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

Fire breaks out at nuclear power plant in Ukraine 

From CNN's Hira Humayun

(ZAPORIZHZHIA NPP)
(ZAPORIZHZHIA NPP)

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.

7:06 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

US Pentagon official praises Ukraine forces: "They are fighting very creatively"

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

(CNN)
(CNN)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby commended the effort Ukrainian forces are putting forth as the Russian invasion continues.

"They are fighting bravely in the streets, and outside their cities, and they are fighting very creatively," Kirby said while speaking live with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

As for the Russian convoy that has seemingly stalled outside of Kyiv, Kirby said he feels that Russia remains focused on completing a siege of the capital city.

"As of this morning, we still assessed that the advance of the Russian forces was still about 25 kilometers from the city center, but they are trying to close in," he said. "They are still outside the city, but we still believe that their intent is to try to encircle Kyiv, and ultimately occupy it."

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the invasion is "going according to plan," Kirby offered a different assessment.

"The Russians have been flummoxed, they've been frustrated, they have been set back, they have been slowed by a stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance. We also believe that they have stumbled themselves," he said. "They're having logistic and sustainment problems. They're running out of fuel, they're running out of food for some of their soldiers. They have been surprised by the manner in which, and the effectiveness, with which the Ukrainians have been defending their cities, and their people."

6:48 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Biden administration giving interviews to Russian-language news outlets to counter Kremlin disinformation

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Senior Biden administration officials have done at least seven interviews with Russian-language news outlets in recent days as part of an effort to counter the Kremlin’s disinformation about the Ukraine crisis and speak directly to a Russian audience, US officials explained.

State Department under secretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland did an interview with Echo of Moscow Radio today, the day after the Kremlin took the radio station off the airwaves. The State Department reached out to the outlet to propose the interview, according to a US official, and it was aired on the radio’s YouTube channel. And the day before the outlet was shut down, State Department spokesperson Ned Price did an interview with the outlet.  

The department will continue to support these outlets even after the Kremlin bans them, as an effort to keep their work relevant, US officials said. Top Biden administration officials are also aggressively calling out the Kremlin for cracking down on the media. 

“The Kremlin right now is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, saying the White House is “deeply concerned” about those steps.

She cited restricted access to independent news networks Echo of Moscow and TV Rain, as well as threats to block online platforms including VOA Russia. 

Price said on Wednesday night that the “Kremlin is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth, and Moscow’s efforts to mislead and suppress the truth of the brutal invasion are intensifying.”

5:53 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Biden administration extends immigration relief to Ukrainians in the US

From CNN's From Priscilla Alvarez and Lauren Fox

People gather in front of the White House on February 27 to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
People gather in front of the White House on February 27 to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security will allow Ukrainians who are in the United States to remain in the country under a form of humanitarian relief.

The relief – known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS – applies to people who would face extreme hardship if they were forced to return to homelands devastated by armed conflict or natural disasters. As such, these protections are limited to people already in the United States. DHS secretary has the discretion to designate a country for TPS.

"Russia's premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the move. "In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States."

Some 30,000 Ukrainians on visas could benefit from this protected status, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank. Extending TPS to Ukrainians who have been issued temporary visas would shield them from deportation when those visas expire. Individuals must have continuously resided in the US since March 1 to be eligible. The TPS designation will be in place for 18 months. 

US President Joe Biden's administration has been under pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, along with immigrant advocates, to provide protections to Ukrainians in the US who can’t return to war-torn Ukraine.

In a letter to President Biden this week, a bipartisan group of senators urged the administration to extend the relief, writing: “Forcing Ukrainian nationals to return to Ukraine in the midst of a war would be inconsistent with America’s values and our national security interests.”

Ukraine joins a list of 12 countries — including South Sudan and Venezuela — that have also been designated for TPS.

In a live CNN interview on Wednesday, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez detailed the importance of granting TPS to Ukraine, telling Jake Tapper:

"You can't take Ukrainians who legally enter the United States and happen to be here, to then send them back to a war zone."

Before today's announcement, Menendez closed by telling Tapper he "would expect the administration to ultimately grant TPS. I don't see how they do not."

6:53 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

President of Georgia on Ukraine crisis: It looks like Putin is destroying the "whole country"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(CNN)
(CNN)

The President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili told CNN's Jake Tapper that she doesn't believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is only aiming to take select regions of Ukraine, but that he's "destroying the whole country."

"It doesn't look anymore that he's just aiming at annexing a few regions. It now looks that he's destroying the whole country. It's a war of mass destruction in a way," Zourabichvili said.

She added, " I heard his declarations today that all of that is moving according to plans, I'm not so sure that it's according to plans...  He was not planning on the way Ukraine is resisting. He had a mass assault that was very psychological with his forces that were used from all sides. And it has not worked. Of course militarily, he has superiority, which one day or the other will manifest itself. But the determination and the resistance of the Ukrainian people and leadership is really very admirable."

Georgia is a former Soviet Republic and has recently formally signed an application for membership into the European Union.

Watch whole interview here:

5:36 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

More than a million refugees have fled Ukraine. Here's how you can help.

From CNN's Ryan Bergeron

A man says goodbye to his wife and son at a train station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. He was staying behind to fight while his family was leaving to seek refuge in a neighboring country. 
A man says goodbye to his wife and son at a train station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. He was staying behind to fight while his family was leaving to seek refuge in a neighboring country.  (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Russian bombardments are increasing and fighting continues throughout Ukraine, sending people fleeing for safety.

Residential areas around the country have been hit by Russian forces sending more than a million refugees from Ukraine into neighboring countries. The rush of people trying to leave has led to hours-long lines at some of these borders.

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.

You can find out how to help here.

4:23 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Ukraine Defense Ministry says it destroyed 20 Russian vehicles near Hostomel Air Base

From Celine Alkhaldi, Paul Murphy and Tim Lister

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it destroyed a total of 20 Russian military vehicles near the Hostomel Air Base on Thursday.

Videos posted to social media show Ukrainian soldiers walking by damaged and burning vehicles marked with the V sign that suggests they were among Russian forces that came from Belarus. 

The start of the 40+ mile convoy, identified on satellite images, was just north of the Hostomel Air Base.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos to an area about five miles away from the Hostomel airfield, which was reported captured by Russian forces on Feb. 24.

The Defense Ministry’s Twitter account says: “In total, during the day, special forces destroyed 20 enemy combat vehicles in Hostomel.”

“The battle is being waged by a combined group of special forces led by the GUR of the Ukrainian defense ministry and local resistance groups,” the tweet said.

3:53 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Kherson mayor calls for looting to stop

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaiev called on people to stop looting and stealing food supplies Thursday.

The "city needs food and industrial products. This is especially for the most unprotected layers of the population. I appeal to all supermarket owners, big stores, warehouses, food stores, and anyone who finds this message useful. The city is ready to take control of the distribution of your remaining products. We guarantee that it will reach where it is now most expected — hospitals, orphanages, pensioners, needy, families with many children, social categories, etc," Kolykhaiev said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, Yaroslav Kontsevyi, a Kherson resident, tells CNN that Russian occupants have placed checkpoints and sniper points in key places of the city.

Kontsevyi says the Russian occupants are stopping civilian Ukrainian men and asking them if they are going to fight on the Russian or Ukrainian side in case of mobilization.