiked as much as 7.8% to $111.50 a barrel – the highest level since August 2013.

The rally reflects worries that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and ensuing sanctions on the Kremlin, will disrupt Russia’s oil supply. The new milestones come less than a day after the International Energy Agency and the White House announced the release of 60 million barrels of emergency oil supplies.

6:06 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

"Massive" shelling continues to rock Kharkiv

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv, Ukraine

Buildings on fire in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 2.
Buildings on fire in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 2. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities said central parts of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, continued to be subjected to "massive shelling and bombing" on Wednesday morning, while firefighting is "underway."

"As a result of enemy missiles hitting, administrative buildings collapsed with subsequent fires," regional emergency services said. 

At least four people were killed and nine were injured, while 10 were rescued from the rubble, emergency services said.

5:55 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Kremlin sees all the countries that sanction Russia as "de facto unfriendly"

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian government would consider all countries that introduce sanctions on the country to be "de facto unfriendly."

In a conference call with reporters, Peskov said, "Judging by the measures that many countries are taking against us, they are now all de facto unfriendly. Whether they are on the list or not.

"In this case, the list is secondary. But the response to these unfriendly, hostile actions, must be analyzed, no one is going to shoot ourselves in the foot to harm someone. We do what we need to, what suits us, and we’re doing it with a sober head."

The Russian government last year published a list of "unfriendly" countries. According to Russian state news agencies, there were two countries initially placed on the list -- the United States and the Czech Republic.

The news comes as countries around the world are imposing fresh sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Australia and Taiwan all hit Moscow with new injunctions over the weekend, condemning the military incursion that unfolded Saturday across the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

8:05 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Nuclear plant workers block access to Russian forces

From Tim Lister in Kyiv and Olya Voitovych

Hundreds of workers and local people have blocked an access road to a Ukrainian nuclear power plant near the southeastern town of Enerhodar, as Russian forces advance in the area.

Videos posted to the Facebook page of the local authority showed a large crowd carrying Ukrainian flags blocking the road Wednesday morning.

Garbage trucks were also being used to block the thoroughfare.

Dmytro Orlov, mayor of Enerhodar, said on his Facebook page: “We conveyed the position of our city and its residents that the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant] is under reliable protection, that its workers and residents of Enerhodar are under Ukrainian flags.”

“All municipal services are working in emergency mode. Nobody is going to surrender the city. People are determined,” Orlov added.

Russia informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its military forces have taken control of the territory around the Zaporizhzhia plant, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Tuesday.

5:29 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

A Russian delegation will be "in place" for new round of talks with Ukraine 

Fom CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a Russian delegation will be "in place" Wednesday for new round of talks with Ukraine, but gave no additional details about the location or format of the discussions. 

"This afternoon, in the late afternoon, our delegation will be in place waiting for Ukrainian negotiators," Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
"Our delegation will be ready to continue the conversation tonight."

Peskov declined to give the location of possible talks. On Monday, talks took place been Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Belarus, not far from the Ukrainian border. The two sides discussed a potential ceasefire, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser, but did not yield any concrete result.

The Kremlin spokesperson said he could not predict whether a Ukrainian delegation would show, adding, "we hope it happens."

Read CNN analysis prior to the first round of talks here:

5:31 a.m. ET, March 2, 2022

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko to CNN: "Right now, I am very proud to be Ukrainian"

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko speaks to CNN on March 2 from Kyiv, Ukraine.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko speaks to CNN on March 2 from Kyiv, Ukraine. (CNN)

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told CNN that while he has traveled the globe representing his country as a Hall of Fame boxer, right now he is "very proud to be Ukrainian."

"We stayed in front of one of the strongest armies in the world," the former world heavyweight boxing champion said. "The will to be independent is (the) main priority for us. And we're defend(ing) our families, our city, our country and our future."

Klitschko also called for countries to support Ukraine, because it will be "difficult to survive" without it.

Klitschko said infrastructure -- electricity, heating and water -- are up and running in Kyiv. He said authorities are in direct communications with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, who have sent food and support that is en route to the Ukrainian capital.

What Kyiv really needs, Klitschko said, is "more hard sanctions against Russia."

We have to keep united," he said. "The war is not just for Ukraine. It's (a) challenge for the whole modern world, for (the) whole democratic world."

Klitschko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to remake the Soviet Union and make Ukraine "part of (a) Russian empire."

The mayor said that Ukrainians will fight for "every square" and "every street" of Kyiv should Russian forces advance on the city.

We expect a huge fight," Klitschko said. "But we're fighting for our families."

The ex-boxer continued:

"There is a huge patriotic movement right now. Old people -- can you imagine -- doctors, actors, actors from theater, many professions that never had expectation to fight, to keep weapons, but right now they (are) coming to us," Klitschko said. "They're ready to fight. It's amazing."

Watch the interview: