March 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Laura Smith-Spark, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
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1:01 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

More than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, UN estimates

From CNN's Richard Roth

A family waits to board to Poland from Lviv, Ukraine, on March 3.
A family waits to board to Poland from Lviv, Ukraine, on March 3. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, including four million who may cross the border into neighboring countries, according to a statement.

"Our colleagues tell us that the needs in Ukraine are growing and spreading by the hour. They warn that while the scale and scope of displacement is not yet clear, we expect that more than 10 million people may flee their homes if violence continues, including 4 million people who may cross borders to neighbouring countries," UN Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Some essential UN staff have been relocated outside Kyiv, Ukraine, so they may continue delivering humanitarian assistance “with minimum disruption” and also to “reduce risk,” according to the statement, but Dujarric said some staff does remain in the capital of Kyiv.

“Our humanitarian colleagues stress that to scale up our operations, we need safe, unimpeded access to all conflict-affected areas,” Dujarric said.

12:54 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Leaders of US, Japan, India and Australia discuss ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Quad leaders, including US President Joe Biden, spoke Thursday to “reaffirm their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion,” according to a joint readout of the call.

Along with Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications. They agreed to stand up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” the readout says.

They also agreed to meet in person in Tokyo “in the coming months.”

12:52 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Zelensky reiterates plea for NATO to establish no-fly zone over Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on March 3.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on March 3. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his plea for NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, stressing on Thursday that this would be the “most important step” as Ukraine faces “incessant bombing” by Russia.

“We want a no-fly zone because our people are being killed. From Belarus, from Russia — these missiles, these Iskander missiles and bomber planes, are coming,” Zelensky said. 

“I asked President Biden, and Scholz and Macron…and I said, if you can’t provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when?” 

Speaking during a televised news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president went on to ask how many more people in Ukraine must be killed before NATO agrees to enact a no-fly zone.  

“If you can’t give Ukrainians a date, how long do you need? How many people should be blown up? How many arms and legs and heads should be severed, so that you understand? I will go and count them, and we will wait until we have a sufficient number,” Zelensky said in an impassioned plea. 

“If you don’t have the strength to provide a no-fly zone, then give me planes. Would that not be fair?” he continued.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that using US troops to create a no-fly zone in Ukraine is “not a good idea.” Speaking during an interview with MSNBC, Psaki said the implementation of a no-fly zone by the US military “would essentially mean the US military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said Wednesday that NATO allies “do not seek conflict with Russia,” stressing that NATO is a “defensive alliance.”

12:50 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Country of Georgia applies for formal EU membership after Ukraine asks "urgently" to be admitted to bloc

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Georgia Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addresses the United Nations General Assembly in 2021.
Georgia Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addresses the United Nations General Assembly in 2021. (Peter Foley/Pool/Getty Images)

The former Soviet republic of Georgia has formally signed an application for membership into the European Union, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in a statement on the government's website Thursday, as Ukraine said it was seeking membership to the bloc after Russia's invasion.

“It is a historic day for Georgia — we are signing an Application for EU Membership on behalf of the country. Application for EU Membership is yet another milestone on the path of European integration of Georgia — it is a stage, which turns a new page in our history and continues the effort of our ancestors, which is aimed at the accession of Georgia into a common European family,” he said. 

Tblisi had been prepared to apply for full EU membership in 2024, according to the European Parliament.

Tbilisi’s application comes two days after its neighbor and fellow former Soviet republic of Ukraine said it was seeking fast-track membership to the bloc. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the EU on Monday to "urgently admit Ukraine" to the bloc.

"We are grateful to partners for standing with us. But our goal is to be with all Europeans and, to be equal to them. I am sure we deserve it. I am sure it is possible," Zelensky said.

Some background: According to the EU Delegation to Georgia, an agreement was reached for closer political association and economic integration between Georgia and the bloc in 2016. A free trade area between the two was established in 2017, and Georgian citizens have the right to visa-free travel in the Schengen area.  

Georgia has had a contentious relationship with Russia since it gained independence from the Soviet Union almost 30 years ago, with Russia backing two breakaway self-proclaimed republics in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2008, it spiraled into full-blown conflict after South Ossetian separatists attacked Georgian peacekeepers. Georgia sent troops into South Ossetia, and Russia responded with a military incursion into Georgia itself.

12:35 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

US continues to share intelligence with Ukraine, official says, as lawmakers allege delays

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Barbara Starr

A senior US defense official said Thursday that the US is sharing intelligence with Ukraine amid concerns raised by lawmakers that some intelligence has been delayed reaching Ukrainians on the ground.

Both GOP Sens. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio — the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee — have expressed concerns that intelligence is not moving fast enough, with Sasse saying "we have lawyers delaying the process at way, way too many steps and we shouldn’t let technicalities get in the way of helping them fight back.”

The senior defense official told reporters Thursday that it wasn’t accurate that intelligence was “being held up” by government lawyers. “We continue to provide information and intelligence to Ukraine as we assess would be most helpful. That continues,” the official said.

But asked whether any decisions have been made that the US won’t share certain targeting intelligence with Ukraine because it risks making the US a party to the conflict, the official declined to discuss the specifics of what is being shared.

“What I can tell you is we continue to provide intelligence and information to the Ukrainians, and that’s ongoing,” the official said. “We share with them what we believe can be helpful to them. I’m not going to talk about the vehicles, I’m not going to talk about the parameters of that.”

The official noted that the US no longer has boots on the ground in Ukraine or aircraft flying over the country’s air space, saying the US ability to glean intelligence “is not as robust as it once was.”

“The Ukrainians are on the ground, the Ukrainians are in the fight,” the official said. “And in many cases, in many ways they simply have more contextual information than what we can give them.” 

12:44 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Russians have shown "willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose," senior US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

A residential building destroyed by shelling is seen on Thursday, March 3, in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine.
A residential building destroyed by shelling is seen on Thursday, March 3, in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine. (Maksim Levin/Reuters)

Russian forces have shown a “willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Thursday. Previously, the official said the US was seeing Russians hit civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, but it was unclear if it was purposeful or not.

The official said the US can see Russians hitting civilian infrastructure on purpose in their targeting of structures like “media towers and media facilities.” They are also “hitting residential areas,” and, in places like Kyiv and Kharkiv, “hitting government infrastructure.”

“One of the things that we certainly have seen them do in places like Kyiv and Kharkiv is hitting government infrastructure with increasing bombardment, as we’ve watched over the last couple of days, as they’ve gotten somewhat geographically closer to some of these population centers, the bombardments have increased,” the official said. 

“It’s clear they’re trying to weaken the governing structures that are resident in these population centers,” the official added.

US and other Western officials have told CNN that Russia's strategy in its war on Ukraine is shifting toward a "slow annihilation" of the Ukrainian military, warning that Russia could focus on a bloody and deadly bombardment of cities and civilian targets.

12:39 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

EU to give temporary protection to all refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London  

The European Union will grant temporary protection to all refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, according to the bloc's Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.  

Johansson made the announcement in a tweet Thursday, calling it "a historic decision." 

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin provided further details on how the protection will be offered in a press release: 

"This device will permit EU member states to offer persons fleeing the conflict in Ukraine a response adapted to their situation. Eligible persons can benefit from a protective status similar to that of refugee, in any EU country for a one-year period which may be reviewed," according to the statement.  

EU ministers met on Thursday to activate Directive 2001/55/CE, which provides "temporary protection in the case of a massive influx of displaced persons," according to the press release.  

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission welcomed the decision, saying it "reflected the EU's full engagement in showing solidarity towards Ukraine and assuming its duty towards victims of this unjustifiable war." 

"The European Union will continue to do everything to help Ukraine and the victims of the war," Darmanin stressed.  

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called the EU’s decision “unprecedented.” 

“It will provide protection to millions on the move. We encourage its swift and broad application,” he said in a tweet.  

There have been more than a million Ukrainian refugee arrivals since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the latest update from the UN Refugee Agency.  

12:16 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Analysis: Russia's invasion of Ukraine is entering its second week. Here's what could happen next. 

Analysis by CNN's Nathan Hodge, Tara John and Josh Berlinger

Ukrainian soldiers are seen in Independence Square in Kyiv on March 2.
Ukrainian soldiers are seen in Independence Square in Kyiv on March 2. (Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN)

Russia's assault on Ukraine is just a week old, but its consequences have already been catastrophic.

In the seven days since Russian troops invaded their western neighbor, hundreds of people have been reported dead and one million have fled for their lives. Energy prices are skyrocketing, and food prices could be next.

No one can say for sure what will happen in the coming days and weeks, but years of relative peace and stability in Europe have already been ruptured, and should the fighting stretch on for months, the crisis could have even greater ramifications.

What happens to Kyiv? Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very clear about his basic goals in invading: He wants to disarm Ukraine, sever its ties to the NATO military alliance and end the Ukrainian people's aspirations of joining the West.

He has also said he wants to rid the country of what he calls the "gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis that has settled in Kyiv and taken hostage the entire Ukrainian people," a baseless and highly-charged reference to Ukraine's democratically-elected government and its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Russian forces are encircling the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in an apparent push to topple the government, and a 40-mile-long military convoy is edging toward the city, which has been targeted by multiple rocket and missile attacks in recent days.

Zelensky has vowed to keep fighting, but he is under no illusions that Putin's forces "want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state."

Should those forces take the capital, Ukraine does have other politicians who might be eager to fill the ranks of a pro-Russian puppet regime.

One of Putin's top allies in Ukraine is Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent politician and oligarch. He faces allegations of treason in Ukraine and has been under house arrest, but his exact whereabouts are unclear.

A general view of the port city of Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3.
A general view of the port city of Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3. (Gilles Bader/Le Pictorium/Cover Images/Reuters)

Territorial goals: Russian forces are also waging campaigns far from Kyiv, attempting to take control of key cities in Ukraine's south and southeast, including Kherson.

The mayor of Kherson effectively admitted that Ukrainian forces had ceded control of the city on Wednesday, saying in a statement on his Facebook page that residents would have to accept the direction of "armed people who came to the city's administration" — in other words, Russian forces.

One former NATO commander told CNN: "It is quite clear that Putin is pushing for a land corridor to Crimea." Richard Shirreff, NATO's former deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, said the land corridor was "an obvious objective."

"He's had Crimea in the Russian Federation since 2014, he's only been able to supply it across the Kerch Strait bridge, and so of course he's looking to establish that land corridor down off the Sea of Azov," Shirreff added.

If Russian forces capture the port city of Odessa, it is possible to imagine Moscow creating a land bridge extending all the way across southern Ukraine, potentially even linking Transnistria — a separatist enclave in Moldova, where Russian troops are stationed — to Odessa, Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine.

Read the full analysis here.

12:06 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Britain will not let legal threats hamper its ability to sanction Russian oligarchs, UK foreign secretary says  

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 1.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 1. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom will not let legal threats hinder its ability to sanction Russian oligarchs, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Thursday. 

"I'm very clear that legal threats will have no impact on our ability to sanction oligarchs," Truss told reporters in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. 

The UK is "absolutely determined" to sanction Russian oligarchs, the foreign secretary stressed, adding that it is working through "a further list" of oligarchs to sanction. 

"There is nowhere for any of Putin's cronies to hide," Truss continued. 

Britain is also focused on "cutting off funding for Putin's war machine," particularly the oil and gas sectors, she added. 

To achieve this, the UK will work "in coordination" with its allies "to reduce dependency on Russian gas and oil," she said.