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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7:18 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

"No to war" were the last words broadcast on this independent Russian TV station

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Independent Russian news outlet TV Rain ended its final broadcast with the words "no to war" on Thursday.

The station was forced to shut down because of the Russian government’s crackdown on local media over unfavorable coverage of the war in Ukraine.

TV Rain had already been forced off television airwaves but continued operating a YouTube broadcast. Its staff signed off, saying “no to war,” before walking off the station’s set.

The network then broadcast Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, a nod to the 1991 coup attempt against the government of then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. As that coup was taking place, the ballet played repeatedly on television, an indication to viewers that something was wrong.

7:17 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Putin calls on countries to normalize relations with Moscow, and suggests Russia might benefit from sanctions

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony via a video link at his residence outside Moscow, Russia, on March 4.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony via a video link at his residence outside Moscow, Russia, on March 4. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on the international community to normalize relations with his country, while claiming it could benefit from sanctions.

“We have no bad intentions, there is no need to escalate the situation, impose restrictions, we fulfil all obligations,” Putin said during a flag raising ceremony of a new Russian ferry, a joint venture between Russia and Turkey.

“If someone does not want to cooperate with us within the framework of single cooperation, and by doing so harms themselves, they will, of course, harm us too," Putin added.

Putin went on to say the Russian economy would have adapt to the current situation.

“We will just have to move some projects a little to the right, to acquire additional competencies. But we will still solve the problems that we face” he said. “In the end, we will even benefit from this because we will acquire additional competencies.”

Countries across the world have leveled sanctions against Russia in an effort to squeeze Putin as the invasion of Ukraine advances.

President Joe Biden imposed new sanctions Thursday on eight members of the Russian elite, along with members of their families, as he warned Russia is intensifying its bloody invasion of Ukraine with indiscriminate bombing.

The White House, as well as the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada, announced last weekend they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.

In a major break from its longstanding neutrality, Switzerland also announced it would join the European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia.

CNN's Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein, Phil Mattingly, Kaitlan Collins and Kate Sullivan contributed reporting to this post.

7:07 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what's happening

A fire that broke out at one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants following heavy shelling by Russian forces was extinguished early Friday, as key Ukrainian cities come under attack from invading troops.

Here's what you need to know today:

Nuclear plant blaze extinguished: A fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex initially sparked fears of a potential accident but the blaze has since been put out. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said the reactors at the plant are safe and no radioactive material was released.

However, the head of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said it was "unprecedented" to run a nuclear plant while military operations raged nearby.

Accusations fly: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led a chorus of leaders who condemned the Kremlin for intentionally firing on the plant. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the clashes at the nuclear facility showed "the recklessness of this war," while UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said "it’s very difficult to believe that it wasn’t done deliberately."

And Ukraine's nuclear operator said the plant management was now "working at gunpoint."

Russia's Ministry of Defense denied those allegations. A spokesman said that its forces took control of the plant and territory adjacent to it on Monday but was attacked by a "a Ukrainian sabotage group" early Friday morning.

The Russian government has routinely and without evidence claimed the Ukrainian government is staging "provocations" to provoke a military response by Western governments.

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

In northeastern Ukraine, 34 civilians were killed by Russian attacks on the Kharkiv region within a 24 hour period, emergency services said Thursday. Kharkiv's mayor said the Russian military is "intentionally trying to eliminate Ukrainian people" as it targets civilian spaces. Russian troops are also advancing toward Odessa, the strategically significant city on the southern coast.

Talks 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.

However, humanitarian corridors for civilians were agreed on by both sides. Zelensky said the world will see today if those corridors work.

Growing humanitarian crisis: The UN estimates that more than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, including 4 million who may cross the border into neighboring countries. More than 1 million have fled already. Want to help? You can learn how to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine here. 

6:58 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Kherson's population is facing violence from Russian forces, one resident tells CNN

From CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh in Odessa, Ukraine 

People in the Ukrainian city of Kherson have been subjected to violence by Russian troops, a local resident told CNN on Friday.

The individual warned that the situation inside the city is deteriorating.

We can’t go outside,” the resident said. “Men are being seized and taken away.”

The resident shared with CNN a video of a convoy of civilian cars, accompanied by some Russian military vehicles, arriving in Kherson Wednesday night. 

“Yesterday 50 buses from Crimea drove past us, and settled in the local administration,” the resident said, although CNN has not been able to verify that the cars came from Crimea.

In a statement on Thursday, Hennadii Lahuta -- the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration -- said Russian forces had “completely occupied” the regional state administration building, but stressed that local officials had not given up their responsibilities. 

Speaking to CNN Friday, the local resident said that Ukrainian TV had been taken off air, and Russian TV channels were being broadcast, showing the situation in the city to be calm and children going to school. The resident also noted that cellphone networks were being disrupted.

Kherson’s mayor, Ihor Kolykhaiev, said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian military was no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city’s administration” -- indicating that Kherson had fallen under Russian control. 

Intelligence from the British military that was released early Thursday noted that “some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson,” but cautioned that the military situation on the ground “remains unclear.”

6:55 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

"We strongly condemn" attack on Ukrainian nuclear plant, says French minister

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

France strongly condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the country's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

“We strongly condemn this damage to the integrity of a nuclear structure,” Le Drian said.

“We fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s initiative to demand Russia to stop all assaults of this kind.”

Le Drian also tweeted on Friday his full support for IAEA’s initiatives to monitor the situation of Ukrainian civilian nuclear facilities.

“The bombings last night that hit the Zaporizhzhia power plant are dangerous and unacceptable,” he said in a Twitter post.

Le Drian is in Brussels for a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers which he said will be an occasion to show the allies’ unity to continue isolating Russia in the international community.

He joins a chorus of global leaders who have criticized the strikes on the Zaporizhzhia plant, where a fire that had threatened potential disaster was extinguished in the early hours of Friday morning, according to Ukraine's nuclear regulator.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia's efforts to take over the massive nuclear power plant was "terror at an unprecedented level."

"The Russian tanks knew that they were firing with a direct fire at the station," Zelensky alleged.

Zelensky drew parallels with the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the world's worst-ever nuclear accident, but there is no indication that any of the reactors at Zaporizhzia have been affected by the shelling.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Sharon Braithwaite and Manveena Suri contributed reporting to this post.

6:45 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

The Ukrainian nuclear operator says management at the seized plant is "working at gunpoint"

From Tim Lister in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Olya Voitovych

Management at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar is now working at gunpoint, the company that runs the station said.

Petro Kotin, the head of the state-owned nuclear power generator Energoatom, said on Telegram that Russian forces "entered the territory of the nuclear power plant, took control of the personnel and management of the nuclear power plant."

The station management works at invaders' gunpoint," he said.

Kotin said staff were "were admitted in the morning to perform their duties." He said the company does not have "a direct connection to the station" and is getting information from sources there.

Status of the reactors: Kotin said the six reactors at the plant have fuel in each of them, while pre-reactor pools are storing spent nuclear fuel, the irradiated byproduct of the reactors.

Kotin said that if the nuclear facilities were hit by shelling, it "will lead to nuclear disaster."

6:32 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

School destroyed by Russian rocket in Zhytomyr

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Gianluca Mezzofiore in London

Ukrainian service members walk near a school building destroyed by shelling in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on March 4.
Ukrainian service members walk near a school building destroyed by shelling in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on March 4. (Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

A school in Zhytomyr, northern Ukraine, was hit by a Russian rocket on Friday morning, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Images geolocated by CNN of the school after the attack show significant damage and partial collapse of the building.

In a video statement, Zhytomyr Mayor Sergei Sukhomlin also confirmed the strike saying the Russian attackers "do not stop at anything. This is a school. Rather these ruins are a former school in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr." 

The news comes after at least three schools in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, were hit by Russian military strikes on Tuesday, according to videos and photos posted to social media. CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the videos and photos.

Other buildings that have been reported as destroyed during Russian's invasion of Ukraine include cultural sites such as churches, cathedrals and museums, namely in the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, according to statement from the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy.

CNN's Radina Gigova, Paul P. Murphy, Celine Alkhaldi and Katie Polglase contributed reporting to this post.

6:12 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Ukraine's president says Russia's attack on a nuclear plant is "terror of an unprecedented level"

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv, Ukraine

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

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Kremlin's efforts to take over a massive nuclear power plant was "terror at an unprecedented level," and again called for NATO to implement a no-fly zone over his country.

Russian forces have now "occupied" the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Earlier, a fire broke out at the facility, according to Ukrainian nuclear authorities. The blaze had sparked fears of an accident.

"The Russian tanks knew that they were firing with a direct fire at the station," Zelensky alleged."

Zelensky drew parallels with the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the world's worst-ever nuclear accident, but there is no indication that any of the reactors at Zaporizhzia have been affected by the shelling.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier called for a stop to fighting around the facility but said Ukrainian authorities had reported background radiation levels were normal and the fire had not affected "essential" equipment.

Zelensky also reiterated his appeal for a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying "an immediate closure of the skies over Ukraine is needed."

The United States has previously ruled out using troops to create a no-fly zone. Such a move could put American forces in direct combat with Russia.


7:31 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Ukraine's Culture Minister says Russia is destroying cultural sites

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

The Saint Sophia Cathedral at sunrise in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 15
The Saint Sophia Cathedral at sunrise in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 15 (Ethan Swope/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko, called Friday "for closing the skies over Ukraine, because Russian aggressors are destroying Ukrainian cultural sites."

"Most of Putin's war crimes in Ukraine have been committed from the air," the ministry said in a statement. 

"Russia's missiles and planes are deliberately destroying historic centers of big cities. Putin wants to destroy Europe's heritage and culture, wipe it from the face of the earth."

"A mad dictator threatens to destroy St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, a UNESCO church built in the 11th century," the ministry warned.

"Hundreds of innocent victims, the total destruction of churches, cathedrals and museums - is the price of the still opened sky over Ukraine." 

The ministry said in the city of Kharkiv, Russian forces shelled the Assumption Cathedral; parts of the Kharkiv National University of Arts; and dormitories of the Kharkiv State Academy of Culture. People had used the cathedral to seek refuge from the violence, the ministry said.

In Ivankov, near Kyiv, the museum of "world-famous artist Maria Pryimachenko, whose works were admired by Pablo Picasso" was also shelled. The Kyiv State Academy of Decorative Arts and Design has also been damaged by the "occupiers."

While "ordinary Ukrainians stop Russian tanks with their bare hands," the ministry said, "Russian missiles and planes vilely and dishonestly continue to bomb our beautiful peaceful cities."

"The world must stop this," the ministry added.