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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9:45 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Russia says more than 700 evacuated from Ukrainian city of Sumy on Tuesday

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

The Russian defense ministry said 723 people have been evacuated along an agreed evacuation route out of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Tuesday. 

The ministry was quoted by the state news agency RIA Novosti. It said those evacuated included Indian, Chinese and Jordanian and Tunisian citizens.

The first convoy that left Tuesday morning reached the city of Poltava without incident, Ukrainian officials said.

A later convoy was delayed by an outbreak of firing at the outskirts of the city, according to the head of the regional administration, Dmitry Zhyvitsky.

But Zhyvitsky was quoted in local media as saying the Russian forces did not shoot on the convoy. 

It's unclear whether the convoy proceeded toward Poltava. 

9:55 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

UN says at least 474 civilians killed in Ukraine so far

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow, Scotland

Dead bodies lie covered on the streets of Irpin, Ukraine, on March 6.
Dead bodies lie covered on the streets of Irpin, Ukraine, on March 6. (Murat Saka/dia images/Getty Images)

At least 474 civilians, including 29 children, have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Human Rights Office on Tuesday.  

A further 861 people have been injured in the conflict, bringing the total civilian casualty toll compiled by the UN to 1,335.

The true figure is likely to be “considerably higher” the UN believes, particularly in government-controlled territories where many reports are still pending corroboration. 

“This concerns, for example, the towns of Volnovakha, Mariupol, Izium where there are allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties. These figures are being further corroborated and are not included in the above statistics,” the statement reads.  

In the pro-Moscow separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the UN has registered 545 casualties, with 96 killed and 449 injured as of Tuesday

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.”

9:26 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Xi says China willing to play active role in mediating Ukraine crisis in call with German and French leaders

From CNN staff

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video-conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the Ukraine crisis, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, on March 8.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video-conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the Ukraine crisis, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, on March 8. (Benoit Tessier/ POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke virtually with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, and reiterated that China is willing to "work actively" with the international community to mediate the crisis in Ukraine, without offering any details. 

Xi called the situation "worrisome," according to a statement from the China's foreign ministry.

"China will stay in communication and coordination with France, Germany and the EU and, in light of the needs of the parties involved, work actively together with the international community," the statement said, adding that all efforts "conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported," it added.

Xi also condemned Western sanctions, warning they will "dampen the global economy that is already ravaged by the pandemic."

"This is in the interest of no one. We need to actively advocate a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security," Xi said, according to the statement.

China has consistently refused to call the war in Ukraine a Russian invasion, and officials regularly point to NATO's eastward expansion as a root cause to the conflict — parroting a key Russian talking point. 

Xi gave his support to French and German “actions” to reach a ceasefire in Ukraine, the Elysée Palace said following a call between the three leaders. He also recognized the “need to guarantee people's access to humanitarian aid coordinated by the United Nations,” the statement read, adding that the foreign ministers of Germany, France and China are to enter into close consultation to coordinate further efforts to end the conflict.

9:21 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

"Absolutely confident that we will defeat the Russians," says Kharkiv mayor

From CNN's George Ramsay and Amy Cassidy 

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov speaks to CNN on March 8.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov speaks to CNN on March 8. (CNN)

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov has told CNN he is "absolutely confident" his city will defeat Russian forces.

Under the siege of constant Russian bombardment, Ukraine's second-largest city is still resisting and able to continue with life, Terekhov said Tuesday.

Shelling from heavy artillery, air raids and fire on residential districts has left the northeastern city devastated, but it has not yet fallen to the Russians and "will withstand" thanks to the Ukrainian army, Terekhov insisted. 

Over the past week, Russian forces have targeted residential areas in Kharkiv, hitting schools, shops, hospitals, apartment blocks and churches.

The city of 1.5 million inhabitants needs "everything" from food, medicine and warm clothes, Terekhov said. 

Kharkiv has been one of the most bombed areas in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, with Terekhov calling the shelling of civilian districts an act of "genocide."

"What else can it be? There is no military infrastructure, no military facilities in these areas. Strikes are happening in kindergartens, schools, maternity hospitals, clinics, " Terekhov said.

"This isn't an accident. I can understand when there's an accidental strike. But when it's hundreds of civilian buildings hit, that is no accident. That is a targeted attack."

The Kremlin has denied targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, despite multiple documented casualties.

10:00 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Biden expected to ban Russian energy imports today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak and Phil Mattingly

US President Joe Biden is expected to today ban Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the US, according to three sources familiar with the decision.

The US will make the move unilaterally, without its European allies, due to disagreement among European nations about whether to ban Russian energy. EU countries have significantly more exposure to Russian energy than the US.  

US officials decided, given the extreme political pressure at home, they could move without the coalition and not create major issues. 

Biden is expected to address the news at 10:45 a.m. ET.

US imports from Russia make up a small slice of the energy universe — roughly 8% in 2021, of which only about 3% was crude oil. White House economic officials have been engaged for more than a week in how to manage any decision to cut off those imports, according to officials.

Biden administration officials traveled to Venezuela over the weekend for talks on potentially allowing the country to sell its oil on the international market, helping to replace Russian fuel. Biden may travel to Saudi Arabia as the US works to convince the kingdom to increase its production. And a looming nuclear deal could bring significant volumes of Iranian oil back to the market.

8:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Germany registers over 64,000 refugees from Ukraine 

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

Refugees from Ukraine walk to a collection point at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, on March 8.
Refugees from Ukraine walk to a collection point at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, on March 8. (Paul Zinken/picture alliance/Getty Images)

More than 64,000 refugees have arrived in Germany from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, according to Germany's interior ministry. 

On Tuesday, the ministry said it had registered 64,604 refugees from Ukraine, more than 14,310 refugees from the day before. 

The actual number of incoming refugees, however, could be significantly higher, an interior spokesperson told CNN Tuesday. 

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

8:29 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Nearly 5,000 Ukrainians have arrived in France, and more are on the way, French official says

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight

French Minister Delegate for Citizenship Marlène Schiappa said an estimated 5,000 Ukrainians have so far arrived in France, with more arriving every day.

“We have close to 5,000 people from Ukraine who have arrived in France. It’s a current estimate; every day, we have new arrivals,” she said in an interview with French broadcaster Franceinfo Tuesday.   

Schiappa said that every Ukrainian in need of accommodation would receive it in France, but she added that Ukrainians were not collectively being granted refugee status, as many hope to return to their country. 

Instead, they are being offered a “temporary, immediate status” with the same guarantees of protection as refugee status, she said, adding that this will also offer recipients access to schooling and financial and medical support. 

She also announced a “refugee sponsorship system” via a new platform. The site parrainage.refugies.info will allow French households to host a Ukrainian family with the support of nongovernmental organizations. 

8:26 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

NATO must "ensure that conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine," says alliance chief

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

NATO has a "responsibility to ensure that the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine," said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

Speaking during a joint press conference in Riga with the Latvian President Egils Levits on Tuesday, Stoltenberg remarked that the "suffering we now see in Ukraine is horrific."

We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine. That would be even more dangerous, destructive, and even more deadly. The situation could spiral out of control," Stoltenberg said. 

In response to the situation and to "make sure there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow" NATO has "significantly strengthened" its presence in the eastern part of the alliance, Stoltenberg added. 

"We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and 1000s of additional troops in the region," the NATO chief continued. 

NATO will "protect and defend every inch of allied territory," Stoltenberg said.

So far, NATO has refused to get directly involved in the conflict -- including setting up a no-fly zone -- beyond supporting Ukraine's resistance to Russia's invasion.

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.

8:28 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Humanitarian convoy bound for Mariupol comes under fire, say Ukrainian officials

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A convoy of buses featuring red crosses waits to journey to Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people should the green corridor be confirmed, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 6.
A convoy of buses featuring red crosses waits to journey to Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people should the green corridor be confirmed, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 6. (Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/Reuters)

Ukrainian authorities have said that a long-awaited convoy of humanitarian aid for the besieged city of Mariupol on the south coast appears to have come under fire.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, said Tuesday: "Our humanitarian cargo is heading to Mariupol, and we are counting on the commitments made by Russia, that they are ready to adhere to the ceasefire. There are now signals that Russia is shelling the direction of humanitarian convoy."

CNN has been unable to verify the status of the convoy

Russia had declared a ceasefire Tuesday for five Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol.

Vereshchuk said the convoy -- consisting of eight trucks as well as more than 30 buses --had set out at 10 a.m. local time, heading towards Mariupol from the Zaporizhzia area. It was scheduled to pick up people -- especially women, children and the elderly -- on the way back.

Ukraine's Joint Forces Operation (JFO) also provided an update on the convoy. On its Facebook page, the JFO said that in order to evacuate Mariupol's civilians, "the defenders of the city took a number of measures: they have cleared the roads of mines, removed engineering barriers, etc."

"However, the occupiers did not let children, women and the elderly out of the city," the JFO said. "The enemy launched an attack precisely in the direction of the humanitarian corridor."

CNN has reached out to the Russian side for a response.

Residents of the key city of Mariupol have been facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation in recent days, as the city remains under siege by Russian forces determined to tighten their grip on Ukraine's south.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that Russian forces are committing war crimes by holding 300,000 civilians "hostage" in the besieged city of Mariupol. He said one child died of dehydration on Monday. 

"People are now in their 10th day without water, without electricity, living in shelters, shelters are packed. The essentials are missing, a lot of healthcare needs as well," Mirella Hodeib, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, previously told CNN, saying that the situation in the city remains "desperate."

CNN's George Ramsay and Laura Smith-Spark contributed reporting to this post.