March 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Laura Smith-Spark, Angela Dewan, Adrienne Vogt, Joe Ruiz and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 6, 2022
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2:59 p.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Exhaustion of "confined" Chernobyl power plant staff poses "danger" to world, says nearby mayor

From CNN's Wayne Chang in Hong Kong

The growing exhaustion of staffers confined for “10 days” at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is not only “difficult," but could pose “a danger to the world,” Yuriy Fomichev, the mayor of Slavutych, told CNN in a telephone interview on Saturday.

“People are tired; they are exhausted, both mentally and emotionally, but mainly physically,” Fomichev said, adding that more than 100 people in the plant are shift personnel who should have been handed over after 12 hours.

“A nuclear facility run by the same shift of 100 people without a break for 10 days in a row means their concentration levels are too low … the main thing we want to convey is that it is very dangerous,” Fomichev said.

Staffers in the plant only eat one meal per day and have limited amount of time to contact their families, Fomichev said. 

Slavutych, a city in northern Ukraine, was purposefully built in 1986 to house evacuated personnel from the Chernobyl power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

CNN's Irina Morgan in London contributed to this report.

10:35 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Former US vice president calls out Putin "apologists" during Republican retreat

From CNN's Gabby Orr

Mike Pence, the vice president under former US President Donald Trump, on Friday condemned "apologists" in his own Republican party who have used positive language to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom," Pence said, according to a source who was in the room where Pence spoke to top Republican donors at a retreat in New Orleans. The line received applause from donors, the source said. The event was closed to the press.

Pence's speech came just days after Trump described Putin as "genius" and "savvy" for launching a full-scale invasion in Ukraine, where civilian casualties continue to pile up despite global condemnation of the Russian leader's actions.

According to his prepared remarks, which the source said he did not deviate from Friday, Pence called on the Biden administration to take stronger actions against Russia, including sanctions on the country's oil exports.

"Putin only understands strength. As members of the party that won the Cold War, we must send a deafening message: Putin must stop or Putin must pay," Pence said.

Read the story in full here.

10:23 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

India calls for ceasefire after students in Ukraine plead for evacuation

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi

The Indian government is speaking to officials in both Russia and Ukraine to press for a ceasefire after Indian students stuck in Ukraine appealed for evacuations, a government spokesperson said Saturday.

“We are strongly urging both sides to have a ceasefire; whether it will happen, when it will happen, is something we will see as it happens," said Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, during a Saturday news conference. "But I hope it happens because that will be something useful and necessary for us, otherwise we are putting them at risk. … We will continue to press on this."

At least 700 Indian students are stranded in Sumy, a city in northeastern Ukraine, according to the ministry.

Bagchi said the other primary concern was transportation, as Sumy is about 30 miles from the Russian border and train lines are not operational.

Bagchi said buses or trucks would be a plausible option; however, the best route out would be determined by officials on ground. Meanwhile, Denis Alipov, the Russian ambassador to India, said Russia had responded to India’s request for help and arranged for “hundreds of buses."

“We have created special groups that are ready to take the Indians to the territory of the Russian Federation and then transport them to India, but the catch is the fighting in these areas continues and where the Indians are, our forces are not,” Alipov said Saturday, adding that Indian diplomats were in Belgrade, Serbia, to coordinate action on ground.

Bagchi said that he understood the students’ feelings of being left behind but urged them to remain in shelters. Students have told CNN that the Indian embassy has not responded to their calls, but Bagchi said, “we are talking to the students directly both from the embassy and our control room here.”

“If there is a corridor, we will find a way to get them out," he said. "If there is a pause in fighting, I assure you we will be able to pull them out."

Bagchi said that all Indian citizens had left Kharkiv as far as the ministry was aware, but the embassy will take a fresh look to identify any citizens that remain.

10:14 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Kherson has no more armed resistance against Russia forces, mayor tells CNN

From CNN's Jennifer Deaton

Kherson’s Mayor Ihor Kolykhaiev told CNN "we don’t have more weapons to resist" Russian forces that surrounded the city.

“The people of Kherson are unarmed. We don’t have more weapons to resist, to put up an armed resistance,” he said to CNN’s John Berman.

“We don’t have the army in the city. The army has been defeated. The Ukrainian army had to retreat, so there are no arms. They’ve retreated towards Nikolaev,” he continued.

Kolykhaiev said the Russian troops will remain in control of Kherson unless and “until the Ukrainian army can advance on Kherson,” adding of Russian forces, that “they’re quite settled here.”

"Russian troops are everywhere," he added.

Kolykhaiev told Berman that life goes on, but all city services are down.

“The normal services have stopped because the normal services have no way of operating," he said.  

He also made an appeal for humanitarian assistance, saying that “production, critical infrastructure has been suspended. The city is without power and without water.”

Kolykhaiev said there was no way of getting aid into the city because the only way to get aid in is via Crimea from the Russian side.

“So Russians want to send their humanitarian aid, but the people of Kherson are refusing it. Because they are patriots and they don’t want aid from Russians. They want aid from Ukrainians. So we are not receiving humanitarian aid at the moment,” he said.   

“We have a lot of people here in need," he said. "We have cancer patients, children who need medication. This medication is not currently getting through to them.”

Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet from the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. 

10:09 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister praises protests against Russia in some cities

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has tweeted video from two cities in Ukraine – Berdyansk and Kherson – showing protests against Russian occupation.

Kuleba said: “Courageous Kherson inspires Ukraine and the world! Thousands of peaceful Ukrainians protests Russian occupation in front of armed Russian soldiers. What a spirit.”

“Also in Berdyansk peaceful Ukrainians demonstrate that their city does not belong to Russian invaders. I admire the fearless spirit of my compatriots and call on everyone around the globe to support them!”

It is not clear when the videos were recorded.

CNN has confirmed there have been protests against Russian occupation in both cities Saturday, as well as at least one in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk.  

10:08 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Putin says countries imposing no-fly zone would be considered "participants in a military conflict"

From CNN's Mostafa Salem

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he would consider countries imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine as participating in the conflict. 

“We will immediately consider them as participants in a military conflict, and it doesn't matter members of which organizations they are,” Putin said in a meeting with flight crewmembers of Russian national airlines. 

“It is impossible to do it, on the very territory of Ukraine, it's possible only from the territory of some neighboring states. But any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in an armed conflict,” Putin added.

More background: President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly pleaded with NATO and Western officials to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. 

NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that a no-fly zone is not an option being considered by the alliance.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that 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,” but added that Washington would continue to work with its allies to provide Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves from Russian aggression.

9:32 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Russia’s largest airline suspends international flights to everywhere except Belarus, according to state media

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, will suspend all flights abroad from March 8 — except flights to Minsk, Belarus — Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday. 

Passengers with return tickets to Russia will not be allowed on international flights from March 6 if the departing flight is scheduled from March 8 “to mitigate the risks of impossibility to use return flights to Russia,” according to the report.

It comes after the majority government-owned carrier’s ability to sell seats was crippled on Thursday after being removed from the global distribution system, marking the latest measure against Russia's aviation industry after most of the western world closed airspace to Russian aircraft.

RIA Novosti cites “the occurrence of additional circumstances that impede the operation of flights” as the reason behind the temporary cancellations. 

Rossiya and Aurora airlines will also cancel international flights, the report added.

9:09 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Ukrainians in Mariupol in "desperate need," according to Doctors Without Borders

From Sharon Braithwaite in London 

A medical worker reacts after failing to save the life of an 18-month-old boy who was wounded by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 4.
A medical worker reacts after failing to save the life of an 18-month-old boy who was wounded by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 4. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Staff members of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported "dire conditions" on Saturday in Mariupol, Ukraine.

In a statement issued Saturday, one staff member of MSF gave the following account:

"The situation is the same as in recent days. This night the shelling was harder and closer. We collected snow and rain water yesterday to have some utility water. We tried to get free water today but the queue was huge. We also wanted to get ‘social’ bread but it is not clear the schedule and the places of distribution. According to people, multiple grocery stores were destroyed by missiles and the remaining things were taken by people in desperate need. Still no power, water, heating and mobile connection. No one heard about any evacuation yet. Pharmacies are out of medicine."

MSF said in the statement that people are now effectively trapped in Mariupol, where the war arrived so suddenly that many could not even flee.

MSF Director of Operations Christine Jamet on Saturday called for safe routes to allow civilians to flee from Mariupol, including MSF staff and their families. 

"Civilians must not be trapped in a war zone," Jamet said, adding that "people seeking safety must be able to do so, without fear of violence”.

CNN's Nada Bashir contributed reporting to this post.

8:23 a.m. ET, March 5, 2022

Spanish clothing retailer Inditex suspends activity at more than 500 stores in Russia 

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid

Spain’s Inditex, the global fashion giant whose brands include Zara, announced Saturday it is “temporarily suspending” activity in its 502 stores in the Russian Federation, Inditex said in a statement. 

“Inditex reports that in the current circumstances it cannot guarantee the continuity of its operations and the commercial conditions in the Russian Federation,” the statement said, adding that the suspension also applies to the firm’s online sales there. 

Of the 502 stores, 86 are of the Zara brand, the company said, adding that Russia accounts for about 8.5% of the company’s pre-tax profits, as measured by EBIT. Inditex has more than 9,000 employees in the Russian Federation and is developing a “special support plan” for them, the statement said.  

Inditex sent its statement to Spain’s stock market regulator, known by its Spanish initials, CNMV, on Saturday.  

Inditex has eight brands that sell online globally, and also in some 7,000 stores in 96 countries, according to the firm’s website.