March 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Laura Smith-Spark, Angela Dewan, Adrienne Vogt, Joe Ruiz and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 6, 2022
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8:56 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Ukrainian nuclear officials are in contact with staff at Zaporizhzhia reactor, IAEA says

From CNN's Hira Humayun and Amy Cassidy

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was attacked by Russian forces on Friday.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was attacked by Russian forces on Friday. (Press Service of National Nuclear Energy Generation Company Energoatom/AP)

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator is in communication with staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after it was seized by Russian forces on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Saturday.

Following reports staff at the plant had been forced to work at gunpoint, Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, told reporters the agency is in touch with Ukrainian nuclear officials and has obtained shift patterns for staff.

Grossi has repeatedly stressed the importance that staff operating Ukraine’s nuclear facilities be allowed to rest and rotate so they can carry out their jobs safely, according to the IAEA.

He called it a “tense” situation with Russian forces controlling the Zaporizhzhia plant and Ukrainian staff operating it, saying the situation “certainly cannot last for too long.” 

The head of Energoatom, the body that oversees Ukraine’s power plants, told Grossi on Friday the atomic engineers at the plant were now allowed to change work shifts, according to a statement from the IAEA.

"This I think is important, it’s a sign that people are listening to us or at least to the things we are saying," Grossi said.

Chernobyl staff work without a break: However, the IAEA has not yet ascertained the shift patterns of staff at the Chernobyl power plant, he continued. 

Russian forces have prevented Chernobyl workers from changing shifts since occupying the plant, meaning the same 100 personnel have been operating the plant for 10 days straight, Yuriy Fomichev, the mayor of Slavutych, told CNN on Saturday.

“We are continuing in our conversations,” said Grossi, adding that he is “prepared to come to Ukraine as soon as possible.”
8:31 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

War in Ukraine will have "severe impact on the global economy," IMF warns

From CNN's Ramishah Maruf

The International Monetary Fund said on Saturday it would bring Ukraine's request for $1.4 billion in emergency financing to its executive board as early as next week.

Countries with close economic ties to Russia are also at risk for shortages and supply disruptions, the IMF added. It is in talks with neighboring Moldova for aid options.

"The ongoing war and associated sanctions will also have a severe impact on the global economy," the IMF said.

After a meeting Friday led by Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF said there were serious economic consequences in the region. Energy and wheat prices have surged, adding to the effects of inflation from the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions.

"Price shocks will have an impact worldwide, especially on poor households for whom food and fuel are a higher proportion of expenses," the IMF said in a statement. "Should the conflict escalate, the economic damage would be all the more devastating."

The IMF said the effects of sanctions on Russia would also spill into other countries.

Monetary authorities throughout the world will have to carefully monitor rising prices in their nations, it added, and policies should be implemented to protect economically vulnerable households.

Ukraine, whose airports have been damaged and are now closed, will face significant reconstruction costs, according to the IMF. The organization said earlier this week the country has $2.2 billion available between now and June from a previously approved standby arrangement.

8:21 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Biden speaks with Zelensky about ongoing efforts to "raise costs on Russia for invading Ukraine"

From CNN’s DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden "highlighted the ongoing actions undertaken by the United States, its Allies and partners, and private industry to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine," in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Saturday evening, the White House said.

“In particular, he welcomed the decision this evening by Visa and Mastercard to suspend service in Russia,” the White House said.
“President Biden noted his administration is surging security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine and is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding.” 

The call lasted for about 30 minutes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the US for assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine during a Zoom call with US lawmakers earlier Saturday, according to a person familiar with the session.

Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly pleaded with NATO and Western officials to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move which could prevent Russian forces from carrying out airstrikes against their country.

In the Zoom call, Zelensky also asked US senators for greater sanctions on Russia, including on energy, and for more military assistance directed to Ukrainian forces. He thanked the US for the support it has delivered so far, but his overall message was that his country needs more help as it strains against Russia's invasion.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders have spoken at least five times.

On Saturday’s call, the White House said Biden “reiterated his concern about the recent Russian attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, and he commended the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian operators who have kept the reactors in safe condition.” 

Putin's warning: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday he would consider countries imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine as "participants in a military conflict."

But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that a no-fly zone is not an option being considered by the alliance.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that establishing such a zone could lead to a "full-fledged war in Europe," but added Washington would continue to work with its allies to provide Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves from Russian aggression.

8:30 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

US working with Poland on the possibility of providing fighter jets to Ukraine

From Arlette Saenz

 A file photo of a Polish Air Force MIG-29 seen at 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021.
A file photo of a Polish Air Force MIG-29 seen at 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021. (Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/FILE)

The US is working with Poland on the possibility of Poland providing fighter jets to Ukraine along with consulting with other allies, a White House spokesperson confirms, as Ukrainian President Zelensky is pushing for eastern European countries to send fighter aircraft into his country.

As part of the conversations with Poland, the US is determining what “capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine,” said the spokesperson, who would not detail what backfill options are under consideration.

The spokesperson said sending fighter jets into Ukraine is a “sovereign decision for any country to make” and noted there are a host of logistics to work through, including how the aircraft would be transferred from Poland to Ukraine.

Two lawmakers participating in a zoom call with the Ukrainian president earlier Saturday said Zelensky said Poland has signaled its prepared to send MiG fighter jets but that “they are only waiting for you [the US] to allow it.”

7:15 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

President Volodymyr Zelensky thanks Elon Musk for Starlink systems for destroyed cities

From CNN’s Jonny Hallam and Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and said Ukraine will receive additional Starlink antennas to assist destroyed cities without internet access.

“I’m grateful to him for supporting Ukraine with words and deeds," Zelensky said in a tweet early Sunday. "Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities."

Starlink antennas can be used to connect to the company’s satellite-based internet service which, according to the Starlink website, is “ideally suited for areas where connectivity has been unreliable or completely unavailable.”

The Starlink dishes can be assembled “in a matter of minutes to support emergency responders in disaster scenarios,” according to its website.

Musk sent a truckload of Starlink equipment to Ukraine this week, responding to a plea from the country's vice prime minister amid fears Ukrainians could lose internet access if Russia continues its attacks on communication infrastructure.

However, Musk also warned Ukrainians to use the technology "with caution." In a Thursday tweet, he said the Starlink system has a high probability of being targeted by Russian forces since it is "the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine."

8:06 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Mayor of Ukrainian city Mariupol speaks of dire situation, no power or water, no way to collect the dead

From CNN staff

Smoke rises after apparent shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, March 4.
Smoke rises after apparent shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, March 4. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, has painted a grim picture of life in the city.

"The situation is very complicated," Boichenko said in an interview on a YouTube channel Saturday. "The Russian army has already put up a blockade on the humanitarian corridor. We have a lot of social problems, which all the Russians have created."

Boichenko said the city, which has a population of nearly 400,000, has been without power for five days. "All our thermal substations rely on this power supply, so accordingly, we are without heat," he said.

Boichenko said there are no mobile networks, and "since the attack on Mariupol, we lost our reserve water supply, and so we are totally without water now. "

"[The Russian army] is working to besiege the city and set up a blockade," he said. "They want to cut us off from the humanitarian corridor, shutting down the delivery of essential goods, medical supplies, even baby food. Their goal is to choke the city and place it under an unbearable stress."

Boichenko said the "wounded and dead over these past five days number in the dozens. By the eighth day, there were hundreds. Now, we are already talking about thousands.

"These figures are only going to get worse," Boichenko said. "But this is the sixth straight day of airstrikes and we are not able to get out to recover the dead.

"They say they want to save Ukrainians from being killed by the Ukrainian [state] but they are the ones doing the killing," Boichenko said. "Listen, our brave doctors have been saving lives here now for 10 straight days. They live and sleep at our hospitals with their families."

Boichenko talked about the humanitarian corridor, which had been cancelled Saturday. 

"We had 50 buses full of fuel, and we were just waiting for a ceasefire and for the roads to open so we can get people out of here," he said. "But now we are down to just 30 buses. We hid those buses in another location, away from the shelling, and lost another 10 there. So we are down to 20.

"So, when this humanitarian corridor finally opens to us tomorrow or whenever, we may not have any buses left to evacuate the people."

Boichenko said saving the city was out of the question. "The only task now is to open up the humanitarian corridor to Mariupol at any cost.

"All these talks are lies," he said. "All this is being done, I will repeat for the thousandth time, to destroy us as a nation."

Boichenko insisted morale in Mariupol was strong but they are "just hanging on."

"We are holding out hope that maybe tomorrow at the crack of dawn, perhaps a tiny dewdrop of love will splash down on the people of this city," he said.

"The city of Mariupol has ceased to exist," Boichenko told the YouTube interviewer, "at least the city that you once saw."

6:22 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

British PM Boris Johnson to lay out Ukraine action plan ensuring "Putin must fail"

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Lauren Kent

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the 10 Downing Street, in London, on March 2.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the 10 Downing Street, in London, on March 2. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lay out a six-point plan of action on the Russia-Ukraine war during meetings with Canadian, Dutch, and Central European leaders next week. 

Johnson is set to tell his counterparts they must come together under his plan to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin "fails in his ambition,” according to a Downing Street news release on Saturday.

The plan, according to the news release, calls on countries to mobilize “an international humanitarian coalition for Ukraine, support Ukraine in its efforts to provide its own self-defense and maximize the economic pressure on Putin’s Russia.” 

According to the news release, the plan also calls on the UK’s partners to “prevent the creeping normalization of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, pursue diplomatic paths to de-escalation but only on the basis of full participation by the legitimate government of Ukraine and begin a rapid campaign to strengthen security and resilience across the Euro-Atlantic area."

“Putin must fail and must be seen to fail in this act of aggression," the release said. "It is not enough to express our support for the rules-based international order – we must defend it against a sustained attempt to rewrite the rules by military force.”

6:30 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Mastercard and Visa suspends all transactions and operations in Russia

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

(Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/Getty Images)
(Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Credit card companies Visa and Mastercard have suspended their operations in Russia.

Citing the “unprecedented nature of the current conflict and the uncertain economic environment,” Mastercard announced its decision in a statement issued Saturday.

“Our colleagues, our customers and our partners have been affected in ways that most of us could not imagine,” its statement said. “This decision flows from our recent action to block multiple financial institutions from the Mastercard payment network, as required by regulators globally.”

Mastercard, which has operated in Russia for more than 25 years, said “cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network.”

The credit card company, which said it has nearly 200 employees in Russia, added “any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs.” 

Visa said it plans to work with its clients and partners within Russia to suspend all Visa transactions and operations in the country, according to a statement also issued Saturday.

Visa said in the coming days “all transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country and any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the Russian Federation.”

“We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” said Visa Chairman and CEO Al Kelly. “We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values.”

6:04 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

President Volodymyr Zelensky urges Ukrainians to keep up resistance

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun

(Volodymyr Zelenskyi/Facebook)
(Volodymyr Zelenskyi/Facebook)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged Ukrainians to keep up their resistance, saying, “Ukrainians! In all of our cities, where the enemy invaded, go on the offensive. Go out on the streets. We need to fight every time we have an opportunity.”

In a video address posted on his official Facebook page, Zelensky said Ukrainians would not give their country “away to an enemy" and commended the Ukrainian people's faith.

“When you don't have a firearm but they respond with gunshots and you don't run … This is the reason why occupation is temporary. Our people -- Ukrainians -- don't back down,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky applauded the Ukrainian people's resistance and protests.

"They scream at occupants to go home, like the Russian battleship, pushing the occupants out of our territory," he continued. "Every meter of our Ukrainian land reclaimed by protest is a step forward, a step toward victory.”