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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5:23 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.

4:44 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

US intel chiefs to Congress: Putin may escalate conflict in Ukraine with no concern for civilian casualties

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Katie Bo Lillis

The US intelligence community believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin views the conflict in Ukraine as a "war he cannot afford to lose," suggesting he is likely to escalate the conflict without any concern for the number of civilians killed, the US's top intelligence chiefs told Congress.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said at a congressional hearing Tuesday that US intelligence assesses Putin is unlikely to be deterred by the setbacks the Russian military has faced in Ukraine, suggesting he is doubling down on his campaign to keep Ukraine from joining NATO.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing titled "Worldwide Threats," in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing titled "Worldwide Threats," in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

CIA Director William Burns said Putin had launched the invasion "determined to dominate and control Ukraine" based on a set of assumptions that the conflict would be successful, including that Ukraine was weak, that European allies like France and Germany were risk-averse, that he had "sanctions-proofed" his economy and that his military was capable of a quick and decisive victory at minimal cost.

"He's been proven wrong on every count," Burns said.

The discussion of Putin's motivations that led to Russia's bloody invasion of Ukraine last month — and the sweeping, crippling sanctions from the West in response — offered the most public assessment to date of the US view of Putin's ill-fated war in Ukraine. The intelligence community — which forecast Putin's moves in the lead-up to the invasion —testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday at an annual worldwide threats hearing.

"This is a matter of deep personal conviction for him," Burns told the committee. "He's been stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years."

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the intelligence community estimates with "low confidence" that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion last month.

Read more about their comments to Congress here.

3:26 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Israel's prime minister spoke with Zelensky and Putin on Tuesday

From CNN’s Hadas Gold in Jerusalem 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday spoke with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin separately. 

In a tweet, Zelensky said he thanked Bennett “for Israel’s mediation efforts. Discussed ways to end the war and violence.” 

A Kremlin statement on the call said the Israelis initiated the call, and that the two leaders “discussed various aspects of the situation with Russia’s special military operation to protect Donbass. Vladimir Putin shared his assessment of the third round of talks between the Russian delegation and representatives from Ukraine held on March 7 in Belarus.” 

Israel has not provided any readouts or statements on the calls so far.

The latest round of conversations comes three days after Bennett took a surprise trip to Moscow on Saturday where he spent three hours with Putin. Bennett said the following day that Israel will continue to help mediate “even if the chance is not great.” 

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

Russia proposes new ceasefire starting Wednesday in a few Ukrainian cities

From CNN staff

Russia has 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.

Russia insists on the need of a continuous communication channel with Ukraine to exchange information regarding the evacuation of civilians and foreigners.

The Russian side proposes that Kyiv notify the representatives of the embassies of foreign states, and international organizations located on the territory of Ukraine about the ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian corridors by 3 a.m. Moscow time Wednesday (7 p.m. ET Tuesday).

Information on evacuation corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol will be sent to Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday, said the Russian Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

3:03 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Ukraine's first lady addresses the suffering of civilians after nearly 2 weeks of war

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Olena Zelenska speaks at an event in Kyiv in November 2020.
Olena Zelenska speaks at an event in Kyiv in November 2020. (Yevhen Kotenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, published an open letter on her Facebook page reflecting on what has happened to Ukraine in the past two weeks since the Russian invasion.

"Despite assurances from Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, who call this a 'special operation' — it is, in fact, the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians," Zelenska said.

In the long and impassioned letter, she added: "Perhaps the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties. Eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her. Or Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents. 14-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires."

"The first newborn of the war, saw the concrete ceiling of the basement, their first breath was the acrid air of the underground, and they were greeted by a community trapped and terrorized. At this point, there are several dozen children who have never known peace in their lives," she wrote.

The Ukrainian first lady also discussed the challenges of getting essential medical care, as well as the growing tide of refugees.

She said Russian President Vladimir Putin has underestimated Ukrainians' resistance.

"While Kremlin propagandists bragged that Ukrainians would welcome them with flowers as saviors, they have been shunned with Molotov cocktails," she wrote.

Zelenska also thanked people from around the world for supporting her country.

And she echoed her husband's demands for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. "Close the sky, and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves," she said.

She concluded: "I testify and tell the world: the war in Ukraine is not a war "somewhere out there." This is a war in Europe, close to the EU borders. Ukraine is stopping the force that may aggressively enter your cities tomorrow under the pretext of saving civilians."

"If we don't stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us," she continued.