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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11:26 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Foreigners who volunteer to fight for Ukraine will be eligible for citizenship

From CNN's Josh Pennington 

Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said Tuesday that foreign nationals who volunteer to fight for Ukraine will be eligible for Ukrainian citizenship, according to the Ukrainian National News Agency, Ukrinform.

"Ukraine is forming an International Legion of Territorial Defense composed of foreigners who want to join the resistance against the Russian aggressors and defend global security," Ukrinform reported, citing Yenin.

Yenin reportedly said the number of foreign volunteers is growing.

"These people will sign a contract, receive a military passport, which then replaces their residence permit. In the future, if any among these foreign nationals would like to become Ukrainian citizens, our legislation provides a pathway for that," he said, according to Ukrinform.

Some context: Last Thursday, Ukraine's President said the first of 16,000 foreign fighters were making their way to the country to join the fight against Russia. CNN has not been able to confirm those numbers. Ukrainian embassies have been helping recruit foreign fighters, some without any military training.

12:00 a.m. ET, March 9, 2022

An oil tanker is on fire in the Black Sea, nearly two weeks after apparent Russian military strike

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

(Planet Labs, PBC)
(Planet Labs, PBC)

Moldovan oil tanker "Millennial Spirit" is still smoking in the Black Sea, satellite images show, nearly two weeks after it was hit by an apparent Russian military strike.

Planet Labs PBC said they collected a new satellite image on Tuesday showing a large plume of black smoke coming from the tanker, which is floating about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

On Feb. 25, Ukrainian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said a ship sailing under the flag of Moldova, 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of the port of Yuzhny, had been "damaged by a Russian ship." The statement named the "Millennial Spirit" and said details were being confirmed. 

The ship was carrying 600 tons of fuel oil and diesel when it was hit by a Russian missile, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Two crew members were seriously injured in the strike, the ministry said.

11:08 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Japan sends bulletproof vests to Ukraine in rare donation of defense equipment overseas

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

A Japan Self-Defense Forces plane carrying bulletproof vests for Ukraine prepares to depart from Komaki Airbase on Tuesday.
A Japan Self-Defense Forces plane carrying bulletproof vests for Ukraine prepares to depart from Komaki Airbase on Tuesday. (Japan Ministry of Defense)

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces sent bulletproof vests to Ukraine on Tuesday — a rare move for the country, which must uphold its pacifist post-World War II constitution.

Strict guidelines that ban the transfer of defense supplies from Japan to parties in conflict were updated on Tuesday to allow defense equipment assigned by the defense minister to be given to Ukraine following Russia's invasion, according to a statement from Japan's Defense Ministry.

It's the first time Japan’s defense force has sent bulletproof vests overseas.

The supplies were sent on a Japan Self-Defense Forces plane departing from Komaki Airbase in Aichi prefecture on Tuesday, according to a tweet by the Defense Ministry.

It came after a request from Ukraine's defense minister last Friday

Japan is also planning to deliver other nonlethal emergency supplies such as food, hygiene products, cameras, power generators, tents and winter clothing to Ukraine, according to the Defense Ministry.

In a news conference Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it was "critically important" for Japan and its national security to respond firmly with other nations against Russian aggression and provide support to Ukraine. 

Japan is not planning to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, Matsuno added.

11:29 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

5,000 people evacuated from Sumy, Ukrainian presidential office deputy says

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Civilians flee the city on March 8, in Sumy, Ukraine.
Civilians flee the city on March 8, in Sumy, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidency handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

About 5,000 people and 1,000 cars evacuated the city of Sumy, northeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, according to deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office Kirill Timoshenko.

Timoshenko made the announcement on his Telegram channel. He also posted a video appearing to show people leaving during the evacuations.

CNN could not independently verify Timoshenko's evacuation statistics.

Sumy has seen heavy attacks in the past few days and is almost cut off from the rest of the country. Some 21 people were reported killed in the city in an airstrike Monday night.

tense and fleeting evacuation from Sumy took place on Tuesday, with civilians fleeing in private cars and buses taking people to Poltava, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) away in central Ukraine, according to Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava regional administration.

9:05 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US sending Patriot missiles to Poland to counter any threats to allies

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The United States is sending two Patriot missile batteries to Poland as a “defensive deployment” to counter any potential threat to US and NATO allies during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a spokesman for US European Command said Tuesday night.

Patriots are air defense missile systems: They are designed to counter and destroy incoming short-range ballistic missiles, advanced aircraft and cruise missiles.

“At the direction of the Secretary of Defense and at the invitation of our Polish allies, General Wolters, Commander, of US European Command has directed US Army Europe and Africa to reposition two Patriot Batteries to Poland,” Capt. Adam Miller, spokesman for EUCOM said in a statement.
“This is a prudent force protection measure that underpins our commitment to Article Five and will in no way support any offensive operations,” the statement said, referring to the principle that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members. “Every step we take is intended to deter aggression and reassure our allies.”

CNN reported earlier this week that the US was considering sending Patriots to allies.

9:12 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Analysis: The US could be making a high stakes bet with Venezuela. Putin is the reason

Analysis from CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Caracas, Venezuela

The recent trip by two top US foreign policy officials to Caracas, Venezuela, is a sign of just how much the geopolitical balance could be shifting in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

National Security Council Senior Director Juan Gonzalez and Venezuela Affairs Unit Chief James Story met embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and his wife on Saturday — the first since diplomatic relations between the two countries broke down in 2019.

Coverage of the meeting has, so far, focused on the possibility the White House might lift some of the sanctions it has imposed in recent years on the Venezuelan oil industry in order to replace imports from Russia, which US President Joe Biden banned earlier today.

Context: Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world — and historically, much of its crude oil has been exported to US refineries.

Venezuelan oil: Maduro confirmed Venezuela’s intention to increase its crude oil output on Monday, a move that comes as Russia’s oil exports are plummeting due to sanctions over its invasion in Ukraine.

“We are ready to regain production. One, two, or three million barrels, everything! Everything in the name of peace!” he said.

American deal might be easier said than done: Oil production in the country is at an almost all-time low after years of mismanagement and lack of maintenance of oil facilities.

It would take years, and billions of dollars of investments, to recover oil exports from Venezuela to what they used to be, suggests expert Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at the Baker Institute in Houston. So if the White House needs a short-term solution to lower the price of gasoline, it cannot come from Venezuela.

US citizens released: However, the US officials’ Venezuelan deployment did bring some immediate results. Venezuela released at least two US citizens late Tuesday, with speculation it was done as a "sign of goodwill" from Maduro (and as part of potential sanctions relief) that has yet to happen.

This undated file photo posted on Twitter on June 18, 2020 by Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, shows CITGO oil executives, from left to right, Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano, standing outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, in Caracas, Venezuela.
This undated file photo posted on Twitter on June 18, 2020 by Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, shows CITGO oil executives, from left to right, Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano, standing outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, in Caracas, Venezuela. (Jorge Arreaza/Venezuela's Foreign Ministry via AP/FILE)

Gustavo Cárdenas is a US citizen detained in Caracas since 2017 and one of six detained oil executives from US refinery CITGO. Later, Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-US dual citizen detained in Venezuela since February 2021, was released from prison. He is not one of the so-called "CITGO 6."

The Caracas trip signals the intention that the White House might be ready to change its relationship to Venezuela in the long term. That’s because Caracas has grown much closer to Moscow under Maduro’s rule.

But it is a high stakes bet: Maduro has walked away from negotiations before — and if it doesn’t work out, Biden will likely pay a political price.

9:40 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US governors respond to Biden's decision to ban Russian energy imports

From CNN's Joe Sutton

Governors across the United States broadly supported President Joe Biden's decision to ban Russian energy imports to the country — but raised concerns about surging gas prices and the need to strengthen America’s energy independence.

Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Biden's action is a unified message to Russian President Vladimir Putin but it will increase prices at the pump in the US.

"The Biden administration's Russian oil embargo will have a reduced impact on Russia as long as Europe continues to buy Russian oil and gas," Hutchinson said. "The US action is a unified message to Mr. Putin that his invasion and indiscriminate killing in Ukraine will result in consequences that will be harsh and protracted. Yes, the action will increase gas prices in the US and that is why I call upon the Biden administration to return the US to complete energy independence so we don’t have to depend upon despots for our energy supply."

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said: "The Biden administration needs to listen to Americans and increase domestic energy instead of relying on authoritarian regimes to fuel our country. Gas prices are out of control and people are getting hammered at the pump. The time is now to make America energy independent — again."  

Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said the US needs to aggressively pursue clean energy alternatives. 

"Importantly, we have to recognize we can't drill our way out of confrontation with authoritarian states. National security and economic security requires us to aggressively pursue clean energy alternatives," Inslee said.

Gas tax: Six US governors — all Democrats — released a letter to congressional leaders calling for a suspension of the federal gasoline tax for the rest of the year. 

“At a time when people are directly impacted by rising prices on everyday goods, a federal gas tax holiday is a tool in the toolbox to reduce costs for Americans,” said the letter signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin. 


8:09 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

White House relayed concerns to Hill about agreement to suspend normal trade relations with Belarus and Russia

From CNN's Manu Raju and Annie Grayer

The White House relayed to Congress concerns over a bipartisan deal that was reached to clamp down on Russia — citing in particular provisions that would suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, according to multiple sources in both parties.

Now the House is moving ahead tomorrow on a different anti-Russia bill that would instead review Russia’s status in the World Trade Organization, while reauthorizing the Magnitsky sanctions law and banning Russian energy imports. That bill will be approved by the House tomorrow, sending it to the Senate.

Republicans are angry because they believe the White House undercut a bipartisan deal reached by the four top tax-writers in Congress.

“I thought revoking PNTR was a very strong sanction, and I was very disappointed that was dropped from the bill,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, the top GOP tax-writer, referring to “permanent normal trade relations.” 

Even though Brady characterized this bill as a weaker bill, he told CNN: “I think there’s certainly bipartisan support.”

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

Democrats plan to move on Russia bill in US House tomorrow after vote count was uncertain Tuesday 

From CNN's Manu Raju

The US House will now move on a bill to clamp down on Russia tomorrow after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier that the bill would come to the floor tonight.

The reason for the change: They had originally tried to approve it under "suspension of the rules," which requires two-third support to pass. But a Democratic leadership aide says that Republicans would not commit to giving them enough votes to get the bill through under suspension.

So they now plan to move the bill under a rule tomorrow so it can pass with a simple majority.

Following US President Joe Biden's announcement today that his administration is banning Russian energy imports, Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues that the House would vote on a bill that follows similar steps. The bill would ban imports of Russian energy, take steps to scrutinize Russia's role in the World Trade Organization, and reauthorize the Magnitsky Act to strengthen sanctions on Russia.

What is the Magnitsky Act? The act, signed into law in December 2012, blocks entry into the US and freezes the assets of certain Russian government officials and businessmen accused of human rights violations.