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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12:21 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Zelensky urges world leaders to stop Russia "before this becomes a nuclear disaster"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of a "nuclear terror attack" after a fire broke out at a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of a "nuclear terror attack" after a fire broke out at a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

In a Facebook post early Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of intentionally firing at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after a fire broke out at the facility following heavy shelling from Russian forces.

Ukrainian authorities say the power plant has not sustained any critical damage, and that radiation levels are currently normal, though the situation remains fluid and firefighters continue to battle the blaze.

“Russian tanks are shooting at the atomic blocks equipped with thermal imagers. They know what they are shooting at. They’ve been preparing for this (attack),” he said in the post.

Zelensky also referred to the Chernobyl tragedy and its victims in the post. "For all Ukrainians, for all Europeans, for all people who know the word 'Chernobyl,' how many victims there were."

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which took place in Soviet Ukraine, is considered the worst nuclear accident in history. It was a "global catastrophe that affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," and had a lasting impact on the country, Zelensky said.

What's happening now: Ukrainian authorities say fighting has stopped in the area and about 40 firefighters are working to put out the blaze.

"We don’t know how it is going to end with the fire at the station, if there might be an explosion, God forbid," Zelensky said, adding "our guys are keeping the atomic power station secure."

But the very fact Russia launched an attack at the plant is itself an extremely dangerous act and could cause a potential catastrophe, he said. "There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine. If one of them blows, that’s the end for everyone, that’s the end of Europe," he added.

"No country besides Russia has ever fired upon an atomic power plant’s reactors. The first time, the first time in history," he said, urging European leaders to "wake up now" and stop Russian forces “before this becomes a nuclear disaster.” 
11:58 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant fire extinguished

From CNN's Josh Pennington

The fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been put out, according to a statement from the Ukrainian State Emergency Service on Friday. 

"At 06:20 the fire at the Zaporizhzhia NPP training building in Enerhodar was extinguished. There are no dead or injured,” the statement said.
11:55 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

IAEA says radiation levels are normal at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

From CNN's Simone McCarthy

A fire at Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant is still burning following an attack by Russian troops, though a plant spokesman says background radiation levels are normal and fighting has temporarily ceased.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine had not sustained any critical damage in the attack, Andrii Tuz, a spokesman for the plant, told CNN on Friday, adding that when firefighters initially arrived they were blocked by Russian troops.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Ukraine's regulator had told the organization there had been no change in reported radiation levels and that the fire had had not affected "essential" equipment. The White House said it was monitoring the situation.

Attention has focused on the safety of Ukraine's nuclear power facilities as Russia's invasion of the country intensifies. The prospect of the fire causing damage at the nuclear plant has alarmed experts, though they cautioned that it was too early to gauge the full impact.

Graham Allison, Professor at Belfer Center, Harvard University told Anderson Cooper early Friday that "facts are unfolding" but "not all fires in a power plant, have catastrophic consequences."

Ukrainian officials called on Russian troops to cease fighting after reports the plant has been attacked first emerged Friday morning local time

A large number of Russian tanks and infantry "broke through the block-post" to the town of Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, according to a statement from the watchdog.

The agency was closely monitoring the situation, and Grossi spoke with Ukraine's Prime Minister and the country's nuclear regulator about the fire, the IAEA said on Twitter early Friday.

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2:25 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Videos show aftermath of deadly Russian strikes on apartments in Chernihiv 

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Celine Alkhaldi, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Katie Polglase

New videos posted to social media show the horrific aftermath of Russian military strikes that hit an apartment complex in the northern city of Chernihiv on Thursday. 

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of this and other videos that show the moment of the strikes and the aftermath.

One video shows the strike as it happens, with residential buildings torn apart in a split second. Sirens echo as the camera shows parts of the building’s walls torn open, exposing entire apartment rooms. The walls of one apartment complex were reduced to rubble.

A fire is seen on the ground, with smoke elsewhere still rising from the explosion. 

The person filming the video moves out into the street, which is littered with debris and damaged cars. The video shows an injured woman on the ground, beside two people who appear burned and unmoving. "Kids ... little kids," she can be heard saying.

CNN does not know the condition of the woman seen in the video.

A second before the military strikes, the roar of a projectile is heard on a surveillance video from a nearby house in Chernihiv, which shows at least five explosions. 

Deaths reported: The Ukrainian Emergency Services said on Twitter that as of 6:20 p.m. local time, they had pulled 33 bodies from the rubble of the complex in addition to 18 injured people.

There are no military facilities nearby, only civilian structures like residential buildings and schools, the Chernihiv Regional State Administration told CNN.

Watch:

10:25 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Analysis: China can't do much to help Russia's sanction-hit economy

Analysis from CNN's Laura He

Will China help Russia cope with the fallout from economic sanctions?

That has been the big question since Russia invaded Ukraine last week. The two nations have forged close ties in recent years, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping calling Russian President Vladimir Putin his "best and bosom friend" in 2019. During Putin's visit to Beijing last month, the two states proclaimed that their friendship has "no limits."

That was before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, and was hit with unprecedented sanctions from Western countries. Now, China's ability to help its neighbor is being sorely tested. Experts say Beijing's options are limited.

"China's leaders are walking a very difficult tightrope on Ukraine," said Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a DC-based think tank.

Beijing has not rushed to help Russia after its economy was slammed by sanctions from all over the world. On Wednesday, Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said that the country won't participate in sanctions, but he didn't offer any relief either.

Earlier this week, China's foreign minister spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, and said that China was "deeply grieved to see the conflict" and that its "fundamental position on the Ukraine issue is open, transparent and consistent."

And the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a development bank backed by Beijing, said Thursday it was suspending all its activities in Russia as "the war in Ukraine unfolds."

"China's complicated messaging suggests that Beijing will continue to blame Washington and its allies for provoking Russia," Singleton said.

However, "such moves will fall far short of further antagonizing the United States on account of Beijing's desire to avoid a complete breakdown in US-China relations," he added.

Read the full analysis:

5:23 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russia sends a message to all of Ukraine by hitting civilian areas in Kharkiv

From CNN's Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Paul P. Murphy

Three schools shelled, one of them with a gaping hole on the side of the building. Multiple rockets raining on panicking shoppers outside a supermarket. People walking through a park forced to rush to safety as shells explode around them.

These were some of the attacks that residents of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, endured in recent days as Russian forces targeted residential areas, hitting civilian infrastructure such as schools, shops, hospitals, apartment blocks and churches.

CNN has geolocated and verified 13 incidents involving civilians over the past three days, as attacks intensified on Kharkiv, a city of about 1.5 million people. following Ukraine's resistance.

Most of the attacks took place in the northeastern part of Kharkiv in the residential area of Saltivka. But other districts in the northwest, southeast and southwest of the city were also affected. The city's Freedom Square, the center of public life in Kharkiv, was hit with was believed to be a cruise missile, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister said.

In 24 hours, 34 civilians were killed and 285 injured — including 10 children — in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service said on Thursday morning.

As the Kharkiv offensive ramped up, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced on Wednesday that he had launched an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to Russia's relentless bombardment of Kharkiv, including the deliberate targeting of residential areas with "jet artillery," as a "war crime" in a late-night address on Monday.

CNN has analyzed and verified digital evidence, including videos and photos, of several indiscriminate attacks in Kharkiv.

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8:53 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

International students trapped in Ukraine: "Help us, we're stranded"

From CNN's Stephanie Busari and Shama Nasinde

Hundreds of international students trapped in the Ukrainian city of Sumy by Russia's invasion have appealed to the world: "Help us, we are stranded."

Vivian Udenze, 21, a Nigerian medical student at Sumy State University told CNN: "This is the 8th day since the crisis began. A lot of places have been evacuated. There are more than 600 of us who are foreigners and students."

She said most of the group are medical students, and they are from Nigeria, Morocco, Tanzania, Congo and India, among other countries.

Sumy lies in the northeast of Ukraine, only around 30 miles from the border with Russia.

As fierce battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces rage across the country, Udenze told CNN via phone that she woke up to two loud explosions around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and heard gunshots on Thursday. "I am so scared and time is running out. "We don't want the Russians to enter the city and meet us here. We need a humanitarian corridor so we can get out," she said.

As the second round of talks between a delegation from Russia and Ukraine in Belarus ended Thursday, the head of Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky told Russian media the two sides have agreed on humanitarian corridors for civilians.

Udenze later told CNN that more explosions were heard on Thursday evening at around 6:30 p.m local time. The students no longer have electricity or water following the blast, she said.

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7:37 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

The White House announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs. Here's who will be impacted 

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs Thursday, in US President Joe Biden's latest attempt to squeeze Russian President Vladimir Putin as the invasion of Ukraine advances.

The new list of individuals described as "Putin's cronies and their family members" will be cut off from the US financial system, their assets in the US will be frozen, and their property will be blocked from use, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

There will be full blocking sanctions on eight Russian elites, plus their family members and associates.

It includes a move to target Putin ally Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, "one of Russia's wealthiest individuals," according to the White House, and will include his super-yacht and private jet.

The US is also sanctioning Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, whom the White House describes as "a top purveyor of Putin's propaganda."

"The United States and governments all over the world will work to identify and freeze the assets Russian elites and their family members hold in our respective jurisdictions -- their yachts, luxury apartments, money, and other ill-gotten gains," the fact sheet said.

The individuals who will be subject to full blocking sanctions are:

  • Nikolai Tokarev (along with his wife Galina, daughter Mayya and his two luxury real estate companies)
  • Boris Rotenberg (along with his wife Karina, and his sons Roman and Boris)
  • Arkady Rotenberg (along with his sons Pavel and Igor and daughter Liliya)
  • Sergei Chemezov (along with his wife Yekaterina, his son Stanislav and stepdaughter Anastasiya)
  • Igor Shuvalov (along with his five companies, his wife Olga, his son Evgeny and his company and jet, and his daughter Maria and her company)
  • Yevgeniy Prigozhin (along with his three companies, his wife, Polina, his daughter Lyubov, and his son Pavel),
  • Peskov, Putin's press secretary
  • Alisher Usmanov (His super-yacht, one of the world's largest and just seized by our ally Germany, and his private jet, one of Russia's largest privately owned aircraft)

The US will also impose visa restrictions on 19 oligarchs and 47 of their family members and close associates, the fact sheet from the White House said.

Read more about the latest sanctions here.

8:55 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Ukrainian Jews turn synagogue into a bunker and "invite all people" to take shelter

From CNN's Rebecca Wright and Olha Konovalova

As air raid sirens blared in the small Ukrainian city of Uman, about 125 miles south of the capital, Kyiv, families crowded into a makeshift bomb shelter underneath a central synagogue.

Before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last week, the basement of the temple was used as a bathhouse for Jewish worshippers to do their ritual washing — or mivkeh — before prayers.

But now, the Synagogue of the Breslover Hasidim is opening its doors to all locals looking for shelter from the threat of Russian troops. Uman was hit by missile attacks on the first day of the invasion, but has not seen any major fighting yet. Still, the city is on edge, and remaining residents are preparing for the worst.

"We invite all the people, all Ukrainians, all Hasidic people, doesn't matter who," said Irina Rybnitskaya, a lawyer for the US-owned foundation that runs the synagogue. "We prepare this place especially for them, in order to hide (when) there is (an) alarm."

The temporary hideout is lined with wooden benches and has been stocked with mattresses, blankets and hot drinks. The residents have arrived carrying their valuables and bags of clothing, in case they have to camp out for days — or longer — in the shelter.

"It's safe to be here, that's why I am here," said Dasha Borscht, 16, a non-Jewish resident taking refuge in the basement.

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