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

NATO must "ensure that conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine," says alliance chief

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

NATO has a "responsibility to ensure that the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine," said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

Speaking during a joint press conference in Riga with the Latvian President Egils Levits on Tuesday, Stoltenberg remarked that the "suffering we now see in Ukraine is horrific."

We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine. That would be even more dangerous, destructive, and even more deadly. The situation could spiral out of control," Stoltenberg said. 

In response to the situation and to "make sure there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow" NATO has "significantly strengthened" its presence in the eastern part of the alliance, Stoltenberg added. 

"We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and 1000s of additional troops in the region," the NATO chief continued. 

NATO will "protect and defend every inch of allied territory," Stoltenberg said.

So far, NATO has refused to get directly involved in the conflict -- including setting up a no-fly zone -- beyond supporting Ukraine's resistance to Russia's invasion.

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.

8:28 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Humanitarian convoy bound for Mariupol comes under fire, say Ukrainian officials

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A convoy of buses featuring red crosses waits to journey to Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people should the green corridor be confirmed, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 6.
A convoy of buses featuring red crosses waits to journey to Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people should the green corridor be confirmed, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 6. (Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/Reuters)

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.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, said Tuesday: "Our humanitarian cargo is heading to Mariupol, and we are counting on the commitments made by Russia, that they are ready to adhere to the ceasefire. There are now signals that Russia is shelling the direction of humanitarian convoy."

CNN has been unable to verify the status of the convoy

Russia had declared a ceasefire Tuesday for five Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol.

Vereshchuk said the convoy -- consisting of eight trucks as well as more than 30 buses --had set out at 10 a.m. local time, heading towards Mariupol from the Zaporizhzia area. It was scheduled to pick up people -- especially women, children and the elderly -- on the way back.

Ukraine's Joint Forces Operation (JFO) also provided an update on the convoy. On its Facebook page, the JFO said that in order to evacuate Mariupol's civilians, "the defenders of the city took a number of measures: they have cleared the roads of mines, removed engineering barriers, etc."

"However, the occupiers did not let children, women and the elderly out of the city," the JFO said. "The enemy launched an attack precisely in the direction of the humanitarian corridor."

CNN has reached out to the Russian side for a response.

Residents of the key city of Mariupol have been facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation in recent days, as the city remains under siege by Russian forces determined to tighten their grip on Ukraine's south.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that Russian forces are committing war crimes by holding 300,000 civilians "hostage" in the besieged city of Mariupol. He said one child died of dehydration on Monday. 

"People are now in their 10th day without water, without electricity, living in shelters, shelters are packed. The essentials are missing, a lot of healthcare needs as well," Mirella Hodeib, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, previously told CNN, saying that the situation in the city remains "desperate."

CNN's George Ramsay and Laura Smith-Spark contributed reporting to this post.

7:47 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

International Women’s Day march in Moldova celebrates Ukrainian women

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton in Chișinău

In Chișinău, Moldova, small groups of people have taken to the streets for International Women’s Day. 

A national holiday in the country, the demonstration shows solidarity with the women of Ukraine, who have been forced to flee their homes while men aged 18-60 are mandated to remain to fight the Russian invasion. 

One woman holds a sign that reads: "Women of Ukraine you are heroes."

Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, has already seen more than 230,000 people arrive from Ukraine. Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița has said every eighth child in the country is now a refugee.

8:19 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Blinken calls for Europe to move off dependence on Russia energy

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Niamh Kennedy in London

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the Stenbock House in Tallinn, Estonia, on March 8.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the Stenbock House in Tallinn, Estonia, on March 8. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said it is "imperative" for European countries to stop relying on Russian energy, especially as the Ukrainian war continues, in order to ensure supply is "widely available."

Speaking at a joint press conference in Tallinn with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Blinken said there is a “significant, not only opportunity but imperative in this moment to finally move off of, for many countries in Europe, the dependence on Russian energy. Because Russia uses it as a weapon.”

Kallas called to fully exclude Russia and Belarus from the high security payment network SWIFT and restrict its access to cryptocurrencies. 

Countries must focus on Russia's "full isolation" from the free world, she said. The deteriorating security situation "demands rapid changes to European security," she stressed, adding that the world must be prepared for the worst, which is still to come.

"Hence, Putin's violence must be in correlation with the further sanctions and also isolation decisions," Kallas said. 

Kallas also called on NATO to work on an "updated strategy for defense in our region." 

She thanked Blinken for the United States' "heavy work" in building unity within NATO allies, adding that she had asked for a "permanent and meaningful NATO forward defense in the Baltic region."

Despite the bleak situation on the ground, NATO is unwilling to get directly involved in the conflict -- including setting up a no-fly zone -- beyond supporting Ukraine's resistance to an invasion that is killing civilians.

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.

8:17 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US gas hits a record of $4.17 a gallon

From CNN’s Chris Isidore

High gas prices at stations on the corner of Beach Boulevard and Lampson Avenue in Stanton, California, on March 7.
High gas prices at stations on the corner of Beach Boulevard and Lampson Avenue in Stanton, California, on March 7. (Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images)

The price for a gallon of regular gas now stands at $4.17, according to AAA. That breaks the previous record of $4.11 a gallon that has stood since July 2008. 

As Russia continues its invasion in Ukraine, gas prices are rising faster than they have since Hurricane Katrina slammed into oil platforms and refineries along the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

Gas prices rose 10 cents since early Monday, gaining three of those cents overnight, according to the Oil Price Information Service, the firm that collects and calculates prices for AAA.

The price data is calculated on a dynamic basis with pricing information from 140,000 US gas stations. OPIS confirmed Monday evening that a new record of $4.14 a gallon had been reached. But enough stations raised their prices further later Monday and early Tuesday to lift the average to $4.17.

The $4.17 average means that the price is up 55 cents a gallon in just the last week, and 63 cents, or 18%, since Feb. 24, the day Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

7:43 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

“The shooting is constant” around Kyiv, says former boxing champion who joined Ukrainian forces

From CNN's George Ramsay

Former heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, the brother of Kyiv mayor and fellow Hall of Fame boxer Vitali Klitschko, said the shooting is “constant” around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Klitschko, who retired from professional boxing in 2017, joined the Ukrainian Defense Forces after enlisting in Ukraine's reserve army last month.

“In the city of Kyiv, when you go to bed, you hear explosions, the launching of rockets to defend the city as well as landing, from bullets to rockets here on the territory of the city of Kyiv,” Klitschko said in an interview on CNN.

“This pressure is enormous and gigantic on us, Ukrainians, but we stand together against this Russian aggression,” he said.

Klitschko also warned about the potential of Russian missiles hitting a nuclear power plant.

Last week, Russian troops occupied Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine's largest nuclear plant, after a fire caused by the attack was extinguished.

Countries around the world swiftly condemned it, with the United States embassy in Ukraine warning that an attack on a nuclear plant was a "war crime" and the United Nations Security Council convening an emergency meeting.

“Ukraine is under huge threat and the world is under huge threat,” Klitschko said.

“Not to forget that those missiles flying onto the Ukrainian side — the Russian missiles — could destroy one of the multiple nuclear power plants that we have. One was on fire two days ago," he said.

“There is no clear leakage yet, but we still have multiple reactors and just to know this war needs to be stopped as soon as possible,” he said.

7:43 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Russia threatens to cut of Europe’s gas supply by closing off Nord Stream 1

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

A senior Russian official threatened to cut off Europe’s natural gas supply on Monday in response to possible oil import bans Moscow could soon face over its invasion in Ukraine. 

“In connection with the unfounded accusations against Russia … and the imposition of a ban on Nord Stream 2, we have every right to take a mirror decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the gas pipeline Nord Stream 1, which today is loaded at the maximum level of 100%,” Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in a televised address, noting the decision by German regulators last month to halt the certification of Gazprom’s second pipeline, Nord Stream 2

Russia supplies about 40% of Europe’s gas. Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, relies on Russia for almost 50% of its natural gas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the US and allies were actively exploring ways to ban Russian oil imports, which would damage Russia’s economy even further as it tries to cope with crippling economic sanctions.  

The West has been reluctant so far to impose significant sanctions on Russia’s energy sector because of how it might impact the global economy but are now getting closer to doing so as Europe works to diversify its energy sources.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting to this post.

8:30 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Outflow of refugees from Ukraine reaches 2 million, says UN refugee chief

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Refugees fleeing Ukraine arrive at the border train station of Zahony on March 8 in Zahony, Hungary. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's military offensive, according to the UN.
Refugees fleeing Ukraine arrive at the border train station of Zahony on March 8 in Zahony, Hungary. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's military offensive, according to the UN. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The outflow of refugees from Ukraine has reached two million, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Speaking to French radio station France Inter on Tuesday, Grandi called the milestone a "terrifying" number.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people on the move, trying to flee the combat zone and seek refuge firstly inside Ukraine in the safe zones. But the safe space is reducing and people are inevitably trying to cross borders," he said

Nearly all the refugees are women, children, and elderly people, according to Grandi, who said he hadn't seen such a preponderance in his entire career.

"It's a very specified population. It's significant that on International Women's Day, men make war and women pay the consequences," Grandi continued.

He said most of the refugees have traveled to Poland, Moldova, and other neighboring countries, adding most move towards "where they have connections, family."

"What we fear is a second wave of persons who have a good deal less resources and connections and who will be much more vulnerable," Grandi warned.

Romania has taken in 281,000 refugees since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the Romanian Border Police told CNN on Tuesday, although 208,000 of those have already departed the country.

The border police did not specify where the refugees were going after leaving Romania.

Watch more:

CNN's Miguel Marquez in Bucharest contributed reporting to this post.

7:42 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Russian Orthodox Church alleges gay pride parades were part of the reason for Ukraine war

From CNNs Delia Gallagher in Rome

Russian Patriarch Kirill celebrates a Christmas service at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on January 6.
Russian Patriarch Kirill celebrates a Christmas service at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on January 6. (Kirill Kudryavtsey/AFP/Getty Images)

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church said gay pride parades were part of the reason for the war in Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Sunday that the conflict in Donbas is about “a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power.”

The “test” of which side you are on, said Kirill, is whether your country is willing to hold gay pride parades.

“In order to enter the club of those countries, it is necessary to hold a gay pride parade. Not to make a political statement, ‘we are with you,’ not to sign any agreements, but to hold a gay parade. And we know how people resist these demands and how this resistance is suppressed by force,” Kirill said during a sermon in Moscow.

Kirill categorized the war as a struggle of “metaphysical significance,” for humanity to follow God’s laws.

“What is happening today in the sphere of international relations has not only political significance. We are talking about something different and much more important than politics. We are talking about human salvation,” he said. 

“If we see violations of [God’s] law, we will never put up with those who destroy this law, blurring the line between holiness and sin, and even more so with those who promote sin as an example or as one of the models of human behavior,” Kirill said.

“Around this topic today there is a real war,” he said.

Patriarch Kirill is a major religious figure in Russia, where the Russian Orthodox religion is considered an integral part of Russian identity. He has come under pressure from within his own church since the beginning of the war to denounce Putin’s aggression, but his public statements so far have failed to do that. On the contrary, Kirill’s language has lent support to Putin’s vision of a spiritual and temporal Russian empire.