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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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.  

1:13 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Russia will appeal FIFA and UEFA decision to ban national team from international events 

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

The Russian Football Union announced Thursday they will file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the decision by FIFA and UEFA to remove the Russian national team from any upcoming international competitions. 

The Russian union claims that global football governing body FIFA and European football governing body UEFA did not have a legal basis when deciding on the removal of Russian teams and that it was not given the right to defend its position. 

“As part of a single lawsuit against two organizations, the RFU will demand the restoration of all men’s and women’s national teams of Russia in all types of football in the tournaments in which they took part (including in the qualifying round of the World Cup in Qatar), as well as compensation for damage, if any will be installed,” the RFU said in a statement.

In the statement, the RFU alleges that FIFA’s decision to withdraw the men’s national team from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers was made under pressure from teams the country would have competed against, which violates the principle of sports and the rules of fair play. 

“If FIFA and UEFA refuse such a procedure, a requirement will be put forward for the introduction of interim measures in the form of suspension of FIFA and UEFA decisions, as well as competitions in which Russian teams were supposed to participate,” the statement said.

More background: On Monday, FIFA and UEFA banned the Russian national football teams along with all professional club teams from international competitions “until further notice” due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to ban Russia from international competitions was made after FIFA and UEFA came under fire for initially imposing a “blanket ban” on the nation, allowing its athletes to compete under the Russian Football Union name, along with other sanctions. 

With the 2022 World Cup qualifiers scheduled for next month, Poland, Czech Republic and Sweden said they would not play against Russia. Shortly after FIFA’s initial sanctions, Poland and the Czech Republic maintained that they would not play Russia under any circumstances. 

Prior to being banned, Russia was scheduled to host Poland in a playoff semifinal on March 24 at the VTB Arena in Moscow. The winner of that match would host either Sweden or Czech Republic on March 29 in the final of their World Cup qualification route.

1:00 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Second round of talks with Russia has ended with no breakthrough, Ukrainian negotiator says

From CNN’s Tim Lister and Katharina Krebs 

A Ukrainian negotiator on Thursday said that a second round of talks with Russia is over but it didn’t deliver any results that Ukraine needed.

"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.  

1:01 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

More than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, UN estimates

From CNN's Richard Roth

A family waits to board to Poland from Lviv, Ukraine, on March 3.
A family waits to board to Poland from Lviv, Ukraine, on March 3. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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.

"Our colleagues tell us that the needs in Ukraine are growing and spreading by the hour. They warn that while the scale and scope of displacement is not yet clear, we expect that more than 10 million people may flee their homes if violence continues, including 4 million people who may cross borders to neighbouring countries," UN Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Some essential UN staff have been relocated outside Kyiv, Ukraine, so they may continue delivering humanitarian assistance “with minimum disruption” and also to “reduce risk,” according to the statement, but Dujarric said some staff does remain in the capital of Kyiv.

“Our humanitarian colleagues stress that to scale up our operations, we need safe, unimpeded access to all conflict-affected areas,” Dujarric said.

12:54 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Leaders of US, Japan, India and Australia discuss ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Quad leaders, including US President Joe Biden, spoke Thursday to “reaffirm their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion,” according to a joint readout of the call.

Along with Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications. They agreed to stand up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” the readout says.

They also agreed to meet in person in Tokyo “in the coming months.”

12:52 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Zelensky reiterates plea for NATO to establish no-fly zone over Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on March 3.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on March 3. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his plea for NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, stressing on Thursday that this would be the “most important step” as Ukraine faces “incessant bombing” by Russia.

“We want a no-fly zone because our people are being killed. From Belarus, from Russia — these missiles, these Iskander missiles and bomber planes, are coming,” Zelensky said. 

“I asked President Biden, and Scholz and Macron…and I said, if you can’t provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when?” 

Speaking during a televised news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president went on to ask how many more people in Ukraine must be killed before NATO agrees to enact a no-fly zone.  

“If you can’t give Ukrainians a date, how long do you need? How many people should be blown up? How many arms and legs and heads should be severed, so that you understand? I will go and count them, and we will wait until we have a sufficient number,” Zelensky said in an impassioned plea. 

“If you don’t have the strength to provide a no-fly zone, then give me planes. Would that not be fair?” he continued.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that using US troops to create a no-fly zone in Ukraine is “not a good idea.” Speaking during an interview with MSNBC, Psaki said the implementation of a no-fly zone by the US military “would essentially mean the US military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said Wednesday that NATO allies “do not seek conflict with Russia,” stressing that NATO is a “defensive alliance.”

12:50 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Country of Georgia applies for formal EU membership after Ukraine asks "urgently" to be admitted to bloc

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Georgia Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addresses the United Nations General Assembly in 2021.
Georgia Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addresses the United Nations General Assembly in 2021. (Peter Foley/Pool/Getty Images)

The former Soviet republic of Georgia has formally signed an application for membership into the European Union, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in a statement on the government's website Thursday, as Ukraine said it was seeking membership to the bloc after Russia's invasion.

“It is a historic day for Georgia — we are signing an Application for EU Membership on behalf of the country. Application for EU Membership is yet another milestone on the path of European integration of Georgia — it is a stage, which turns a new page in our history and continues the effort of our ancestors, which is aimed at the accession of Georgia into a common European family,” he said. 

Tblisi had been prepared to apply for full EU membership in 2024, according to the European Parliament.

Tbilisi’s application comes two days after its neighbor and fellow former Soviet republic of Ukraine said it was seeking fast-track membership to the bloc. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the EU on Monday to "urgently admit Ukraine" to the bloc.

"We are grateful to partners for standing with us. But our goal is to be with all Europeans and, to be equal to them. I am sure we deserve it. I am sure it is possible," Zelensky said.

Some background: According to the EU Delegation to Georgia, an agreement was reached for closer political association and economic integration between Georgia and the bloc in 2016. A free trade area between the two was established in 2017, and Georgian citizens have the right to visa-free travel in the Schengen area.  

Georgia has had a contentious relationship with Russia since it gained independence from the Soviet Union almost 30 years ago, with Russia backing two breakaway self-proclaimed republics in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2008, it spiraled into full-blown conflict after South Ossetian separatists attacked Georgian peacekeepers. Georgia sent troops into South Ossetia, and Russia responded with a military incursion into Georgia itself.