March 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Amy Woodyatt, George Ramsay, Ed Upright, Jessie Yeung, Steve George and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:38 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022
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12:40 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Putin "believes he is like the czars," says US expert

Russian President Vladimir Putin "believes he is like the czars," the imperial dynasty that ruled Russia for centuries, said a US expert who worked in the former Obama administration.

"Putin has certainly used the Russian Orthodox Church in order to serve his goals," said Anna Makanju, former director for Russia at the US National Security Council, on Sunday.

Some history: The Russian Orthodox Church had historically served as a pillar of legitimacy and support for the Romanov czars. When communist radicals swept to power during the Bolshevik revolution, they targeted the Russian Orthodox Church and tore down churches that had been place of worship for the czars.

But in the nearly 26 years since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the role of the Church has transformed, and is now actively promoted by the Kremlin as a defining characteristic of Russian identity.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent of the atheist Soviet Union, now embraces his Orthodox Christianity. The Russian leader is often shown on national television broadcasts attending church services and paying respect to the church leadership.

Putin's push: As Putin steps up his assault on Ukraine, some international observers have commented that he may "trying to rebuild the USSR," said Makanju, referring to the Soviet Union which lasted from 1922 to 1991.

"I think that's not quite right -- he's trying to take it back to 1889," she said.

Back then, "czars thought they were essentially ordained by God to rule Russia," she added. "I actually believe Putin believes he is like the czars, potentially called by God in order to control and restore the glory of the Russian empire."
12:19 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

It's 7.15 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As the war drags into its third week, the destruction and death toll is mounting. If you're just reading in now, here are the latest Russia-Ukraine developments:

Evacuating residents killed: A Russian military strike hit an evacuation crossing point in a Kyiv suburb Sunday, killing a family with two children and several other civilians trying to flee the Russian invasion, according to the city's mayor.

Two mortar or artillery shells hit the checkpoint in the suburb of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities said, which has been the site of intense shelling by the Russian military in recent days.

Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said eight civilians have been killed across the district, and international media filming at the checkpoint reported that a shell landed as a stream of civilians was coming through.

A fiery Zelensky: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of planning “deliberate murder” in the shelling of Ukrainian territory. Speaking in a Facebook video on Sunday, Zelensky added that “God will not forgive” on “Forgiveness Sunday." 

Zelensky said he has not heard from any allies on Sunday.

“And I have not heard a reaction from any world leader today," he said. "From no Western politician. There are no reactions to this announcement. Think about the sense of impunity of the occupiers: they announce the atrocities that are planned. Why?”

Nuclear fears: French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the safety of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

Macron also spoke with Zelensky afterward, reiterating "the absolute necessity to avoid any attack on the integrity of Ukrainian civil nuclear facilities."  

Russia steps up its assault: Russia has fired a total of 600 missiles since the invasion of Ukraine began, a senior US defense official said, and Russia has committed approximately 95% of its amassed combat power inside Ukraine. 

The US has observed ongoing fighting in Kherson and Mykolaiv on Monday, the official said, and Russian forces are still trying to encircle Kyiv, Khakhiv and Chernihiv, as well as Mariupol.  

Anti-war protests: At least 4,640 people were detained in Russia on Sunday for participating in anti-war rallies across the country, according to an independent human rights monitoring group tracking detentions. 

Protesters in St. Petersburg, Russia were violently beaten by police, videos posted to social media show. CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos, which were taken on Sunday evening.

Businesses withdraw: Netflix said Sunday that it will stop selling and providing its streaming video service in Russia for the time being. Major Hollywood studios have also postponed new movie releases in the country. Earlier Sunday, TikTok and American Express also suspended service inside Russia.  

12:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Russia has fired 600 missiles; 95% of amassed combat power now in Ukraine, senior US defense official says

From CNN’s Oren Liebermann

Russia has fired a total of 600 missiles since its invasion of Ukraine began, a senior US defense official said Sunday, and it has committed approximately 95% of its amassed combat power inside Ukraine.

The US observed ongoing fighting in Kherson and Mykolaiv on Sunday and Russian forces are still trying to encircle Kyiv, Khakhiv, Chernihiv, and Mariupol, according to the official.

But the advances have been met with strong Ukrainian resistance, slowing the Russian assault. 

Meanwhile, the massive Russian convoy north of Kyiv that spans some 40 miles of road remains stalled, but there is no update on how far it is from Kyiv. Late last week, it was approximately 16 miles (25 kilometers) from Kyiv's city center.

The skies above Kyiv remain contested, and both Ukrainians and Russians retain a significant majority of their air combat power.

“We believe the Ukrainian people in most parts of the country still have means of communication, access to internet and the media,” the official added. 

The official also said the US has not observed an amphibious assault near Odessa and they do not assess one is imminent.

The official could not confirm reports of Russians firing on protestors in Kyiv or violations of the ceasefire agreement to allow for humanitarian corridors. The official also could not corroborate reports the Russians are calling up reserves.

12:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Members of Congress call on Biden administration to facilitate the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine

From CNN's Chandelis Duster

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sunday called for the transfer of fighter jets to Poland after a plea from Ukrainian President Zelensky for Western countries to send fighter aircraft into his country.

“I strongly urged the Secretary of State yesterday to complete this transaction. You know, the Ukrainians can fly Russian MiGs. But then Poland wants a back order, and that may be possibly F-16s,” McCaul, who is in Poland, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“We're not going to put our troops in there, but you know what we can help the Ukrainian people win this war … I think the will of the Ukrainian people will basically beat the will of the Russian troops. The Russian troops are not into this. But the Ukrainians are. And if we can arm them to defend themselves, that's how we beat the Russians.”

A White House spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Saturday that the US is working with Poland on the possibility of Poland providing fighter jets to Ukraine along with consulting with other allies.

More on this: Following a Zoom call with Ukrainian leader President Volodymyr Zelensky, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer called on the Biden administration to facilitate the transfer of “desperately-needed” aircraft to Ukraine. 

At a Sunday press briefing, Schumer stressed that Zelensky is in short supply of aircraft and that several Eastern European countries have Soviet-made jets which the Ukrainian Air Force pilots know how to operate. 

“Today I’m announcing the push for the U.S. administration to explore all feasible options to transfer these desperately needed aircraft to Ukraine,” Schumer said. “We are asking our administration to do everything they can to facilitate the transfer of planes from Eastern Europe to Ukraine.” 

12:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

American Express becomes the latest credit card company to suspend operations in Russia

From CNN’s Ramishah Maruf

American Express is the latest credit card company to announce it is ending its operations in Russia as its invasion into Ukraine escalates.

On Sunday, the company said in a statement that globally issued American Express cards will no longer work in Russia, and cards issued in Russia won't work outside the country.

American Express also said it is ending its business operations in Belarus.

"This is in addition to the previous steps we have taken, which include halting our relationships with banks in Russia impacted by the US and international government sanctions," American Express said in a statement Sunday.

Mastercard said Saturday it was suspending its network services in Russia, and Visa also announced Saturday it was suspending all operations there.

12:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

TikTok suspends some services in Russia

From CNN's Brian Fung 

TikTok said Sunday it is suspending some features in Russia in light of the country’s new law penalizing misinformation. 

“In light of Russia's new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” the company tweeted. “Our in-app messaging service will not be affected.”

The company added in a blog post: “We will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine when we might fully resume our services with safety as our top priority.”

12:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Eight civilians dead after shelling hits district, says Mayor of Kyiv district

From CNN staff

Eight civilians were killed in the midst of an evacuation in Irpin — a district west of Kyiv that saw intense shelling on Sunday — the mayor of Irpin, Oleksandr Markushyn, said in a statement on Telegram Sunday. 

Markushyn said Russians opened fire during an evacuation across a bridge. 

"A family died," he said, "in front of my eyes two small children and two adults died." 

Video from the scene showed civilians moving through the checkpoint before an explosion occurred at a crossroads that appeared to be caused by a shell or mortar. 

"Irpin is at war, Irpin has not surrendered," Markushyn said. "Part of Irpin was indeed captured by Russian invaders, but part of Irpin is fighting and not surrendering." 

Markushyn said another evacuation would begin tomorrow morning. 

12:36 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Police brutally beat anti-war protesters in St. Petersburg, Russia

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Anti-war protesters in St. Petersburg, Russia were violently beaten by police Sunday, videos posted to social media show. 

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos, which were taken on Sunday evening.

In the clips, protesters are seen walking along Nevsky Avenue in central St. Petersburg. Outside of the Kazan Cathedral, a violent interaction between protesters and police was captured on two of the videos. 

One of the videos posted to social media shows a police officer attempting to detain an individual in the street. When one protester walks up to try to engage in the situation, another police officer appears and shoves that person on the ground.  

Another video, published by Russian news outlet SOTA Vision, shows police attempting to detain a woman on the ground.

In both videos, more protesters walk up and engage the police. Screaming is heard, and the video published by SOTA Vision shows police punching the man shoved on the ground. 

In the video posted to social media, it later shows police successfully detaining the woman on the ground while also holding back protesters. Then, a police wagon shows up. 

"No to war," protesters shout repeatedly.

CNN has contacted St. Petersburg police to ask about the nature of the arrest and did not receive an immediate response. 

Thousands detained: On Sunday, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs told Russian state news outlet TASS that around 1,500 people “took part in an uncoordinated rally” in St. Petersburg Sunday, and around 750 were detained. 

At least 4,640 people were detained in Russia on Sunday in connection with anti-war rallies across the country, according to OVD-Info, an independent human rights monitoring group tracking detentions. More than 13,000 people have been arrested in Russia over anti-war demonstrations since the invasion, the group calculated.

12:36 a.m. ET, March 7, 2022

Russia detains at least 4,640 people on Sunday during protests, says independent monitoring group

From CNN Staff

At least 4,640 people were detained during protests in Russia on Sunday, OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group that tracks detentions in Russia, reports.

People have been detained in 147 cities, according to OVD-Info. Since the invasion, more than 13,000 people have been arrested in Russia in anti-war demonstrations, OVD-Info calculates.

CNN cannot independently verify these numbers.

Russian state news agency TASS cited the Russian Interior Ministry, which said it arrested 3,500 people “who took part in unauthorized public events” on Sunday. 

“The units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, ensured law and order in places where unauthorized public events were held in a number of constituent entities of the Russian Federation," Irina Volk, the official representative of the Russian Interior Ministry said, TASS reported.

Some of the cities where arrests were made included Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The detainees were “taken to the territorial police departments for investigation,” Volk said, adding "the issue of bringing them to justice is being decided.”