March 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Sana Noor Haq, George Ramsay, Ed Upright, Amir Vera and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 9, 2022
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10:12 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

German federal prosecutor launches probe into Ukraine war crimes

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

Germany's federal prosecutor has opened a so-called ''structural investigation'' into suspected war crimes committed by Russian troops since the invasion of Ukraine, the prosecutor's office told CNN on Tuesday. 

''The Federal Prosecutor's Office has opened a so-called structural investigation in connection with the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine," a statement sent to CNN said. 

''There are concrete indications that war crimes may have already been committed, in particular war crimes involving the use of prohibited methods of warfare against Ukrainian civilians as well as civilian objects," the statement said.

Some more context: A structural investigation does not target particular suspects, Germany's federal prosecutor in Karlsruhe said, but it aims to gather evidence of the suspected crimes and identify the structures behind them. The evidence can then be used in future criminal proceedings against individual suspects, Germany's federal prosecutor explained to CNN. 

In the past Germany has repeatedly prosecuted atrocities committed abroad, including the war crimes in Syria. In January, a German court sentenced a former Syrian army colonel to life in prison, in the first-ever torture trial against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.  

10:24 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Humanitarian situation around Kyiv remains challenging, according to military administration

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesa in Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 8.
Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 8. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of the Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, said that the humanitarian situation in areas around the city remains difficult.

"The main issue today remains humanitarian aid. Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, Makariv, Borodyanka, Vorzel — residents of these settlements are forced to stay in bomb shelters for days without water and food. The occupiers do not give humanitarian corridors, do not give guarantees," Kuleba said.

The five districts are to the north and west of Kyiv.

"Russian occupiers keep shelling residential areas. They keep bringing more military vehicles," Kuleba said in a video statement on YouTube. 

"We demand silence every day, every hour, every minute. We will promptly and immediately send help and evacuate our people," he said.

"We are doing everything to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Kyiv region," he added.

More background: Russia had proposed a ceasefire Tuesday for five Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian authorities have said that a long-awaited convoy of humanitarian aid for the besieged city of Mariupol on the south coast appears to have come under fire. CNN has been unable to verify the status of the convoy.

The Russian defense ministry said more than 700 people have been evacuated along an agreed evacuation route out of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Tuesday. 

10:25 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

EU plans to slash Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and aims to phase out dependence before 2030

From CNN’s Chris Liakos and Mark Thompson

The European Union has outlined plans to eliminate its dependence on Russian energy.  

Speaking on Tuesday, it says it will cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year, and eliminate its overall need for Russian oil and gas “well before 2030.”

The EU said in a press release it plans to eliminate its dependence on Russian gas by “diversifying gas supplies, via higher LNG and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers, and larger volumes of biomethane and renewable hydrogen production and imports; and, reducing faster the use of fossil fuels in our homes, buildings, industry, and power system, by boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewables and electrification, and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.”

The European Union depends on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas. Russia also supplies about 27% of the oil the EU imports each year.

Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said Monday Russia could cut off the supply of gas to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in retaliation for Scholz blocking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The EU also announced a series of measures to counter soaring energy prices which the bloc has been facing for several months, now exacerbated by supply disruption worries, including potential temporary price limits and short-term state aid to companies affected by high energy prices.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition.”

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said that the EU has “sufficient amounts of gas” for the remaining weeks of this winter but that “we need to replenish our reserves urgently for next year.” 

“The Commission will therefore propose that by 1 October, gas storage in the EU has to be filled up to at least 90%,” she added.

10:00 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US House Speaker Pelosi says the House will move ahead with legislation banning Russian oil

From CNN's MJ Lee

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced to her caucus this morning that the House would be moving ahead with Russian oil ban legislation and that the bill is expected to include other items, according to a Democratic aide.

She also told her colleagues that the White House has been telling her for days that the President would be announcing the ban. Notably, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday that Biden had yet to make a decision on this front.

More on this: President Biden is now expected to announce later this morning a ban on Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the US.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has previously said the bill could be on the floor this week.

10:12 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

UK government under criticism for its response to Ukrainian refugees

From CNN's Sarah Dean

Home Secretary Priti Patel speaking to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, England, on March 6.
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaking to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, England, on March 6. (Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images)

The UK government has been criticized for its response to Ukrainian refugees, with its newly announced Ukraine Family Scheme visa being described as complex and lengthy by people navigating the system.

Under the scheme, people can apply to join or accompany a UK-based family member and if granted a visa, they can live, work and study in the UK and access public funds. 

Some refugees who have made it to the French port city of Calais in the hope of traveling on to the UK are now being told to go to appointments in Paris or Brussels — both more than 100 miles away — as part of the administrative procedure. 

When asked why there is no processing center in Calais, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government is setting up a centre away from the port to avoid creating "choke points."

The UK Home Office said Monday it has issued 300 visas as part of its Ukraine Family Scheme, out of 8,900 applications submitted and 17,700 applications started.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote last Saturday to his British counterpart Patel in a letter obtained by CNN: "[Taking] into consideration the distress suffered by these people, this response appears to be totally inappropriate and inhumane."

In comparison, the European Union's "Temporary Protection Directive," announced on March 2, allows people from Ukraine to enter the bloc without a visa and individually choose which country to go to. Those eligible, will receive protective status similar to that of a refugee, in any EU country for a one-year period which may be reviewed. 

Germany, for example, on Tuesday said over 64,000 refugees from Ukraine had arrived since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. An Interior Ministry spokesperson said the number could be much higher because there are no border controls. Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 Ukrainians have so far arrived in France, with more arriving every day, Citizenship Minister Marlene Schiappa said.

Additional reporting from CNN’s Benjamin Brown and Niamh Kennedy in London, Nadine Schmidt in Berlin, Joseph Ataman and Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris.

9:45 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Russia says more than 700 evacuated from Ukrainian city of Sumy on Tuesday

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

The Russian defense ministry said 723 people have been evacuated along an agreed evacuation route out of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Tuesday. 

The ministry was quoted by the state news agency RIA Novosti. It said those evacuated included Indian, Chinese and Jordanian and Tunisian citizens.

The first convoy that left Tuesday morning reached the city of Poltava without incident, Ukrainian officials said.

A later convoy was delayed by an outbreak of firing at the outskirts of the city, according to the head of the regional administration, Dmitry Zhyvitsky.

But Zhyvitsky was quoted in local media as saying the Russian forces did not shoot on the convoy. 

It's unclear whether the convoy proceeded toward Poltava. 

9:55 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

UN says at least 474 civilians killed in Ukraine so far

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow, Scotland

Dead bodies lie covered on the streets of Irpin, Ukraine, on March 6.
Dead bodies lie covered on the streets of Irpin, Ukraine, on March 6. (Murat Saka/dia images/Getty Images)

At least 474 civilians, including 29 children, have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Human Rights Office on Tuesday.  

A further 861 people have been injured in the conflict, bringing the total civilian casualty toll compiled by the UN to 1,335.

The true figure is likely to be “considerably higher” the UN believes, particularly in government-controlled territories where many reports are still pending corroboration. 

“This concerns, for example, the towns of Volnovakha, Mariupol, Izium where there are allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties. These figures are being further corroborated and are not included in the above statistics,” the statement reads.  

In the pro-Moscow separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the UN has registered 545 casualties, with 96 killed and 449 injured as of Tuesday

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.”

9:26 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Xi says China willing to play active role in mediating Ukraine crisis in call with German and French leaders

From CNN staff

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video-conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the Ukraine crisis, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, on March 8.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video-conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the Ukraine crisis, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, on March 8. (Benoit Tessier/ POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke virtually with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, and reiterated that China is willing to "work actively" with the international community to mediate the crisis in Ukraine, without offering any details. 

Xi called the situation "worrisome," according to a statement from the China's foreign ministry.

"China will stay in communication and coordination with France, Germany and the EU and, in light of the needs of the parties involved, work actively together with the international community," the statement said, adding that all efforts "conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported," it added.

Xi also condemned Western sanctions, warning they will "dampen the global economy that is already ravaged by the pandemic."

"This is in the interest of no one. We need to actively advocate a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security," Xi said, according to the statement.

China has consistently refused to call the war in Ukraine a Russian invasion, and officials regularly point to NATO's eastward expansion as a root cause to the conflict — parroting a key Russian talking point. 

Xi gave his support to French and German “actions” to reach a ceasefire in Ukraine, the Elysée Palace said following a call between the three leaders. He also recognized the “need to guarantee people's access to humanitarian aid coordinated by the United Nations,” the statement read, adding that the foreign ministers of Germany, France and China are to enter into close consultation to coordinate further efforts to end the conflict.

9:21 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

"Absolutely confident that we will defeat the Russians," says Kharkiv mayor

From CNN's George Ramsay and Amy Cassidy 

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov speaks to CNN on March 8.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov speaks to CNN on March 8. (CNN)

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov has told CNN he is "absolutely confident" his city will defeat Russian forces.

Under the siege of constant Russian bombardment, Ukraine's second-largest city is still resisting and able to continue with life, Terekhov said Tuesday.

Shelling from heavy artillery, air raids and fire on residential districts has left the northeastern city devastated, but it has not yet fallen to the Russians and "will withstand" thanks to the Ukrainian army, Terekhov insisted. 

Over the past week, Russian forces have targeted residential areas in Kharkiv, hitting schools, shops, hospitals, apartment blocks and churches.

The city of 1.5 million inhabitants needs "everything" from food, medicine and warm clothes, Terekhov said. 

Kharkiv has been one of the most bombed areas in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, with Terekhov calling the shelling of civilian districts an act of "genocide."

"What else can it be? There is no military infrastructure, no military facilities in these areas. Strikes are happening in kindergartens, schools, maternity hospitals, clinics, " Terekhov said.

"This isn't an accident. I can understand when there's an accidental strike. But when it's hundreds of civilian buildings hit, that is no accident. That is a targeted attack."

The Kremlin has denied targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, despite multiple documented casualties.