March 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Laura Smith-Spark, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
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2:20 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Saudi Arabia offers to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine

From CNN's Mia Alberti

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a summit held at al-Safa Royal Palace in Mecca in 2019.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a summit held at al-Safa Royal Palace in Mecca in 2019. (Bandar Aldandani/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, and he offered to make efforts to mediate talks between Moscow and Kyiv as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Bin Salman said his country supports "efforts that lead to a political solution that leads to its end and achieves security and stability, and that the Kingdom is ready to make efforts to mediate between all parties," he said in a statement posted on state-run Saudi Press Agency Thursday.

He also addressed energy concerns over the situation in Ukraine, reaffirming his country's commitment to the OPEC+ agreement, a pact made by 10 major crude oil producers and Russia to gradually pump more oil in the market to meet demand.

Saudi Arabia, which counts Russia as its main partner in the OPEC+ alliance, said Tuesday it "supports international de-escalation efforts in Ukraine." 

According to a Kremlin readout of the call:

“It was stated with satisfaction that the OPEC Plus member countries are consistently fulfilling their obligations, contributing to ensuring stability in the world oil market. Russia and Saudi Arabia will continue to coordinate their approaches within this format.”

“Taking into account the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by a number of Western countries, Vladimir Putin emphasized the inadmissibility of politicizing the issues of global energy supply, and also outlined the fundamental approaches of the Russian side in the context of the ongoing special military operation to protect Donbass,” the readout said.

More background from CNN Business: Russian oil has not been directly targeted by the West's crushing sanctions on Moscow — so far, at least. In fact, the United States and Europe have gone out of their way to avoid hitting Russia's fossil fuels.

But the market is taking no chances when it comes to Russian oil. Traders, shippers, insurance companies and banks don't want to touch it, for fear of running afoul of Western sanctions. 

This means that a considerable amount of Russian oil has been effectively sidelined — precisely what the West didn't want to happen. Prices for oil and gasoline have skyrocketed.

"The sanctions have led to a de facto ban on Russian oil," Andy Lipow, president of consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates, told CNN. 

CNN's Matt Egan contributed reporting to this post.

2:05 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

White House says there are no plans for Biden-Putin meeting or call: "Now is not the moment"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 3 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 3 in Washington, DC. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins that there are no plans for a meeting or call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “Now is not the moment.”

“We’re not planning a meeting between them or an engagement or a call. The President’s been very, very clear about that. But we’ll have those discussions internally and weigh the range of factors,” Psaki told Collins in Thursday’s briefing. 

Asked if there is any situation in which Biden would sit down with Putin if Russian troops remain in Ukraine, Psaki said, “I can’t make an assessment of that ... Right now, they’re invading a sovereign country and continuing to escalate every day. We’re never going to take diplomacy ever off the table but again, now is not the moment for that.”

Psaki also told Collins that the administration has “no assessment” on whether it is moving closer to banning Russian imports. 

Asked what the calculus is in waiting if the White House will ultimately ban Russian imports, Psaki said there is a policy process, adding “sometimes those moves rapidly and often there are a range of factors that are discussed as those decisions are made.” 

Psaki wouldn’t directly answer whether the President believes Russia will ultimately take Kyiv, telling Collins, “That continues to be their aspiration.”

1:52 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

A multilateral development bank based in China suspends activities in Russia and Belarus

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank based in China, has put all activities related to Russia and Belarus on hold, the AIIB said in the statement. The projects are currently "under review."

China controls 26% of the voting power of the AIIB, according to the bank's website. Russia has 6%. China spearheaded the founding of the AIIB to rival the U.S.-based World Bank in 2016. 

2:01 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Biden administration planning to impose new sanctions on Russian oligarchs as soon as today 

From Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly and Kaitlan Collins

The Biden administration is planning to impose new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and members of their families as soon as Thursday, sources familiar with the matter said.

The sanctions are expected to loosely follow a list of oligarchs sanctioned by the European Union earlier this week, though won't be identical, one person said. A number of the same individuals will be sanctioned by the US.

The US package, however, will be more expansive, including travel bans and targeting family members.

Biden has already applied sanctions to a number of top Russians close to the Kremlin, along with their adult children.

Biden has vowed to go after the "ill begotten gains" of Russian oligarchs, including their private jets, luxury apartments and yachts.

The White House says sanctions on Russian oligarchs are meant to put the squeeze on President Vladimir Putin, and that Thursday's batch of names won't be the last.

"We look, one of the big factors, is the proximity to President Putin," press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked how the US chose who to sanction.

"We want him to feel the squeeze, we want people around him to feel the squeeze," she said. "I don’t believe this is going to be the last set of oligarchs making them a priority and a focus of our individual sanctions is something the president has been focused on."

2:03 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

In Uman, Ukrainian Jews turn synagogue into a bunker and "invite all people" to take shelter

From CNN's Rebecca Wright and Olha Konovalova

The Synagogue in Uman where congregants say the Jewish community has dwindled from around 600 people to less than 60.
The Synagogue in Uman where congregants say the Jewish community has dwindled from around 600 people to less than 60. (Rebecca Wright/CNN)

As air raid sirens blared in the small Ukrainian city of Uman, about 125 miles south of the capital Kyiv, families crowded into a makeshift bomb shelter underneath a central synagogue.

Before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last week, the basement of the temple was used as a bathhouse for Jewish worshippers to do their ritual washing — or mivkeh — before prayers.

But now, the Synagogue of the Breslover Hasidim is opening its doors to all locals looking for shelter from the threat of Russian troops. Uman was hit by missile attacks on the first day of the invasion, but has not seen any major fighting yet. Still, the city is on edge, and remaining residents are preparing for the worst.

"We invite all the people, all Ukrainians, all Hasidic people, doesn't matter who," said Irina Rybnitskaya, a lawyer for the US-owned foundation that runs the synagogue. "We prepare this place especially for them, in order to hide (when) there is (an) alarm."

The temporary hideout is lined with wooden benches and has been stocked with mattresses, blankets and hot drinks. The residents have arrived carrying their valuables and bags of clothing, in case they have to camp out for days — or longer — in the shelter.

"It's safe to be here, that's why I am here," said Dasha Borscht, 16, a non-Jewish resident taking refuge in the basement.

The Jewish neighborhood in Uman is normally busy with visitors to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement who died in 1810. Every year in September, the streets turn into a festival scene, with tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims descending on the memorial complex to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

But since Uman came under attack on the first day of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, many residents have fled. Its shops have been left shuttered and streets strewn with litter. Roadblocks run by Ukrainian soldiers now guard the perimeter of the city, with strict document checks for every vehicle passing through.

The Jewish community in the city has dwindled from around 600 members to under less than 60 since the Russian invasion began, according to the synagogue's lawyer.

"All the people is afraid to be here," said Yehuda Turgiman, a worshipper at the synagogue. "Stop with the war, stop with the fighting, stop with the hate."

Those left behind are those who can't — or won't — leave their homes, along with some who stay out of religious conviction.

"I didn't go to Bulgaria, because I believe Rabbi Nachman cares about us, and nobody can do something that God doesn't want," said Shula, a worshipper at the synagogue who was born in Israel but has lived in Uman for 21 years. "Putin will not come here, and the soldiers will not come here."

Other residents have decided to stay in Uman to fight back against the Russians.

Tzvi Arieli, a former soldier with the Israel Defense Forces who has lived in Ukraine for a decade, told CNN that he is helping to train civilians to use weapons and learn basic combat first aid. He said most of them are businessmen, and they have never held a weapon before.

A week ago, taking up arms was unthinkable to most people here. "We don't have weapons, we don't want to fight," Turgiman said.

The threat to Uman and its holy tomb was brought into focus on Tuesday, when a Russian attack on a Kyiv TV tower struck in the vicinity of Babyn Yar shrine — a site of mourning for more than 30,000 Jew massacred there by Nazi killing squads in 1941, one of the worst mass murders of Jews during the Holocaust.

Read more.

2:06 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Ukraine-Russia say humanitarian corridors were agreed on, but Ukraine says talks didn't deliver needed results

From CNN's Alla Eshchenko

The second round of talks between a delegation from Russia and Ukraine in Belarus have ended, the head of Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky told Russian media, and the two sides have agreed on humanitarian corridors for civilians.

“We have thoroughly discussed three points – military, international and humanitarian, and the third one is an issue of a future political regulation of the conflict. Both positions are clear and written down. We managed to agree on some of them, but the key thing that we have reached an agreement on today was a matter of rescuing civilians who found themselves in a military clash zone. Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries agreed on providing humanitarian corridors for civilians and on a possible temporary ceasefire in areas where evacuation is happening,” Medinsky told media.

The talks lasted for two-and-a-half hours. 

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian negotiator on Thursday said that the talks didn’t deliver results that Ukraine needed, but he said there is a "solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors."

"The second round of negotiations is over. Unfortunately, the results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved. There is a solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors," senior Ukrainian official  Mykhailo Podolyak said in a tweet.  

Another member of the Russian delegation, Leonid Slutsky, told Russia 24 that both sides have agreed on the third round of talks, which will happen in the “nearest future.”

1:58 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Putin claims conflict in Ukraine "is going according to plan" despite other countries' defense assessments

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Alla Eshchenko, Luke McGee, Jim Sciutto, Oren Liebermann and Jeremy Herb

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets virtually with members of his security council in Moscow on March 3.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets virtually with members of his security council in Moscow on March 3. (Andrey Gorshkov/Sputnik/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the war in Ukraine was "going according to plan," despite defense assessments from other countries.

“The special military operation in Ukraine is going according to plan, in strict accordance with the schedule," Putin said, using the euphemism the Kremlin uses to describe the invasion of Ukraine.

"All tasks are being successfully being carried out," Putin said in remarks to his Security Council broadcast on state television.

However, the defense assessments indicate that Russia is facing "stiffer than expected" resistance from the Ukrainian military.

A 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, and towed artillery that is believed to be readying for an assault on the Ukrainian capital appears to have stalled some 30 kilometers (or about 19 miles) outside Kyiv and has made “little discernible progress” over the past three days, according to the UK’s defense ministry.

In his remarks, Putin praised Russian soldiers for their courage during the invasion. The invasion, though, has been met with more resistance than expected.

Russia has yet to establish air supremacy over Ukraine, a senior US defense official said, as the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense systems fight for control of the airspace.

“Ukrainian air defenses, including aircraft, do continue to be operable and continue to engage and deny access to Russian aircraft in places over the country,” the official said.

In his remarks, the Russian president again repeated the baseless and inaccurate claim that the democratically elected Ukrainian government is a "Nazi" or "fascist" regime. That language has been roundly condemned internationally, especially considering that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.

1:28 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

European Council president: No-fly zone over Ukraine is "one step too far" 

From CNN's Zeena Saifi in Abu Dhabi

European Council President Charles Michel gives a speech during a plenary session of the European parliament in Brussels on March 1.
European Council President Charles Michel gives a speech during a plenary session of the European parliament in Brussels on March 1. (Jonas Roosens/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images/File)

European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine is a NATO decision, but that it would be “one step too far” with a “real risk of escalation and a real risk of a possible third international war.” 

“The EU is not at war with Russia. The reality is that Russia has launched a savage war against Ukraine. Ukraine is not a NATO member, and that’s why we must be extremely careful and cautious. We need to do everything which is possible, but taking into account that Russia has nuclear weapons, and it is very important to avoid a third international war,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson. 

Michel said that while this was a decision for NATO to make and not the EU, it is important for NATO members to understand that it would be “one step too far."

“That’s why we are trying to advocate in different fields at the diplomatic level. We are trying to provide more support to Ukraine in order to have a ceasefire as soon as possible, and in order to make sure that we’ll be able to negotiate as soon as possible,” he added. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for NATO and Western allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion and aerial bombardment of its cities. So far, that request has not been met. 

Michel said that although NATO is a “backbone for common security in Europe," European countries need to take on more responsibilities to be able to provide more capabilities on their own in the military field.  

Zelensky has also put in an official request to join the European Union. The EU parliament has since adopted a resolution on Tuesday calling on the European Union institutions "to work towards granting" Ukraine the status of EU candidate country. 

The European Council president told Anderson that Zelensky’s request was “very legitimate” and that the EU would work to asses the request as fast as possible, “in order to remain extremely united in this field," alluding to some differing views among member states.  

He said in the meantime and short term, he has decided to invite Zelensky to the European Council meetings on a “regular basis” to “cooperate and coordinate politically with Ukraine”. 

Michel also stressed that the West’s strength is in its unity. 

“Mr. Putin has tried to divide the EU and the United States. He failed. Mr. Putin has also tried to demonstrate that we are not able to act. He failed. We were able to take extremely important decisions that target directly the economic sectors in Russia. This is extremely painful, and I feel that Mr. Putin is really surprised by our ability to act and be extremely united and firm,” he said.  

In response to whether Western unity is in fact changing Putin’s calculus on the ground, Michel told Anderson that it gives the impression to Russia’s leader that this will not be a battle between Russia against NATO and the EU, because there is very broad support from the international community against Moscow’s actions. 

“We are not certain it will work, but we are certain that we must try and we must use the tools we have in our possession," Michel said.  

1:36 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Russian shelling intensifies around town near Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant 

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv, Paul Murphy, Katie Polglase and Olya Voitovych 

(Obtained by CNN)
(Obtained by CNN)

A small town in the middle of Ukraine has suddenly become a hotspot in the week-old conflict — because it's home to one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants.    

Two days ago, Russian forces said they controlled the territory around the town of Enerhodar, but on Wednesday a large crowd of workers from the power plant and civilians blocked access to the town, building makeshift barricades of trucks and tires.    

At one point, Russian forces fired close to the crowd, according to geolocated social media videos, injuring at least one man.  

The situation deteriorated further Thursday.  

Thick black smoke rose from the barricades as sirens went off in the town, according to videos CNN has geolocated and authenticated.  

"The sirens are not stopping," a woman is heard saying in one of the videos. "The column of Russian tanks are trying to fight though the checkpoint, can you hear the fighting, the explosions." 

The person filming, along with others, retreated from the barricades.  

"This is peacekeeping operation from Russia," a man said in the video. "This is what it looks like."   

 "Without warning, whatsoever, they arrived, put everyone down," a man said, appearing to be talking on the phone with someone. "Stay at home, don’t go anywhere."  

The mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, painted an increasingly grim picture about the Russian offensive around the town.  

At one point, he posted on Facebook: "The enemy column of military equipment is again actively circling near Enerhodar! We are staying at home for now! In case of an alarm — we all block the entrance to the city.”  

Later, Orlov posted: "The enemy is approaching the city, with weapons, the checkpoint was fired at! Stay at home!!!...The battle continues at the checkpoint. Our guys are resisting and doing their best to keep the enemy from passing."  

He alleged that shellfire had hit residential buildings in the city, as well as a school, and said that power and water had been cut in some neighborhoods.  

In another video, a man said: "Yesterday we had 5,000 people on the streets in a peaceful protest and today they must be holding talks, but this is happening. The people stood as a human shield for days, even today. Did you see this? The shelling."  

It’s unclear whether Ukrainian authorities still control the nuclear power plant near the town.