Russian online media outlet says it's closing due to increasing media restrictions
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow
Russian online publication Znak.com has announced it is closing down due to the increasing restrictions on media in the country, it said in a statement on its Telegram account on Friday.
“We are suspending our work due to a large number of restrictions that have recently appeared for the work of the media in Russia,” the statement read.
Znak.com, an independent media outlet based in Yekaterinburg, was known for its thorough, independent reporting. It is the latest media outlet forced to close after Russian government tightened restrictions on how media can report on the conflict in Ukraine.
5:29 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
No radioactive material was released at the nuclear power plant that Russia attacked
From CNN's Lindsay Isaac in London
The reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine are safe despite coming under attack from Russian forces, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
A fire at the facility sparked fears of a potential accident, but the IAEA says no radioactive material was released.
The plant has since been "occupied" by Russian forces.
“We are fortunate there has not been a release of radioactive material and the integrity of the reactors has not been compromised,” Rafael Mariano Grossi said at a news conference in Vienna on Friday.
However, the plant's operator and regulator told the IAEA that the situation on the ground is “extremely tense and challenging,” he warned.
4:51 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
Russian forces are focused on encircling Kyiv, according to Ukraine's Defense Ministry
From CNN's Radina Gigova
Russian forces are focused on encircling Kyiv, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday.
The statement said that Russian troops were "blocked and stopped in the Makarov area," which is about 60 km (37 miles) away from the Ukrainian capital.
The ministry said Russia's armed forces have exhausted most of their operational reserves and have started "preparations for the transfer of additional forces and resources from the southern and eastern military districts."
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the war in Ukraine was "going according to plan," despite assessments from other countries that the Kremlin's invasion has not gone according to plan.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Russian forces continue to prepare for landings on the coast of the Black Sea.
5:08 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
The mayor of the town where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is located says the situation is "extremely tense"
From CNN's Radina Gigova
Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the city of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is located, said Friday the city currently has no heating due to damage from shelling.
"Due to damage to the heating main during the shelling at night, Enerhodar has no heating. We are currently working on restoring (it)," he said.
Orlov said those who spent the night in shelters can return home but recommended they avoid spending time outdoors due to the "extremely tense situation."
"Regarding the situation in the city itself. Now the streets are quiet, no strangers are noticed. Those who stayed in the shelter for the night, you can return home. However, due to the extremely tense situation nearby, we recommend you spending less time outside and stay at home," Orlov said on his official Facebook page.
3:40 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
Russia's lower house passes law criminalizing "discredit of Russian military," state media reports
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow
The lower house of the Russian Parliament has passed a law criminalizing the spreading of false information discrediting the Russian military and any calls for sanctions against Russia, state news agencies TASS and Ria Novosti reported on Friday.
Those charged with breaking the new law could face fines of 1.5 million rubles (about $14,000) or prison sentences of up to 15 years, TASS and RIA reported.
What happens next: The legislation will be submitted to the upper house of parliament and, if approved, submitted to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his signature.
3:34 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
UK Defense Ministry: Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but subject to "intense Russian strikes"
From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London
The southeastern city of Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control but subject to "intense Russian strikes," the UK Ministry of Defense said Friday in its latest intelligence update on Ukraine.
"Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but has likely been encircled by Russian forces," the ministry said, adding "the city’s civilian infrastructure has been subjected to intense Russian strikes."
Some context: Mariupol authorities warned Thursday of a "critical" situation for residents amid heavy shelling. It's not clear how many of the strategically important port city's roughly 400,000 population have been able to evacuate or how many have been killed or injured.
3:21 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
In Ukraine's cultural capital, residents are preparing to protect the city's heritage
From CNN's Oscar Holland
Residents of the Ukrainian cultural capital Lviv are assisting efforts to safeguard historic monuments, according to local heritage officials, with several stone statues seen being wrapped in protective sheets.
Photos taken at the city's central Market Square on Thursday show men on stepladders enveloping sculptures of the Roman god Neptune and Greek goddess Amphitrite in plastic. Along with nearby statues of the classical deities Adonis and Diana, the limestone figures were built over 200 years ago, with accompanying fountains located at each of the square's corners.
Outside the neighboring Latin Cathedral, built in the 14th century, a smaller statue was seen covered in what appeared to be foam and secured with tape.
Although CNN was unable to verify the individual workers' identities, heritage NGO the Lviv Foundation for the Preservation of Architectural and Historical Monuments said art conservators and "concerned" locals had both been involved in protection efforts.
On Thursday, the organization shared a series of images to Facebook showing a man on a cherry picker boarding up a stained-glass panel at the city's 17th century Dormition Church. Another post showed monuments at St. Anthony's Church being encased in protective wooden frames.
"We hope that this preventive action will not be tested by real explosions, but our hearts are glad that the vulnerable but valuable elements of this monument are protected," the foundation wrote on the latter post. "Today we thank everyone involved, without naming names. Thank you to those who silently helped financially without seeking glory! "This is what true love for Ukrainian cultural heritage looks like!"
Russian forces have "occupied" Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukrainian authorities say
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv, Ukraine
Russian forces have “occupied” the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine after a fire broke out at the facility early on Friday, according to Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate.
"Currently, the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP is occupied by the military forces of the Russian Federation," the regulatory body said in a statement Friday.
The “administrative building and the checkpoint at the station are under occupiers’ control,” Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, said in a statement via Telegram on Friday.
“The plant's staff continues to work on power units, ensuring the stable operation of nuclear facilities,” Energoatom added. “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded among the Ukrainian defenders of the station."
The power plant’s six reactors remain intact, though reactor unit 1’s compartment auxiliary buildings have been damaged, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said.
“The systems and components important to the safety of the NPP are operational,” the statement said. With Unit 1 out of order, four out of the six units are being cooled down while one unit is providing power.
“At present, no changes in the radiation situation have been registered,” the statement added.
Some context: After heavy shelling from Russian forces early Friday, a fire broke out at the nuclear plant, prompting alarm from experts and Ukrainian officials.
Firefighters were initially unable to access the site. After a while, fighting stopped, firefighters were allowed to enter and the fire was put out. No casualties were reported from the fire.
US and Ukrainian authorities said radiation levels looked normal.
2:56 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
The Moscow stock exchange will remain closed on Friday
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
The Moscow stock exchange will not open for trading Friday, the Russian Central Bank said in a statement.
Soon after, the stock exchange said in a statement it would remain closed through March 8. The closure includes "trading and settlements on all markets of the Moscow Exchange," the statement said.
The stock exchange has not opened all week, after Western sanctions were imposed on Russia over the past weekend.
Some context: US President Joe Biden announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs on Thursday. The United Kingdom also sanctioned two leading oligarchs with a combined worth of $19 billion.
"We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.