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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5:47 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian military claims Ukrainian "provocation" in fighting around nuclear power plant

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

The Russian military issued a lengthy statement Friday on fighting around the nuclear power plant near the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

In a video briefing, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces took the city of Enerhodar, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the territory adjacent to it on Monday.

“The military personnel of the Ukrainian National Guard who were guarding the power plant left the facility and disappeared in an unknown direction before the arrival of the Russian units,” he said. “The station facilities and the adjacent territory were taken under guard by Russian military personnel.”

Konashenkov claimed that the plant's technical staff continued regular work on the facilities, but that Ukrainian forces attempted a "monstrous provocation" in the early morning hours Friday.

"On March 4, at about 2:00 a.m., while patrolling a protected area adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a mobile patrol of the Russian Guard was attacked by a Ukrainian sabotage group," Konashenkov said. "To provoke return fire on the building, heavy fire from small arms was opened at the servicemen of the Russian Guard from the windows of several floors of the training complex located outside the power plant."

Konashenkov claimed the Ukrainians were suppressed by return small-arms fire and said the Ukrainians deliberately set fire to the training building.

CNN could not immediately verify any details of the firefight on the territory of the plant. 

"The fire brigades arrived at the building and extinguished the fire in the premises," Konashenkov said. "At the time of the provocation, none of the full-time employees of the power plant was in the training building. Currently, the staff of Zaporizhzhya NPP (nuclear power plant) continues to work as usual, maintains the NPP facilities and monitors the radioactive situation. The radioactive background in the area of ​​the power plant is normal."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Russia's attack on the nuclear power plant in a Facebook message earlier on Friday and warned of the dangers associated with attacks on nuclear facilities. There has been no indication that any of the reactors at Zaporizhzhia have been affected.

Konashenkov claimed that Zelensky's statements and communication about the incident "leave no doubt. The purpose of the provocation of the Kyiv regime at a nuclear facility is an attempt to accuse Russia of creating a source of radioactive contamination."

The Russian government has routinely and without evidence claimed the Ukrainian government is staging "provocations" to provoke a military response by Western governments.

5:38 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russia state media shows rare footage of reporter at Hostomel airport, outside of Kyiv

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

Satellite imagery from Hostomel air base after an attack on February 27.
Satellite imagery from Hostomel air base after an attack on February 27. (Maxar Technologies)

Russian state broadcaster Perviy Kanal 1 has shown a report filed from Hostomel airport in the outskirts of Kyiv, seemingly one of the first from the frontlines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Russian state media have avoided broadcasting footage from the frontlines, specifically of shelled civilian infrastructure. Their reports on the war in Ukraine have focused on supplies and aid being distributed by the Russian military in certain areas or on destruction in the Donbas region, where pro-Russian separatists have been at war with the Ukrainian military since 2014. 

In the footage broadcast on Friday, a Russian reporter is seen showing viewers around the airfield, full of debris, with unexploded ordnances and damaged hangers. Explosions can be heard in the background and the reporter claims the damage was caused by the Ukrainian military shelling of the airport. 

She also points at the hanger where the remains of Antonov An-225 Myria, the largest airplane in the world, can be seen. The reporter claims the Myria was destroyed by Ukrainian shelling of the airport. 

The Ukrainian military and government had previously said Russian attacks on the airport had been responsible for the destruction of the An-225. 

The report on the Perviy Kanal 1 broadcast claims Hostomel airport is under Russian control. The Ukrainian military has denied Russia has control of the airport. CNN understands the area is contested but is unable to independently verify who holds control over Hostomel. 

CNN cannot independently verify when the Perviy Kanal 1 report was filmed. 

 

5:36 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

NATO's chief said "recklessness" of Russian war in Ukraine and condemns attack on nuclear power plant

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press statement prior to an extraordinary NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 4.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press statement prior to an extraordinary NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 4. (Yves Herman/AP)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg denounced on Friday the "brutal" Russian invasion of Ukraine, and condemned attacks on civilians and on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine.

"We condemn the attacks on civilians. And over the night, we have also seen reports about the attack against the nuclear power plant," Stoltenberg said in a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, ahead of a meeting with Western foreign ministers in Brussels.

“This just demonstrates the recklessness of this war and the importance of ending it and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engaging good faith in diplomatic efforts," Stoltenberg added.

He said that while NATO allies have "implemented unprecedented sanctions" on Russia and provided "support" to Ukraine, "NATO is not part of the conflict."

"We don't seek war, conflict with Russia.

"At the same time, we need to make sure that there is no misunderstanding about our commitment to defend and protect all Allies."

He said that NATO forces have increased their "defensive presence" in the eastern part of the Alliance.

Stoltenberg also called on the US, Europe and Canada for support.

"I welcome the strong commitment from the United States with more troops," he said.

"I met many of them. And it is always great to meet US troops in Europe and to see their commitment, and their professionalism, being part of the transatlantic bond.

"I also welcome that European Allies and Canada are stepping up with more presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, on land, at sea and in the air.

"If anything, I think the crisis we are faced with now demonstrates the importance of North America standing together in strategic solidarity in NATO," he added.

Also reacting to the attack, UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast, “It’s very difficult to believe that it wasn’t done deliberately. But in any event, it is unlawful to attack a site like this and not to do your due diligence on it and to keep bombarding it.”

Russian forces have occupied Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following a fire at the facility early on Friday, Ukrainian authorities have said.

The fire was extinguished in the early hours of Friday morning.

5:28 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russia's military is effectively in control of two Ukrainian nuclear plants, the IAEA says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac in London

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on March 4.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on March 4. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Russia is effectively in control of the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, according to Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday.

Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Russian forces seized control of it last week.

The Zaporizhzhia plant just fell under Moscow's control, and during the fighting, a Russian projectile hit a building within the site, causing a localized fire.

None of the reactors were nearby, and they were unaffected. The fire has been extinguished and the radiation monitoring systems are fully functional. 

Ukrainian staff are still at the helm of operations, Grossi said.

Grossi warned that the situation at Zaporizhzhia is “ very fragile."

He said it was "unprecedented" to run a nuclear plant while military operations raged nearby.

5:22 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

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

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), points on a map of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as he informs the press about the situation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine during a special press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on March 4.
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), points on a map of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as he informs the press about the situation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine during a special press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on March 4. (Joe Klamer/AFP/Getty Images)

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.