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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9:07 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Nuclear weapons expert: We don't know enough, but biggest concern is the fire disrupting reactor cooling

Though reports of a fire at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are alarming, there's still a lot we don't know, nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis said Friday.

So far, radiation monitoring conditions — which were updated just a few minutes ago — look "normal," according to Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

There are radiation detectors "all over the place," that would be able to pick up on any spikes in radiation, he said. "Reactors are big, sealed and concrete structures. They should not catch on fire. We don’t know what caused the fire."

Biggest fear: If a potential fire breaches the containment structure of the reactor, that's when it could get dangerous, Lewis said.

But there should be workers at the site 24/7, who could stop the reactor before the fire reached it, he added.

"The biggest fear would be if the containment zone would be damaged, let’s say, by a missile," he said.

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the biggest concern was if the fire disrupted the reactors' cooling systems. If they can't cool themselves, the fuel inside could overheat and melt down.

"I’m sure the reactor has been shut off, but the fuel inside is still radioactive and still requires cooling. You have to keep the reactor cool for as long as the fuel is in. The reactor has to be kept continuously cool," he said.

If the cooling stopped, a meltdown could range from taking place in a few hours or days, depending on how radioactive the reactor is.

8:49 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Biden just spoke to Zelensky

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US President Joe Biden has just spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the White House continues to monitor the reported fire at the Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant.

8:43 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Before fire started, Ukraine warned IAEA that Russian troops were heading to nuclear plant

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, has spoken with Ukraine's Prime Minister and the country's nuclear regulator about the reported fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the IAEA said on Twitter early Friday.

Grossi "appeals for halt of use of force and warns of severe danger if reactors hit," the tweet added.

IAEA's warning: Earlier on Friday — before the fire broke out — the IAEA released a statement warning that Russian troops were approaching the area and any fighting near the plant could be disastrous.

Ukraine told the IAEA "a large number of Russian tanks and infantry 'broke through the block-post' to the town of Enerhodar, a few kilometres from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP)," the IAEA said in a statement.

It added that Ukraine's regulatory authority had sent them an "urgent letter," warning that Russian troops were moving directly toward the nuclear plant and the situation was "critical."

In the statement, Grossi had "appealed for an immediate halt to the use of force at Enerhodar and called on the military forces operating there to refrain from violence near the nuclear power plant."
8:29 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

International Atomic Energy Agency is in contact with Ukrainian authorities over nuclear plant fire

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a tweet it is "aware of reports of shelling at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant," and that it was in contact with Ukrainian authorities about the situation.

Some context: Earlier, the mayor of a nearby town said the nuclear plant was on fire amid intense fighting in the area, with firefighters unable to reach the site. Ukraine's foreign minister said Russian troops were "firing from all sides" at the plant.

8:25 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

White House says it is monitoring Ukrainian nuclear power plant

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

A White House official says they are monitoring the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where Ukrainian officials say a fire has broken out as Russian troops attack "from all sides."

8:45 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Ukraine foreign minister: Russian army is "firing from all sides" on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The Russian army is "firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Friday.

"Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!" Kuleba said.

The mayor of the town of Enerhodar said earlier that firefighters are unable to reach the fire, which is ongoing.


8:45 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Firefighters unable to reach fire at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Firefighters are unable to reach the fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to the mayor of the nearby town of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, in a Facebook post.

“The Zaporizhzhia Power Plant is notifying of a threat at the first block of the power plant! The fire at the plant is continuing. The firefighters cannot reach the location of the fire,” he posted.

Earlier, the mayor posted to Facebook saying: "Intense fighting is ongoing on approach routes to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Our National Guard fighters are defending. There are victims, but the exact number and condition so far cannot be determined under the circumstances."

8:45 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Fire breaks out at nuclear power plant in Ukraine 

From CNN's Hira Humayun


The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is on fire, according to Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby town of Enerhodar.

“A threat to world security!!! As a result of relentless shelling by the enemy of the buildings and blocks of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire!!!” Orlov posted to Facebook. 

“I demand, stop! Immediately stop shelling the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant point blank,” the mayor said in a video message.

In an earlier post he wrote, “stop shelling the Zaporizhzhia power plant".

8:45 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

It's just past 3 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's where things stand on the Ukraine crisis.

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych, Laura Smith-Spark, Betsy Klein, Nadine Schmidt , Ryan Bergeron and Niamh Kennedy

Russia has ramped up its assaults in key Ukrainian cities as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads for more international assistance and called on NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

It's just past 3 a.m. ET in the Ukrainian capital. If you're just reading in now, here's where things stand:

Nuclear plant on fire: Moments ago, an official reported that Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire.

So far, Firefighters are unable to reach the fire according to Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby town of Enerhodar.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia end with no breakthrough: A Ukrainian negotiator on Thursday said that a second round of talks with Russia didn’t deliver any results that Ukraine needed.

"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 after the talks ended.

However, humanitarian corridors for civilians were agreed on during talks.

Key cities under assault: Russia is laying siege to the key Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Mariupol's deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told CNN the southeastern city was "surrounded" by Russian forces and was in desperate need of military and humanitarian aid.

"Our Ukrainian army and National Guard is very brave, they stand and fight for Ukraine, for Mariupol. But the situation is quite critical," Orlov said Thursday.

In northeast of Ukraine, 34 civilians were killed by Russian attacks on the Kharkiv region within a 24 hour period, emergency services announced Thursday morning.

Russian troops are advancing toward Odessa, the strategically significant city on the country's southern coast.

Growing humanitarian crisis: The Russian invasion has sparked a need for humanitarian aid. Food and supplies inside the country are becoming increasingly scarce. Organizations are on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries to help with shelter, food, water, and additional aid.

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, including four million who may cross the border into neighboring countries, according to a statement.

International response: US President Joe Biden announced additional sanctions against Russian oligarchs on Thursday.

The new list of individuals described as "Putin's cronies and their family members" will be cut off from the US financial system, their assets in the US will be frozen, and their property will be blocked from use, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

There will be full blocking sanctions on eight Russian elites, plus their family members and associates.

The European Union will grant temporary protection to all refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, according to the bloc's Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.  

Germany must freeze assets of Russian oligarchs immediately as part of sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine,German Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged on Thursday.