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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11:34 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Direct attacks and a destroyed bridge have slowed Russian convoy advance on Kyiv, US defense official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

A satellite image shows the convoy on February 28.
A satellite image shows the convoy on February 28. (©2022 Maxar Technologies/AP)

Direct attacks on a massive Russian convoy outside Kyiv, coupled with a destroyed bridge in the convoy’s path, have stalled the Russian forces about 15 miles north of the city, a senior defense official said Friday. Meanwhile, Ukraine retains a “significant majority” of its air combat power, as Russia remains unable to establish air supremacy.

The convoy, stretched out more than 40 miles of road, has not appreciably advanced since the weekend, the official said. 

“We certainly believe that the Ukrainians blowing up that bridge absolutely had an effective on stopping and curtailing the movement of that convoy,” the official said. “But we also believe that they have hit the convoy at other places as well in direct attacks.”

Earlier this week, the official said logistical and sustainment issues have also contributed to the slow advance of the convoy. But the US believe Russian forces in the convoy are regrouping and learning from their mistakes as they continue to try to attack the Ukrainian capital.

As the fight on the ground continues, the Ukrainian air force still has fighter jets, helicopters and drones available, though they have suffered some losses, the official said. The losses are due both to “Russian actions” and inoperability, the official added.

11:04 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian military warns of "provocations" involving Western journalists in Ukraine

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned on Friday that Ukrainian forces in the city of Kharkiv were readying a "provocation" in concert with Western journalists by firing heavy weaponry from a residential area with the aim of provoking a retaliation by Russian forces that would be caught on camera.

Russian statements about supposed "provocations" by the Ukrainian side have been a prelude to shelling or strikes by Russian forces.

"In the city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian nationalists are preparing a provocation with the participation of Western journalists," Konashenkov said in a video briefing released by the Russian MOD. "According to confirmed data, on Zhylyardi Street, Kyiv District, in a private residential area, multiple launch rocket systems are placed between the houses. Nationalists have forbidden local residents, including children, from leaving their homes. Now the installations are ready for shelling units of the Russian armed forces located outside the city. The purpose of the provocation is to call back fire from Russian artillery on the residential sector of Kharkiv. All this is planned to be filmed on cameras with the subsequent transfer of filming to Western journalists."

Konashenkov provided no evidence to support the claim. Russia has previously made baseless claims about humanitarian workers in Syria being involved in staging or provoking attacks to prompt international outrage and spur Western governments to intervene militarily. "Ukrainian nationalists" is a shorthand the Russian government has used to characterize forces putting up resistance to Russian troops.

Journalists working in Ukraine have extensively documented the heavy shelling of Kharkiv by Russian forces, including in residential areas.

10:51 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Ukrainian officials say concessions won't be made on territorial integrity

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston in London 

The Ukrainian delegation participating in talks with Russia “understands the motives” of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office said Friday, adding that while the Ukrainian side is aware of “where [Russia] wants to go,” concessions won’t be made on Ukraine’s territorial integrity. 

Speaking during a press briefing in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Mykhailo Podoliak said that Ukraine’s position is being “boosted” by western partners, adding that President Volodymyr Zelensky “is definitely not going to make any concessions that would diminish our territorial integrity and freedom.”

“The position of the Russian Federation is harsh — if it were easy, they wouldn’t attack Ukraine — but the position of the Ukrainian Chief of the Armed Forces is also harsh. The negotiations are difficult but they are taking place,” Podoliak added. 

The press briefing comes a day after the second round of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Belarus. In a tweet on Thursday, Podoliak said the talks did not deliver the results sought by Ukraine, though the delegations were able to reach a “solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors." 

Speaking on Friday, David Arakhamia — a senior official of Ukraine’s governing party who also participated in the talks — said that Zelensky has not made an official request for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that it remains “too early” and that further negotiations are needed before they speak.

Arakhamia also noted that Russia is facing increased “pressure” from the wider international community over attacks by Russian forces on civilian areas in Ukraine. 

Pressed on Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Arakhamia said that Ukrainian negotiators suggested a 30-kilometer conflict-free zone around all nuclear facilities in Ukraine during talks on Thursday, “and then immediately Zap happened.”

 

10:46 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

"Vast majority" of $350 million US security assistance package delivered to Ukraine, defense official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The “vast majority” of a $350 million US security assistance package has been delivered to Ukraine, a senior defense official said, one week after it was officially approved by the White House.

Approximately $240 million of the package has reached Ukraine, and the rest should arrive within days and maybe weeks “but not longer,” the official said Friday. The components that have already been delivered including “the most-needed capabilities, like anti-armor capabilities.”

The equipment being sent in is equipment on which the Ukrainians have already received training, including some “just-in-time” training in late December and early January. The Ukrainians can “use proficiently” the vast majority of the military equipment being sent in, the official said.

The US has also been coordinating the delivery of security assistance from other countries. A total of 14 countries have contributed security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, but the official declined to list the countries, instead preferring they speak for themselves.

US European Command is using its liaison network with allies and partners to coordinate “in real time” to send materials into Ukraine, the official said. 

EUCOM is also coordinating with other countries, including particularly with the UK, in terms of the delivery process “to ensure that we are using our resources to maximum efficiency to support the Ukrainians in an organized way,” the official said.

 

11:08 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

What we know about Russia's attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

From CNN's Rob Picheta

A screen grab captured from video shows a view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following clashes at the stie on March 4.
A screen grab captured from video shows a view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following clashes at the stie on March 4. (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russian troops have occupied Europe's largest nuclear power plant, after fierce fighting near the Ukrainian facility that drew international condemnation and sparked fears of a potential nuclear incident.

Those concerns were quickly downplayed by experts, who warned against comparisons with the plant at Chernobyl, where the world's worst nuclear disaster occurred in 1986.

Modern plants are significantly safer than older ones like Chernobyl, they said. But analysts nonetheless expressed horror that Russia's violent invasion of Ukraine has spilled into nuclear facilities, a development with few recent parallels.

And the operator and regulator of the site have communicated that the situation on the ground is "extremely tense and challenging," according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"No country besides Russia has ever fired upon an atomic power plant's reactors. The first time, the first time in history," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook post.

The IAEA called for fighting around the facility to end, and world leaders were swift in their criticism of Russia's move.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that what happens next at Zaporizhzhia is "a situation that is very difficult to sustain, very fragile" while there is an active military operation and Russian forces in control. "This is unprecedented," he said. "Completely uncharted waters."

Read more about the attack here.

11:16 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian forces are still about 15 miles outside of Kyiv city center, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces are still about 25 kilometers (more than 15 miles) outside of the city center of Kyiv in the north, and Russian forces remain 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) outside of the city centers of Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the north, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday. 

In Kharkiv and Chernihiv, being 10 kilometers away from the city center “equates to really being on the outskirts of the city,” because of the way the city is spread out, the official said.

The US does see more success for Russian forces in the south. The US does not dispute reports that Kherson has been taken by Russian forces, but has no way to independently verify those claims, the official said.

The US is also seeing fighting between Ukrainians and Russians near the city of Mykolaiv in the south, the official said. Mykolaiv is northwest of Kherson.

The Russians have not taken the southern city of Mariupol yet, according to US observations, but there is continued fighting there, the official said.

“We have observed Russian forces continue to advance on Mariupol, but we don’t assess that they’re in there, they are obviously bombarding that city as well,” the official said 

“We continue to believe that the Russians want to move on Mariupol from the north as well as moving up that coast on the Sea of Azov,” the official added. 

10:38 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

EU official says Russian military is "bombing and shelling everything" in Ukraine

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

Residential buildings damaged in yesterday's shelling in the city of Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 4.
Residential buildings damaged in yesterday's shelling in the city of Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 4. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union’s diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said the Russian army is “bombing and shelling everything” in Ukraine.

“Today, what we see is the ugly face of war erupting again in our borders. And the Russians are bombing and shelling everything: hospitals, houses, schools. A lot of civilian casualties. It is a barbarian way of doing war,” Borrell told journalists ahead of a EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Friday.

He appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the shelling and bombing.

“Putin has to stop to stop this war. We remain united in order to ask for this war to stop. To stop and avoid killing of innocent people,” Borrell added.

The EU diplomacy chief added that the UN’s Human Rights Council would soon “launch a mission in order to assess the violation of human rights which are happening in Ukrainian territory.”

US and other Western officials have told CNN Russia is expected to increasingly hit civilian targets and shifting toward a strategy of "slow annihilation" of the Ukrainian military.

CNN has geolocated and verified 13 incidents involving civilians over three days, as attacks intensified on Kharkiv, a city of about 1.5 million people, following Ukraine's resistance. CNN has analyzed and verified digital evidence, including videos and photos, of several indiscriminate attacks in the city.

10:25 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Switzerland will adopt further EU sanctions on Russia

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Switzerland will adopt the new European Union sanctions on Russia and freeze the assets of more people with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the government announced Friday in a statement.

The newly adopted measures concern certain goods and financial services, the government said in a statement, adding that Switzerland’s list of sanctions has been extended accordingly. 

According to the government, the implementation of these sanctions is compatible with Switzerland’s neutrality.

"The export of all dual-use items to Russia is now prohibited, regardless of their end-use or end-user. In addition, the export of goods that could contribute to Russia's military and technological enhancement or the development of the defence and security sector is prohibited," the government said, adding that "it is also prohibited to provide technical assistance, brokering services or financing."

"The export to Russia of certain goods and services in the oil sector is no longer permitted. Furthermore, the export of certain goods and technology that can be used in aviation and the space industry is prohibited," the government also said.

Transactions with the Russian Central Bank are also no longer permitted.

The government has also decided "to add the individuals on the list of persons adopted by the EU on 28 February to Annex 8 of the Ordinance and thereby freeze the assets of further persons with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin."

10:25 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Ukrainians in Odessa form chain to fill sandbags to protect city

Citizens of Odessa form a human chain has they prepare for a Russian offensive, Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3.
Citizens of Odessa form a human chain has they prepare for a Russian offensive, Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3. (Gilles Bader/Le Pictorium/Cover Images/Reuters)

Ukrainians in Odessa, a city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, formed a human chain to fill sandbags in preparation of a possible Russian attack.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh showed the chain of mainly young men who were passing down the sandbags to be placed into trucks and brought to the center of the city, which is the third largest in Ukraine and a popular tourist destination.

Residents are concerned about a Russia amphibious landing on the shore, Paton Walsh reported, especially because an Estonian vessel sank off the city's port on Thursday. The ship was hit by Russian artillery, according to the official Twitter account of Ukrainian parliament.

When a man in line was asked if he ever expected to be there in the chain, he said, "We will defend our city and our country, for sure."