March 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Sana Noor Haq, George Ramsay, Ed Upright, Amir Vera and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 9, 2022
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5:35 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Sanctions on Russia must not include ban on Russian energy imports, Hungarian prime minister says 

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons and Sugam Pokharel  

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives ahead of bilateral talks in London on March 8.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives ahead of bilateral talks in London on March 8. (Andy Rain/EPA/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday that while Hungary condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it doesn't support sanctions against Moscow covering ban on Russian energy imports.   

"While we condemn Russia’s armed offensive and we also condemn the war, we will not allow Hungarian families to be made to pay the price of the war; and so the sanctions must not be extended to the areas of oil and gas,” Orban said in a statement following bilateral talks in London with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.  

The extension of the sanctions to the Russian energy sector would represent a “disproportionately large burden” for Hungary, he said.  

Most of Hungary’s oil and natural gas imports come from Russia, and 90% of Hungarian families heat their homes with gas, Orban said, stressing that the Hungarian economy “simply cannot function" without Russian oil and gas.

5:01 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Ukraine responds to Russia ceasefire proposal: "It is difficult to trust the occupier"

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv and Oleksandra Ochman

In a brief response to Russia's new ceasefire announcement, the Ukrainian Armed Forces noted that "the Russian side announces a 'silence regime' for the opening of humanitarian corridors tomorrow, March 9, from 9:00 am in Kyiv."

In a Telegram post, the Armed Forces said that "Russia will request that Ukraine agree on the routes and opening hours of humanitarian corridors and notify representatives of foreign embassies, the UN, the OSCE, and the Red Cross by 02:00 in Kyiv on March 9."

But it ends: "It is difficult to trust the occupier."

More on Russia's announcement: Russia announced a new ceasefire starting at 10 a.m. Moscow time (9 a.m. Ukrainian/2 a.m. ET) Wednesday, saying it’s ready to provide evacuation corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol, along with other towns negotiated with the Ukrainian side.

Russian media reported the ceasefire parameters quoting the Russian Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

4:43 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Zhytomyr mayor claims apartment building and vital textile factory destroyed by Russian military strikes

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Josh Pennington

An apartment building and a major textile factory in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, were destroyed by Russian military strikes, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said in two video messages posted to Telegram.

Sukhomlyn said that a dormitory, which was used by retired Army soldiers and civilians, was destroyed. He did not have any information on fatalities from the military strike at this time. 

In another video, Sukhomlyn said that a textile factory in the city, which manufactures roughly 70 percent of all cotton wool in the country, was destroyed by Russian military strikes.

5:15 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

European countries prepare for an influx of refugees as hundreds of thousands flee Ukraine

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Since the start of the Russian invasion, more than two million people have fled Ukraine. The European Union is being told to brace for as many as five million Ukrainian refugees, CNN's Anderson Cooper reported from Kyiv.

Moving forward, the question stands: how are other European countries going to handle the steady influx of refugees?

"The numbers are just staggering. They're coming in, in the hundreds of thousands at this point," said Chris Skopec, executive vice president of Global Health at Project HOPE. "We've seen two million in 10 days. We've never seen anything like this."

Poland alone has seen 1.2 million refugees cross its border, and as Skopec notes, the Polish government itself has offered an outpouring of support.

"They're helping them get access to shelter, to clothes, to food," he told Cooper.

As for Skopec's organization specifically — Project HOPE — the emphasis is on the most immediate, basic needs, including medical services for refugees upon arrival. 

"The situation inside Ukraine is such that the primary health care system has been devastated. Hospitals are completely out of supplies ... and just desperate for more support. People are coming after days and days of trying to travel and get into a refugee country, a hosting country. They are coming across. We're seeing exhaustion, dehydration, gastrointestinal issues and certainly a lot of emotional and traumatic issues, just in how they are being able to cope with what's happening," said Skopec, adding, "The ability to get us medical care immediately as a matter of priority, screen them, try to understand what support and assistance they need ... that's really what our top priority is right now."

With the number of refugees expected to increase in the coming weeks, Skopec is moved by the generosity of spirit he's witnessing from humans willing to provide assistance and aid to each other.

"We're seeing a huge number of people coming from around Poland, individuals out of the goodness of their heart, hoping to try to help out and provide people with rides, homes to stay in, temporary shelters, so they have [a] place to go. Really people are moving as quickly as they can through the border areas getting into major cities," he said.

Skopec went on to share a story of a woman who was dealing with a range of emotions as she fled Ukraine for a safer space.

"I met a woman today right at the border, a Ukrainian woman, who on one hand was laughing at how ridiculous it was that she was getting on the first bus she could find to a city she'd never heard of in Germany, and then the next second turns around and is just weeping at the fact that she had to leave behind her two sons and her husband, and was all alone by herself and had no idea what she was going to do, and where she was going to go," he said.

A Ukrainian refugee fled to Moldova. Here's what she said to CNN's Ivan Watson:

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

War will end when Putin realizes it puts his own leadership at risk, top State Department official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kyle Atwood

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland testifies before a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing on Ukraine on March 8 in Washington, DC.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland testifies before a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing on Ukraine on March 8 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Victoria Nuland, the US State Department's undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said Tuesday she believes the war will end “when Putin realizes that this adventure has put his own leadership standing at risk, with his own military, with his own people, that he is hemorrhaging the lives of the people of Russia, the army of Russia and their future to his own vain ambition.”

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Nuland said at that point, Putin “will have to change course, or the Russian people take matters into their own hands.”

But from the US perspective, the end game is the strategic defeat of President Putin in this adventure,” she said.

Asked what drove Putin to invade now, Nuland said such a question would have to be directed to the Russian leader, but added she believes that “over the years, President Putin's imperial ambition has grown and he is dissatisfied with the last 30 years of Russian history and has longed for some time to be the guy that helps recreate the Soviet Union, the fall of which he said was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century.”

"I think in the last couple of years he's been particularly obsessed with this and particularly consumed. He has created, as you know, a whole bed of lies about how the US would use Ukraine as a springboard to Russia or that NATO would, and he has frankly made clear in the last couple of days that he doesn't actually think that Ukraine is an independent country from Russia,” she continued.

“And so I think his interior mind is now out there and for everybody to see. So that's what makes me worried that not only do we have to ensure that this Ukraine gambit is a strategic failure for Putin for Ukraine’s sake, but also for all of the other countries in the region, and his appetite has only grown with the eating. So you know, we can't allow this to stand,” Nuland said.

6:11 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Key things to know about the Biden administration's ban on Russian energy imports to the US

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly, MJ Lee and Kate Sullivan

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on March 8 in Washington, DC.
US President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on March 8 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration is banning Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the US in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a step he warned could lead to a spike in gas prices at home.

"Today I am announcing the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia's economy. We're banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy," Biden said in remarks from the White House. "That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."

Here are key things to know about Biden's announcement today:

How we got here: Sanctions on Russia's oil and gas industry had once been viewed as mostly off the table as officials in the United States and Europe worried about a global spike in prices. But pressure had been growing on Biden to act, including from Ukraine's President and American lawmakers from both parties, as Russia's onslaught in Ukraine increasingly targets civilians.

The US expected to make the move unilaterally, without its European allies, due to disagreement among European nations about whether to ban Russian energy imports. EU countries have significantly more exposure to Russian energy than the US. Not long before Biden's announcement, the United Kingdom announced that it planned to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

Americans will feel the impact at the pump: Biden emphasized in his remarks that his decision will likely hurt Americans at the gas pump.

"The decision today is not without cost here at home," Biden said. "Putin's war is already hurting American families at the gas pump. Since Putin began his military build-up at Ukrainian borders, just since then, the price of gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents and with this action it's going to go up further. I'm going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home."

The President also warned companies against price gouging during a time of crisis.

"To the oil and gas companies and to the finance firms that back them: We understand Putin's war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise. We get that. That's self-evident. But, but, but, but — it's no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or American consumers, exploit them. Russia's aggression is costing us all. And it's no time for profiteering or price gouging," Biden said.

The move comes as gas prices skyrocket in the US as Russia's invasion of Ukraine rocks the global oil market. The average price for a gallon of regular gas broke its 2008 record, hitting $4.14 on Monday, according to the Oil Price Information Service, the firm that collects and calculates prices for AAA. That breaks the previous record of $4.11 a gallon that has stood since July 2008.

Energy imports from Russia: US imports from Russia make up a small slice of American energy portfolio — roughly 8% in 2021, of which only about 3% was crude oil. White House economic officials have been engaged for more than a week as to how to manage any decision to cut off those imports, officials say. The Department of Energy reported that in the last two weeks of February, Russian oil imports dropped to zero as US companies cut ties with Russia, effectively implementing their own ban.

Impact on Russian economy: The sanctions the West has slapped on Russia following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine had so far exempted oil exports.

Biden said the package of economic sanctions and export controls the US has already imposed on Russia has been causing "significant damage to Russia's economy," and that the value of the Russian ruble has tanked since Putin launched his attack on Ukraine.

"One ruble is now worth less than one American penny," Biden said. The President said Russia would not be able to boost the value of the ruble because the West has cut off Russian's largest banks from the international financial system.

The President noted major companies independently have suspended their services in Russia, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Ford, Nike and Apple.

"The private sector is united against Russia's vicious war of choice," Biden said.

Read more about the announcement here and see Biden's full executive order here.

4:19 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US estimates Russian military has lost 8% to 10% of military assets used in invasion of Ukraine, official says

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

The US estimates that as much as 8% to 10% of Russian military assets used in the invasion of Ukraine is now destroyed or inoperable, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence.

The equipment lost includes tanks, aircraft, artillery and other military assets. That is close to double the losses that CNN reported last week when it was estimated Russia had lost 3% to 5% of its military assets.

The US estimates the Ukrainian military has lost a similar percentage of its assets, the official said. 

5:20 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

IAEA says it's lost contact with remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems at Chernobyl

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that it has lost contact with remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, which was taken over by Russian forces last month.  

The Chernobyl site is not currently operational and handling of nuclear material has been halted, the IAEA said, citing information from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. The facility holds decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities. The regulatory authority told IAEA that it could only communicate with the plant via e-mail. 

“The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon,” the IAEA said in a statement.  

The agency said it had been informed by Ukrainian officials that it is becoming “increasingly urgent” to rotate staff for the “safe management” of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where some 210 personnel have been working for almost two weeks straight since Russian forces seized control of the facility.  

Staff have been effectively living at the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster for the past 13 days and while they have access to food, water and medicine to a “limited extend,” their situation is “worsening,” the IAEA said it was told by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator.  

“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,'' IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in the statement.  

Eight of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors are currently operating, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told IAEA, and that radiation levels still appear normal. Staff have been able to swap shifts at the operational sites, including at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya, which is also now under Russian control.   


4:06 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Poland says it’s ready to deploy all their MiG-29 fighter jets to US air base in Germany

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel, Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler

Poland said on Tuesday that it was ready to deploy — immediately and free of charge — all their MiG-29 fighter jets to the US Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany and place them at the disposal of Washington to provide them to Ukraine, according to a statement from the Polish foreign ministry. 

“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes,” it added. 

The Polish government in the statement urged “other NATO Allies — owners of MIG-29 jets — to act in the same vein.” 

A top State Department official said Tuesday that Poland did not consult with the United States prior to issuing its statement about readiness to transfer jets to the US in Germany.

“I saw that announcement by the government of Poland as I was literally driving here today,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“So to my knowledge, it wasn't pre-consulted with us that they plan to give these planes to us,” she said.

“I look forward when this hearing is over to getting back to my desk and seeing how we will respond to this proposal of theirs to give the planes to us,” she said, noting that the US and Poland have been in consultations for a couple of days on this topic. 

A senior US defense official, meanwhile, told CNN that they've seen the Polish government’s announcement and "have nothing to offer at this time."

More background: It remains unclear where the US will pull the F-16s from in order to possibly send them to Poland or other Eastern European countries in the near term. But members of Congress are supportive of the effort. Sen. Ben Cardin asked Nuland for the Biden administration to notify them if there were going to be any delays to getting these F-16s to Poland.

Still, the complicated logistics behind the idea that both US and Polish officials have now discussed have yet been determined, two European diplomats told CNN. 

The Polish announcement comes after some Polish officials were frustrated by how forward leaning the US was on this subject over the weekend, the sources said. 

"In fact, we’re talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to do to backfill their needs if, in fact, they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians. What can we do? How can we help to make sure that they get something to backfill the planes that they’re handing over to the Ukrainians? We’re in very active discussions with them about that,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said over on CBS on Sunday. 

The Poles believe that the visit Vice President Harris is making to Poland in the coming days would be a good time for the US to announce more details but did not know if that was going to happen or not, a Polish official said. 

Other countries that are in talks with the US about also partaking in a similar are conducting the conversations quietly, without raising expectations, said a central European diplomat. 

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed reporting to this post.