March 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Joshua Berlinger, Sana Noor Haq, Blathnaid Healy, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:12 AM ET, Sat March 5, 2022
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7:27 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Zelensky criticizes NATO's decision not to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv and Jonny Hallam

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned NATO's decision to rule out the implementation of a no-fly zone over the country.

"NATO has deliberately decided not to cover the skies over Ukraine," Zelensky said in a Facebook address late on Friday.

"We believe that NATO countries have created a narrative that closing the skies over Ukraine would provoke Russia's direct aggression against NATO. This is the self-hypnosis of those who are weak, insecure inside, despite the fact they possess weapons many times stronger than we have," he said.

Zelensky said NATO's leadership on Friday: "Gave the green light for further bombing of Ukrainian towns and villages, refusing to make a no-fly zone. You could have closed the sky!"

Zelensky described NATO's summit on Friday where the decision was made as, "a weak summit, a confused summit, a summit that shows that not everyone considers the struggle for freedom to be Europe's number one goal."

"For nine days we have been seeing a fierce war — destroying our cities, shelling our people, our children, residential neighborhoods, churches, schools, destroying everything that provides a normal life, human life," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president questioned what the members of NATO were thinking about during their meeting: "All the people who will die from this day will also die because of you, because of your weakness, because of your disunity."

Zelensky did, however, express his gratitude to NATO countries that have shown support for Ukraine: "I am also grateful to the friends of our country. There are many countries which are our friends in NATO, most of our partners, most of our powerful partners, those who help our country in spite of decisions."

Zelensky said despite the lack of no-fly zone he was sure Ukraine would be victorious: "From the first day of the invasion, I am sure of victory. And so we do not feel alone, we will continue to fight, we will defend our state, we will liberate our land."

More background: Earlier today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the establishment of a no-fly zone in Ukraine by the United States and its NATO allies could lead to a “full-fledged war in Europe.”

He said Washington would continue to work with its allies to provide Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves from Russian aggression.

NATO’s chief said Friday that a no-fly zone over Ukraine is not an option being considered by the alliance. “We’ve agreed that we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on Ukrainian territory,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels.

European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine is a NATO decision, but that it would be “one step too far” with a “real risk of escalation and a real risk of a possible third international war.” 

8:16 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

US oil prices surge to highest level in 14 years as Ukraine-Russia conflict continues to unfold

From CNN’s Matt Egan

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to roil energy markets, with US oil prices surging to the highest level in nearly 14 years.

US crude surged another 7.4% on Friday, finishing the turbulent week at $115.68 a barrel. That’s the highest closing level since Sept. 22, 2008, just a week after the infamous implosion of Lehman Brothers. 

The latest gains leave crude nearly 26% more expensive than just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And that’s despite the White House and International Energy Agency announcing the release of about 60 million barrels from emergency oil stockpiles. 

Brent crude, the world benchmark, soared 7% to settle at $118.11 on Friday. That’s the highest close for Brent since February 2013.

 

5:54 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit Europe next week for meetings with allies on Ukraine

From CNN's Amanda Musa and Paula Newton

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Europe next week to meet with European allies as Russian attacks on Ukraine continue.

The Office of the Prime Minister made the announcement Friday, saying Trudeau will travel to the United Kingdom, Latvia, Germany, and Poland.

“Lots to do this week with allies in Europe and I'm looking forward to it,” Trudeau said. “Over the past weeks we have been working together and coordinating together and the opportunity to sit down with key leaders in Europe and talk about how we can further support Ukraine, how we can further push back against Russia.”

Trudeau will be in Europe from March 6 to March 11.

 

5:12 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

US Energy Department official: Sensors are not showing radiation leakage from Ukrainian nuclear power plant

From CNN's Liz Stark and Gabe Cohen

A senior US Department of Energy official said Friday the “immediate crisis is over” and that sensors around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are not indicating any radiation leakage. 

“The immediate crisis is over in that we've got sensors, both sensors around the plant as well as IAEA sensors, they're not showing any radiation leakage. And the parts of the power plant that we are most focused on, electricity, generators, diesel backups, and then the containment vessel itself, have not been damaged as far as we can tell from the information that we have so far,” the senior Energy Department official told reporters on a call.

The official also noted the Energy Department is “engaging extensively with our Ukrainian colleagues, with others, not only on this particular nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe, but other nuclear power plants, which provide about 60% of Ukrainians electricity, so nuclear power is an important part of their grid and mix.”

The Energy Department official further underscored how “we're trying to make very clear to Russia the importance of protecting the civilian nuclear power plants and not doing anything that could cause a real incident going forward.”

Asked whether Russia might shut off power, the official said: “Russia is going to do what Russia is going to do, and we will help our Ukrainian colleagues along those lines to deal with any eventuality.”

5:14 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Foreign volunteers and expats have been inspired to fight for Ukraine. Here are some of their stories. 

From CNN's Tara John, AnneClaire Stapleton and Joseph Ataman

The gray asphalt road that leads to Ukraine's Shehyni border crossing with Poland has for the past week seen 30-mile tailbacks as people try to flee the country, often saying tearful goodbyes to the family members and friends staying behind to fight the Russian invasion.

Wednesday brought a different sight: groups of young men, laden with heavy bags and military kit, entered Ukraine from Poland as they answered President Volodymyr Zelensky's call for "citizens of the world" to fight "Russian war criminals."

Among them, New York resident Vasyk Didyk, a 26-year-old carpenter wearing a fluorescent Carhartt beanie who is originally from Ukraine.

"This is our motherland," he told CNN in Shehyni. "We couldn't stay in our comfortable lives in America and watch what is happening here."

Didyk, accompanied by his friend Igor Harmaii, had spent 24 hours traveling from New York to Poland before crossing back into his homeland carrying a canvas backpack and pulling a suitcase on wheels.

He has no military training and came despite his parents, who do not live in Ukraine, weeping on the phone when they heard he was joining the fight.

"I haven't been back to Ukraine in four years — but it wasn't even a choice," he said. "I had to come and help my country."

The world has watched in horror since Russia invaded Ukraine late last week, triggering what could be the largest land war in Europe since World War II. And Zelensky's defiance has not only united Western opposition to Russia, but also inspired foreign volunteers and Ukrainians abroad to fight for the cause.

"This is not just Russia's invasion of Ukraine," Zelensky said on Sunday. "This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules, and peaceful coexistence."

Ukrainian embassies have been helping recruit foreign fighters, while at least one senior politician from a Western government that has previously prosecuted those who joined foreign wars indicated support for citizens taking up arms in Ukraine.

"If people want to support that struggle, I will support them doing that," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the BBC on Sunday.

Read more stories here.

8:20 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Analysis: Why hasn't it imposed a no-fly zone in Ukraine?

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

NATO meeting in Brussels, on March 4. Despite the situation on the ground, NATO is unwilling to get directly involved in the conflict, including setting up a no-fly zone.
NATO meeting in Brussels, on March 4. Despite the situation on the ground, NATO is unwilling to get directly involved in the conflict, including setting up a no-fly zone. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

The 30 member countries of NATO met in Brussels on Friday to discuss the alliance's next steps in Ukraine. Diplomatic efforts have failed to end chaos in the country, eight days after Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade.

The situation inside Ukraine seems unlikely to improve any time soon. A 40-mile Russian convoy headed for the capital, Kyiv, has been stalled for days as Ukrainian fighters hold key areas, while Russian troops have claimed other key strategic areas and, as of this morning, are occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

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 innocent civilians.

NATO's Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Friday that a no-fly zone over Ukraine is not an option being considered by the alliance. "We've agreed that we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on Ukrainian territory," he said.

What is a no-fly zone? A no-fly zone is an area where certain aircraft cannot fly for any number of reasons. In the context of a conflict such as the one in Ukraine, it would probably mean a zone in which Russian planes were not allowed to fly, to prevent them from carrying out airstrikes against Ukraine.

NATO has imposed no-fly zones in non-member countries before, including Bosnia and Libya. However, it is always a controversial move because it means getting semi-involved in a conflict without fully committing ground forces.

What would happen if NATO imposed a no-fly zone? The problem with military no-fly zones is that they have to be enforced by military power. If a Russian aircraft flew into a NATO no-fly zone, then NATO forces would have to take action against that aircraft. Those measures could include shooting the plane from the sky. That would, in Russia's eyes, be an act of war by NATO and would likely escalate the conflict.

Why hasn't NATO imposed a no-fly zone? Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a member of NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly sees NATO as a direct threat to his authority and has recently criticized its expansion toward Russia, using it as justification for his invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, NATO is extremely reluctant to become directly involved in the Ukraine conflict with a rival nuclear power. While it supports Ukraine's resistance and recognizes Putin's actions as an invasion of a sovereign nation, the alliance is simply not prepared to do anything that could be interpreted as a direct act of war on Russia and risk an escalation that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

Why does Russia feel threatened by NATO? Putin has long believed that Russia got a bad deal after the breakup of the Soviet Union — something he has called the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

He has complained that NATO has, over time, expanded its borders by admitting Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union — meaning Russia now shares a land border with the world's largest military alliance, thus reducing his geopolitical power in what was once Moscow's sphere of influence.

As recently as February, he was demanding that NATO scaled back to the borders of 1997, before the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the latter two of which border Russia, joined the alliance.

Read the full analysis here.

4:52 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Bipartisan group of US senators invited to attend Zoom call with Zelensky on Saturday, sources say 

From CNN's Jessica Dean

Democratic and Republican US senators received an invitation to attend a Zoom meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, according to two sources familiar.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington extended the invitation for the meeting, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday, according to one of the sources. 

4:32 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

EU foreign policy chief says sanctions are not aimed at regime change in Russia

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said sanctions imposed as a result of the war in Ukraine were not about seeking any regime change in Russia.

“We are not on the regime change. The sanctions are not in order to provoke a regime change in Russia,” Borrell said.

"On the contrary, the sanctions have been triggered by the war. And the purpose is to weaken the Russian economy, to make the Russian economy feel the weight of the consequences and to increase, strengthen the position of the Ukrainians on the coming negotiations. But nothing about regime change," he said.

Borrell also said the sanctions would not end the war in Ukraine right away.

“We can do many things but if people are expecting financial sanctions to stop the war overnight, they don’t know what they are talking about. Unfortunately we don’t have the ability to stop the war in its tracks. What we can do however is weaken the Russian economy significantly over time,” he said.

Borrell added the EU’s response was not against the Russian people but to uphold international norms.

“This is not the East against the West. This is not a remake of the Cold War. We are defending the sovereignty of the nations – all nations. We are defending the territorial integrity of states – all states. On the East, on the West, on the North and in the South. It’s not again the battle of two hemispheres. We are defending international law, sovereignty of the states, territorial integrity, non-violation of borders is something that is valuable for anyone in the world. We are not enemies of the Russian people, we are friends of Ukraine, we are supporting them on their fight but we are not against the Russian people,” Borrell said.

“That’s Putin war, and only Putin can end it,” Borrell added.

Borrell also said the EU will “not ask [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky to surrender.”

“We are not going to ask Zelensky to leave Kyiv, we are not going to ask him to stop fighting,” he added.

8:21 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

US Vice President Harris will travel to Poland and Romania next week

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

US Vice President Kamala Harris during an event on March 2, in Durham, North Carolina.
US Vice President Kamala Harris during an event on March 2, in Durham, North Carolina. (Allison Joyce/AFP/Getty Images)

US Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Poland and Romania next week, the White House says, as the Biden administration continues to show support for Ukraine and the US' eastern NATO allies while Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters a dangerous new phase.

Harris' trip will take place from Wednesday through March 11, and will include stops in Warsaw and Bucharest, according to a Friday announcement by the White House.

She'll meet with the leaders of both countries to coordinate on their response to Russia's invasion and discuss how the US can further support Ukraine's neighboring nations as they prepare to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict.

The White House says the leaders will also "discuss their continuing support for the people of Ukraine through security, economic, and humanitarian assistance and our determination to impose severe economic consequences on Russia and those complicit in Russia's invasion."

"Her visit will demonstrate the strength and unity of the NATO Alliance and US support for NATO's eastern flank allies in the face of Russian aggression. It will also highlight our collective efforts to support the people of Ukraine," the White House announcement states.

The Eastern Europe visit will take place on the heels of Harris' latest international travel to the Munich Security Conference, where she met with US allies and partners including Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Harris also spoke over the phone with several Eastern European leaders on Tuesday, including Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca.

The Hill was first to report on the discussions to send Harris to Poland and Romania.