March 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Joshua Berlinger, Sana Noor Haq, Blathnaid Healy, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0512 GMT (1312 HKT) March 5, 2022
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4:51 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian forces are focused on encircling Kyiv, according to Ukraine's Defense Ministry

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian forces are focused on encircling Kyiv, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday.

The statement said that Russian troops were "blocked and stopped in the Makarov area," which is about 60 km (37 miles) away from the Ukrainian capital.

The ministry said Russia's armed forces have exhausted most of their operational reserves and have started "preparations for the transfer of additional forces and resources from the southern and eastern military districts."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the war in Ukraine was "going according to plan," despite assessments from other countries that the Kremlin's invasion has not gone according to plan.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Russian forces continue to prepare for landings on the coast of the Black Sea.

5:08 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

The mayor of the town where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is located says the situation is "extremely tense"

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the city of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is located, said Friday the city currently has no heating due to damage from shelling.

"Due to damage to the heating main during the shelling at night, Enerhodar has no heating. We are currently working on restoring (it)," he said. 

Orlov said those who spent the night in shelters can return home but recommended they avoid spending time outdoors due to the "extremely tense situation."

"Regarding the situation in the city itself. Now the streets are quiet, no strangers are noticed. Those who stayed in the shelter for the night, you can return home. However, due to the extremely tense situation nearby, we recommend you spending less time outside and stay at home," Orlov said on his official Facebook page. 
3:40 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russia's lower house passes law criminalizing "discredit of Russian military," state media reports

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

The lower house of the Russian Parliament has passed a law criminalizing the spreading of false information discrediting the Russian military and any calls for sanctions against Russia, state news agencies TASS and Ria Novosti reported on Friday.

Those charged with breaking the new law could face fines of 1.5 million rubles (about $14,000) or prison sentences of up to 15 years, TASS and RIA reported.

What happens next: The legislation will be submitted to the upper house of parliament and, if approved, submitted to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his signature. 

3:34 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

UK Defense Ministry: Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but subject to "intense Russian strikes"

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The southeastern city of Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control but subject to "intense Russian strikes," the UK Ministry of Defense said Friday in its latest intelligence update on Ukraine.

"Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but has likely been encircled by Russian forces," the ministry said, adding "the city’s civilian infrastructure has been subjected to intense Russian strikes."

Some context: Mariupol authorities warned Thursday of a "critical" situation for residents amid heavy shelling. It's not clear how many of the strategically important port city's roughly 400,000 population have been able to evacuate or how many have been killed or injured.

3:21 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

In Ukraine's cultural capital, residents are preparing to protect the city's heritage

From CNN's Oscar Holland

A statue outside Lviv's 14th-century Latin Cathedral.
A statue outside Lviv's 14th-century Latin Cathedral. (Pau Venteo/Europa Press/Getty Images)

Residents of the Ukrainian cultural capital Lviv are assisting efforts to safeguard historic monuments, according to local heritage officials, with several stone statues seen being wrapped in protective sheets.

Photos taken at the city's central Market Square on Thursday show men on stepladders enveloping sculptures of the Roman god Neptune and Greek goddess Amphitrite in plastic. Along with nearby statues of the classical deities Adonis and Diana, the limestone figures were built over 200 years ago, with accompanying fountains located at each of the square's corners.

Outside the neighboring Latin Cathedral, built in the 14th century, a smaller statue was seen covered in what appeared to be foam and secured with tape.

Although CNN was unable to verify the individual workers' identities, heritage NGO the Lviv Foundation for the Preservation of Architectural and Historical Monuments said art conservators and "concerned" locals had both been involved in protection efforts.

On Thursday, the organization shared a series of images to Facebook showing a man on a cherry picker boarding up a stained-glass panel at the city's 17th century Dormition Church. Another post showed monuments at St. Anthony's Church being encased in protective wooden frames.

"We hope that this preventive action will not be tested by real explosions, but our hearts are glad that the vulnerable but valuable elements of this monument are protected," the foundation wrote on the latter post. "Today we thank everyone involved, without naming names. Thank you to those who silently helped financially without seeking glory!
"This is what true love for Ukrainian cultural heritage looks like!"

Read more:

3:11 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian forces have "occupied" Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukrainian authorities say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv, Ukraine

Surveillance camera footage shows a flare landing at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during shelling in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on March 4.
Surveillance camera footage shows a flare landing at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during shelling in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on March 4. (Zaporizhzhya NPP/YouTube/Reuters)

Russian forces have “occupied” the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine after a fire broke out at the facility early on Friday, according to Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate.

"Currently, the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP is occupied by the military forces of the Russian Federation," the regulatory body said in a statement Friday.

The “administrative building and the checkpoint at the station are under occupiers’ control,” Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, said in a statement via Telegram on Friday.

“The plant's staff continues to work on power units, ensuring the stable operation of nuclear facilities,” Energoatom added. “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded among the Ukrainian defenders of the station." 

The power plant’s six reactors remain intact, though reactor unit 1’s compartment auxiliary buildings have been damaged, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said.

“The systems and components important to the safety of the NPP are operational,” the statement said. With Unit 1 out of order, four out of the six units are being cooled down while one unit is providing power.

“At present, no changes in the radiation situation have been registered,” the statement added.

Some context: After heavy shelling from Russian forces early Friday, a fire broke out at the nuclear plant, prompting alarm from experts and Ukrainian officials.

Firefighters were initially unable to access the site. After a while, fighting stopped, firefighters were allowed to enter and the fire was put out. No casualties were reported from the fire.

US and Ukrainian authorities said radiation levels looked normal.

2:56 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

The Moscow stock exchange will remain closed on Friday

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

The Moscow stock exchange will not open for trading Friday, the Russian Central Bank said in a statement.

Soon after, the stock exchange said in a statement it would remain closed through March 8. The closure includes "trading and settlements on all markets of the Moscow Exchange," the statement said.

The stock exchange has not opened all week, after Western sanctions were imposed on Russia over the past weekend.

Some context: US President Joe Biden announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs on Thursday. The United Kingdom also sanctioned two leading oligarchs with a combined worth of $19 billion.

"We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

2:43 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

In Odessa, nannies and computer programmers step to the front line

Odessa residents preparing to defend the city, Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3.
Odessa residents preparing to defend the city, Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3. (Gilles Bader/Le Pictorium/Cover Images/Reuters)

In Odessa, a strategically important port city on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, civilians — computer programmers, IT workers, everyday workers — have taken up weapons to defend against Russia's invasion.

Zhena was a chief marketing officer for an IT company before he joined Ukraine's armed forces. He told CNN two of his friends had already been killed in the war, both volunteers who had been fighting in the besieged city of Kherson.

"They have no military grounding at all. Both of them are programmers," he said.

One 19-year-old volunteer, who formerly worked as a nanny, says she faced the Russian threat to her home once before. When she was 11, she fled Crimea, which was occupied by Russia in 2014 and annexed after a referendum widely seen as a sham.

"We're ready to the end to defend our land," she told CNN. "The occupiers came to my home before. My family is still there. Only I could leave because I don't want to live in Russia." 

On the other side of the southern city, Odessa's mothers knit camouflage netting as they pray for their children's safety on the front lines.

"We know the danger. We know it will come. But we didn't know when will it come," said one mother, Nellia Kononova.

She had asked her children to stay with her for their safety — but they were determined to fight and defend Ukraine "because everybody loves our motherland," she said, before breaking into tears. "I pray every day, I pray every night, for them to stay alive."

1:31 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Children moved to basement of hospital in Kyiv as shelling continues

As the Russian assault on Kyiv steps up, some of the city's most vulnerable residents can't leave.

For the Ukrainian capital's largest children's hospital, shutting down is not an option, even with the sound of heavy fighting and shelling outside. Children who are too sick to be transferred have been moved to the basement, in case bombardment starts again. There are about 10 patients being treated in the underground hallway, where exhausted staff hover nervously.

One of the patients is 3-month old Milena, who has a brain tumor. Her mother, Sonia, told CNN she had been sleeping on the floor next to Milena for the past seven nights as the bombing gets closer.

"We must stay underground and we don't know how long for," she said. "I'm alone here at the hospital and my husband is at home with my other kid." 

She said she has become so stressed that she can't lactate, and is now using formula to feed her daughter.

Resources are stretched tight as hospitals deal with trauma injuries — so some parents have stepped in to help care for other children in the basement. Non-essential procedures are now on hold. When CNN visited the hospital, one 11-year-old boy needs to have his sutures removed — but the risk of infection is too high.

With no clear end in sight, for many families here the only glimmer of hope is evacuation. On Thursday, Ukrainian and Russian delegations met in Belarus for another round of talks, where they agreed to provide humanitarian corridors for civilians and a possible temporary ceasefire in areas where evacuation is happening.