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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7:49 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

The US flew B-52 bombers over NATO's eastern flank on Friday

From CNN's From Oren Liebermann

The United States flew B-52 Stratofortress bombers over NATO’s eastern flank on Friday, exercising with the German and Romanian militaries in a sign of unity as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second weekend. 

The largest strategic bombers in the US Air Force took off from RAF Fairford, a Royal Air Force station in England, and conducted close air support and integration mission training, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe.

The B-52s then flew to Romania, where they conducted more close air support training as part of the bomber task force (BTF) missions.

The flight over Romanian airspace put the bombers right on the edge of NATO countries, adjacent to Ukrainian air space, where the Russian air force is trying to establish air supremacy.

“BTF rotations give us a critical opportunity to integrate and train with our allies and partners, especially during this difficult time,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and NATO’s Allied Air Command.

“Training together ensures the defensive power of NATO remains unmatched,” he said.

8:03 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

US and NATO officials believe Russia now appears poised to "bombard cities into submission," source says

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

US and NATO officials monitoring the war in Ukraine noticed a pronounced shift earlier this week in Russia’s strategy—namely, that Russia now appears poised to “bombard cities into submission," which could inflict significant civilian casualties, a senior western intelligence official told CNN.

“The heavier weapons are not just heavier in their in the weight, they're also heavier in terms of the damage that they can inflict,” the official said. “And they're far less discriminant. So, more casualties.”

“It is a very crude approach,” the official added. He said his experience with Russian leadership and Putin "leads me to judge that they have a completely different standard when it comes to respect for human life." 

More background: US officials have warned in recent days that Russia's strategy appeared to be shifting from focusing primarily on military targets to targeting civilians, amid the realization that an initial plan to quickly capture Kyiv and topple the government had failed.

"The days to come are likely to be worse, with more death, more suffering, and more destruction, as the Russian armed forces bring in heavier weaponry and continue their attacks across the country," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the sentiment during a news conference in Brussels Friday where he is meeting with European allies.

“The Kremlin’s attacks are inflicting an ever-increasing toll on civilians there. Hundreds if not thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, many more wounded, as have citizens of other countries. More than a million refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries. Millions of people across Ukraine are trapped in increasingly dire conditions as Russia destroys more critical infrastructure,” Blinken said.

The Washington Post first reported that significant civilian casualties, “massive loss of human life,” are likely in the days ahead, according to a senior Western intelligence official.

Blinken and Stoltenberg on Friday also pushed back against calls for a no-fly zone to be set up in Ukraine, warning that it could lead to a "full-fledged war in Europe" and saying they're doing what they can to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia's invasion.

In separate news conferences in Brussels Friday, both argued that a NATO no-fly zone simply wasn't realistic because of the risk that it would lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned NATO's decision to rule out the implementation of a no-fly zone over the country in a Facebook address late on Friday.

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!"

CNN's Jeremy Herb contributed reporting to this post.

8:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Russian forces are approaching Ukraine's second-largest nuclear facility, US ambassador to the UN says

From CNN's Masha Angelova and Hira Humayun

Russian forces are approaching Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at the UN on Friday.

“Russian forces are now 20 miles, and closing, from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility,” she said without naming the plant.

According to Energoatom, the overseeing body of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility — in terms of power generation capacity — is Yuzhnoukrainsk Nuclear Power Station in the Mykolaiv Oblast, in southern Ukraine.

“President Putin must stop this humanitarian catastrophe by ending this war and ceasing these unconscionable attacks against the people of Ukraine,” the ambassador added.

Thomas-Greenfield said the imminent danger continues after a disaster was “narrowly avoided” last night, referring to the fire that broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant early Friday local time in Ukraine as a result of Russian forces shelling the facility.

“The international community must be unanimous in demanding Russia’s forces stop their dangerous assault. And as I’ve said before, the people of Ukraine are counting on us and we must not let them down,” she said.

Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of "nuclear terror" after Russian troops attacked the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

6:55 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Par Pacific Holdings suspends all purchases of Russian crude oil for Hawaii refinery

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

Par Pacific Holdings, headquartered in Houston, Texas, announced Thursday that they’ve suspended all purchases of Russian crude oil for their Hawaii refinery.

“We intentionally diversify our crude oil sources from locations around the globe to enable us to meet the state's ongoing demand for fuels,” Par Pacific Holdings said in a statement. “However, in light of recent geopolitical events, we have decided to suspend purchases of Russian crude oil for our Hawaii refinery.”

To meet its fuel production needs Par Pacific Holdings is planning to use “other grades of crude, principally from North and South America.”

“As the geopolitical situation evolves, we will work closely with our customers and partners in state government to make prudent decisions in support of energy assurance for Hawaii,” the statement said.

Par Pacific Holdings is the parent company of Par Hawaii and Par Hawaii Refining, which operates Hawaii’s only petroleum refinery in Kapolei, according to its website.

“For approximately 20-25% of our crude needs, we have historically purchased a Russian grade called Sokol which is produced relatively close to Hawaii, around the Sakhalin Island, north of Japan,” Eric Wright, the president of Par Hawaii, said in a statement.

Wright said the decision to suspend Russian crude purchases is not expected to have “significant impacts” on operations in the Kapolei.

“Fuel prices are driven primarily by global oil markets,” Wright said. “We do not expect our decision to have a meaningful impact on the prices paid by Hawaii consumers.”

The average price of regular gas in Hawaii is $4.66, according to AAA, and the national average is $3.83.

 

8:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

California governor orders agencies to review contracts to ensure compliance with sanctions against Russia

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

California will welcome Ukrainian refugees and, per a new executive order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, all California state agencies and contractors have been directed to review their contract in order to ensure comply with sanctions against Russia.

Though many California-based companies “have already taken steps to limit economic transactions with Russian entities, combat Russian misinformation and support Ukraine,” all private businesses, and other organizations are also urged to review their contracts, according to a news release issued by the governor’s office.

“California stands with Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in California – one of the largest in the country,” said Newsom. “Our state shares many close ties with Ukraine and will continue our efforts to support the nation’s brave fight for the fundamental rights and freedoms of its people.”

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the violence in their home country will be welcomed in California, and the state will continue to support Ukraine with military training, equipment, and humanitarian assistance, the release states.

“Over the last 20 years, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, along with the California National Guard and the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, has provided training and conducted exercises with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces on utilizing the Emergency Management and Incident Command System,” the release said.

8:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2022

Ukraine officials release new video from inside Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after attack

From CNN's From Tim Lister

(Center for Strategic Communication of Ukraine)
(Center for Strategic Communication of Ukraine)

Ukrainian authorities have released video from inside the control room at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which was taken over by Russian forces late Thursday. 

The video shows the inside of the control room as an announcement rings out on a PA system aimed at the Russian forces outside.

Here is what the announcement said:

"Stop shooting at a nuclear dangerous facility. Stop shooting immediately! You threaten the security of the whole world!"
"The work of the vital organs of the Zaporizhzhia station may be disrupted. It will be impossible for us to restore it."
"You are endangering the security of the entire world. Attention! Stop shooting at a nuclear hazardous facility. Stop shooting at a nuclear hazardous facility!"
"Stop shooting at a nuclear hazardous facility! Attention! Stop it!”

More context: In a statement Friday morning local time, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI) confirmed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine was occupied by Russian military forces, but said officials remained in contact with plant management.

The power plant's six reactors remained intact, though the compartment auxiliary buildings for reactor unit 1 had been damaged, the SNRI said in its statement. Four of the remaining units were being cooled down while one unit is providing power, the statement said.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine's nuclear power operator Energoatom, later reported that management were operating at "gunpoint." He said on Telegram that Russian forces "entered the territory of the nuclear power plant, took control of the personnel and management of the nuclear power plant."

Kotin warned that although the reactors are safe, further attacks could lead to "disaster."

See the moments before Russian military forces took over nuclear power plant:

CNN's Olya Voitovych and Lianne Kolirin contributed reporting to this post. 

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.