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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6:02 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Russian forces "are bombing critical infrastructure," Ukraine's defense chief says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. (Government Handout)

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Saturday that Russian forces have "advanced in some directions" but that Ukrainian defenders are "countering and ousting the occupiers."

"Obviously, the enemy has advanced in some directions, however, it controls only small areas. Our defenders are severely countering and ousting the occupiers," he said in a statement, adding that because of the "slow-down of the offensive pace and resistance of the Ukrainians, Russia is changing tactics."

"As of today, the Ukrainian sky is the most vulnerable," he said. "The aggressor uses its aerial and missile potential comprehensively and actively. All types of aviation are bombing our cities, towns and civilian infrastructure, including critical infrastructure and dangerous infrastructure, among them -- nuclear and hydro power plants."

Reznikov said Russian forces were targeting residential apartment buildings, schools, kindergartens and hospitals. "The enemy is destroying churches and cathedrals. It is shelling railway stations with thousands of evacuating women and children," he said.

"These are the tactics of frightened jackals," he said. "I am confident that the enemy will pay for every life and for every tear."

Reznikov said Mariupol, Volnovakha, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mykolayiv and Kherson are among the cities where currently the situation is "most complex," adding: "We really hope that the humanitarian corridor will work and we will be able to evacuate civilians."

Reznikov said the main efforts of the Russian forces continue to be focused on the encirclement of Kyiv and suppressing resistance in cities and towns. 

Some context: Russia routinely denies causing civilian casualties in Ukraine. International media and observers have extensively documented civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

5:40 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Rescuers race to evacuate people from Volnovakha

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova in Kyiv

Volunteers and emergency services are working at breakneck speed as they try to evacuate people from the besieged city of Volnovakha, after the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it would pause its bombardment there, as well as Mariupol, which are both in southeastern Ukraine.

“We’ve heard from my friend who lives there that there are so many people inside, under the buildings actually, under the destroyed buildings,” Denys Tsutsayev, one of the volunteers gathering information on the region, told CNN.

"There are problems with water, power. There are so many people without any heating and anything who were in Volnovakha for all these days," said Tsutsayev.

"There is a very bad connection in the area, so it's difficult to reach people.”

CNN received an account from Marina Gasanova, a resident of a village near Volnovakha, whose husband has been trying to evacuate people from the city in recent days.

Earlier this week, she wrote:

"The situation in the city is very scary. There is almost nothing left in the city, something comes in every minute from all sides, it is not clear what … and it is not clear from where it comes. Scary, crazy!"

"My husband said: ‘I drive in, there is a car standing there, I come back and forth, take people out, when I come again, the car is already on fire.' There, every minute, every second, everyone is shooting. From all sides. It's just impossible! There are corpses lying around, torn-off arms, torn-off legs."

4:18 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

'Take people with you,' pleads official as evacuations from two cities expected to begin

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

The evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha is expected to begin at 11 a.m. local (4 a.m. ET) but "we are currently working on the details," the head of the Ukrainian government Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kirilenko, said on his official Twitter account.

Russian officials said the country would pause its bombardment in the cities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time (2 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET) Saturday, 

Kirilenko said that "it will be possible to leave by personal transport" during the pause, adding "a huge request to all drivers leaving the city to facilitate the evacuation of civilians."

"Take people with you, fill the transport as much as possible. It is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to deviate from the route of the humanitarian corridor. There will be several stages of evacuation over several days so that all those wishing to leave can do so," he said. 

"Therefore, I ask everyone to trust only the OFFICIAL information posted on this official page or the information that provides a direct link to it," he said. "This is a matter of human safety! As soon as new information appears, I will notify you immediately."

8:55 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Ukraine says evacuation corridors are "being prepared for opening" in Mariupol and Volnovakha

Evacuation corridors are being prepared in parts of Ukraine, said Mykhailo Podoliak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, on Saturday.

"In Mariupol and Volnovakha, humanitarian evacuation corridors are being prepared for opening, columns are being formed from those who are subject to evacuation. The parties temporarily ceased fire in the area of ​​the corridors," Podoliak said on his official Twitter account.

Earlier on Saturday, Russia's Ministry of Defense announced it would stop bombarding Mariupol and Volnovakha to allow for civilians to safely flee their homes, adding, "Humanitarian corridors and exit routes have been agreed with the Ukrainian side."

Attacks on civilians: Western officials have noticed a shift in Russian strategy from military targets to civilians, with more attacks becoming focused on population centers.

And Russia is poised to deploy up to 1,000 more mercenaries to Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, as a senior Western intelligence official warned Moscow could "bombard cities into submission," an escalation that could lead to higher numbers of civilian casualties.

8:55 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant staff say radiation levels look normal

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), which was occupied by Russian forces after a fire broke out on Friday, say radiation levels in the region look normal.

"Currently, the ZNPP attending personnel monitor the condition of power units and control their operation," Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said in a statement Saturday. 
"No changes in the radiation status in the Zaporizhzhia region have been detected, the gamma radiation background is within normal limits."

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate also said the heating and hot water supply in the city of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, have been disrupted "due to a damage to the connecting heating main, which is a result of the fierce fighting between the defenders of ZNPP and the Russian occupiers."

Repairs are underway but "the work is complicated by multiple damage to the heating main," the regulatory body said. 

Fire at the plant: A blaze broke out on Friday after shelling by Russian forces, Ukrainian officials said. Fears rose as firefighters were initially unable to access the site.

The fighting eventually stopped, and emergency teams were able to put out the fire. Though staff at the plant are continuing their duties, the plant has been "occupied" by Russian forces, the regulatory body said Friday after the fire was contained.

Read more here:

2:35 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

The cost of supporting Ukraine is rising, as US gas prices surge

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

People fill their cars where prices for gas and diesel fuel are over $5 a gallon at a petrol station in Monterey Park, California on March 4, 2022.
People fill their cars where prices for gas and diesel fuel are over $5 a gallon at a petrol station in Monterey Park, California on March 4, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Americans along with much of the Western world have been united in condemning Russia for invading Ukraine.

Now they might have to start putting their money where their mouth is as US lawmakers consider an embargo on Russian oil.

High inflation and rising energy prices amid the economy's pandemic recovery were already making life more expensive.

Now, a little more than a week into Russian President Vladimir Putin's war, California has become the first US state to have an average gas price above $5 per gallon.

Gas prices are surging nationwide. The national average record for gasoline -- $4.11, set in 2008 -- is within sight. That would be a huge jump from a year ago, when the national average price was $2.75 a gallon.

The average price of diesel is also skyrocketing, which will drive up transportation costs for businesses.

What Congress is doing: American lawmakers are pushing a bipartisan effort to end all imports of Russian oil and sanction Russia's energy sector.

That the energy sector has so far been left mostly untouched speaks to the nature of the global energy supply. Russia was the world's No. 2 oil producer last year, behind the US. A disruption in oil exports would drive up costs everywhere.

But politicians are willing to pay the price. "I'm all for that. Ban it," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week on Capitol Hill.

"I would gladly pay 10 cents more per gallon," Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, said at a Thursday press conference.

Read the full story here.

2:28 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Russian military will stop firing and allow civilians to flee Mariupol and Volnovakha

From CNN’s Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Russia's Ministry of Defense announced it would stop its bombardment of parts of Ukraine on Saturday, to allow for civilians to safely flee.

"Today, March 5, from 10 a.m. Moscow time, the Russian side declares a ceasefire regime and opens humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha," said the ministry in a statement. "Humanitarian corridors and exit routes have been agreed with the Ukrainian side."

Attacks on civilians: Western officials have noticed a shift in Russian strategy from military targets to civilians, with more attacks becoming focused on population centers. The new approach comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to get the quick victory he wanted, and the Russian military has faced a stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance across the country.

Some additional context: Ukrainian and Russian delegations held a second round of talks in Belarus on Thursday. A Ukrainian negotiator said afterward that it didn’t deliver the results that Ukraine needed -- both sides had agreed on corridors for civilians to escape.

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday that a third round of talks has been scheduled for this weekend.

2:28 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Ukrainian athletes dedicate their Paralympics medals "to Ukraine, for peace"

Ukraine’s Grygorii Vovchynskyi wins the para biathlon men’s sprint standing event on Saturday.
Ukraine’s Grygorii Vovchynskyi wins the para biathlon men’s sprint standing event on Saturday. (The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP)

Ukraine won its first gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games on Saturday, with Grygorii Vovchynskyi winning the para biathlon men’s sprint standing event -- and dedicating his medal afterward to his home country.

"It's very important for us in Ukraine. Today I represented my country. It's a difficult time, I am worried and afraid," he said after the race. "I was thinking before the race, I must try to do everything for Ukraine. I must think about war, about my country, about my people, about my President.'

"I love sport, but today I ran because I want life in Ukraine to move to the future," he said. He added that when the war began, he "cried every day," wondering what he could do.

"I can dedicate this race to Ukraine, for peace, (for the) people in Ukraine. It's first place for my country," he said.

Ukrainian athlete Liudmyla Liashenko also won silver in the women’s sprint standing event on Saturday.

"I am really glad that I finished and brought this medal to Ukraine," she said, adding that her family was still in Ukraine.

"I'm trying to defend my country here. I'm trying to show my best results here to represent Ukraine here like our army does in Ukraine, like everyone who is in Ukraine now trying to defend our motherland."
1:11 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Elon Musk declines to block Russian propaganda from Starlink

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

In a tweet Friday night, Elon Musk claimed foreign government officials had asked his satellite internet company Starlink "to block Russian news sources" following the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

"We will not do so unless at gunpoint," Musk said in the tweet. "Sorry to be a free speech absolutist."

It's unclear which governments Musk is referring to in the tweet, though he added it was not Ukraine. 

Amplifying propaganda: Russian news sources, such as RT, serve as Russian President Vladimir Putin's global megaphone, misleading audiences and deflecting from the issues at hand. On Friday, Putin signed a censorship bill into law making it impossible for news organizations to accurately report the news in or from Russia.

Delivery to Ukraine: Musk sent a truckload of Starlink antennas — which can be used to connect to the company's satellite-based internet service — to Ukraine this week, responding to a plea from the country's vice prime minister amid fears that Ukrainians could lose internet access if Russia continues its attacks on communication infrastructure.