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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russian shelling causes fire at nuclear power plant

Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”

Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, don’t appear to have advanced closer to the city since coming within about 20 miles, although smaller advanced groups have been fighting gun battles with Ukrainian forces inside the capital since at least Friday.

Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

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Mar 03, 8:22 pm
Russian troops fire at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, official says

Russian troops are firing at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, officials said.

“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted early Friday. “Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

Andriy Tuz, a spokesperson for the power plant, warned in videos posted to Telegram that Russian shelling caused a fire at the plant. He said the first power unit was hit and that rescuers have not yet been able to put out the fire due to the ongoing shelling. He said there is no information yet about any release of radiation.

The power plant’s livestream captured blasts and a fire at the facility.

The situation at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant has become “critical,” authorities had warned earlier Wednesday as Russian troops approached the site.

“The battle is going on in the town of Enerhodar and on the road to the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) site,” Ukraine’s regulatory authority said in an “urgent letter” to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog group said in a statement.

Ukraine reported that Russian tanks and infantry “broke through the block-post” to the town of Enerhodar, near the power plant, according to IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who called on troops to refrain from use of force.

During an emergency IAEA board of governors meeting this week, Grossi warned that an incident affecting nuclear facilities “could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm” beyond Ukraine’s borders.

IAEA tweeted it is aware of reports of shelling at the power plant and is in contact with Ukrainian authorities.

Mar 03, 7:14 pm
Facebook restrictions in Russia becoming more extensive, agency says

Facebook restrictions in Russia are becoming more extensive, according to internet monitoring agency NetBlocks.

The restrictions impact internet providers including Rostelecom and Beeline, according to NetBlocks.

They follow restrictions placed on Twitter and Facebook in recent days that have caused some content to take an extremely long take to load, if at all, on major providers, making the platforms “largely unusable,” NetBlocks reported.

Circumvention is possible using VPN services.

The independent Russian news site Meduza also reported Thursday that it is inaccessible for some readers in Russia.

Mar 03, 6:35 pm
Volkswagen suspends production of cars in Russia, stops exports

Volkswagen is the latest automaker to pause its business in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The German car company announced Thursday that its board has decided to stop the production of cars in Russia “until further notice.”

It also decided to immediately stop vehicle exports to Russia, Volkswagen said.

“We are convinced that a sustainable solution to the conflict can only be found on the basis of international law,” the company said in a statement. “With the extensive interruption of business activities in Russia, the Executive Board is reviewing the consequences from the overall situation, during this period of great uncertainty and upheaval,”

Volkswagen has production sites in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod.

Earlier this week, General Motors and Volvo Cars said they will suspend vehicle exports to Russia until further notice. Mercedes Benz said Wednesday it will pause exports and manufacturing in Russia until further notice. Ford has also suspended its operations in the country.

Mar 03, 6:18 pm
US grants temporary protected status to Ukrainians

The Department of Homeland Security has granted Ukrainians with temporary protected status (TPS) amid the conflict with Russia, officials said.

“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States.”

Individuals must have continuously resided in the U.S. as of March 1 to be eligible; Ukrainians who arrive after that date will not be eligible. The designation, which will last at least 18 months, allows migrants not otherwise in the U.S. on a legal basis to continue to live and work in the country and not be subject to deportation during that time.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement paused deportations to Ukraine as of Thursday, an agency spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

A country may be designated for TPS due to ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.” DHS noted the conditions Ukrainians might face if they are repatriated home.

“This invasion has caused a humanitarian crisis with significant numbers of individuals fleeing and damage to civilian infrastructure that has left many without electricity or water or access to food, basic supplies, shelter and emergency medical services,” DHS said.

The announcement follows pressure from both sides of the aisle to extend TPS to Ukrainians in the U.S. as the war continues.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded the Biden administration for “taking decisive action so that Ukrainians can stay safely in America,”

“The United States stands with the people of Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

Mar 03, 5:07 pm
White House reiterates its opposition for ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine

President Joe Biden is opposed to the idea of a ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine because he doesn’t want American service members directly fighting Russians, the White House said Thursday.

“The reason why that has not been a step the president has been willing to take or we have been interested in taking is because a no-fly zone requires implementation,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing.

“It would require essentially the U.S. military shooting down Russian planes and prompting a potential direct war with Russia, the exact step that we want to avoid.”

Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for a ‘no-fly’ zone and said that if nations didn’t want to establish one, they should send him planes.

Psaki suggested the White House viewed sending planes in the same vein as establishing a ‘no-fly’ zone.

“I’m not going to get into more details of what the Department of Defense may or may not consider,” Psaki said. “We are not considering taking steps that would put us in direct conflict with Russia.”

Mar 03, 4:01 pm
US sanctions Putin’s spokesman, other elites, blocks oligarchs and relatives from traveling to US

The U.S. announced new sanctions Thursday against members of the Russian elite, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, and said it would block 19 oligarchs and 47 of their relatives and close associates from traveling to the U.S.

The U.S. will put full-blocking sanctions on eight members of the Russian elite, as well as 17 of their relatives, 12 of their companies, two of their jets and one super-yacht, banning them from the U.S. financial system.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, as well as one of Russia’s richest men, Alisher Usmanov, are among the eight sanctioned, according to the White House.

Germany had already seized Usmanov’s super-yacht, and the White House said both the boat and Usmanov’s private jet – which it said was one of the largest privately-owned aircraft in Russia – would be blocked for use in the U.S. or by Americans.

The U.S. also put visa restrictions on 19 Russian oligarchs and on 47 of their relatives and close associates, blocking them from obtaining U.S. visas and traveling to the U.S.

The U.S. also imposed full-blocking sanctions on seven Russian entities and 26 Russian and Ukraine-based people engaging in disinformation.

Mar 03, 3:44 pm
Russians targeting civilians, closing in on Kharkiv: US Defense official

The Russians are targeting civilians and Russian military forces are closing in on Kharkiv, while convoy remains “stalled,” a U.S. Defense official told reporters on Thursday.

“Clearly they’ve shown a willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose, and that you see in the example of media towers and media facilities,” the official said.

The Russians have also been hitting government infrastructure in cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv, the official said.

The Russian advance on Kyiv is still “stalled” and is roughly 25K north of the city, which is where it was “about two to three days ago,” the official said.

“We believe that their movement has stalled for many reasons, including the Ukrainian resistance, their own logistics and sustainment challenges that they’ve had, as well as … certainly it could be possible that the weather is not cooperating. And … lastly, because we think to some degree they are doing some reassessment of their own,” the official said.

Russian forces are closing in on Kharkiv, according to the official.

The official couldn’t confirm that Kherson has fallen under Russian control.

The official said one possibility as to why Russia advanced on Kherson is the Russians intend to move past Kherson to the town of Mykolayiv to be in position to move on Odessa from sea and land.

So far, the U.S. hasn’t seen any naval moves near Odessa, but they are watching closely, according to the official.

Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control though the city is under increasing bombardment as Russian forces attempt to advance on the city “from the north as well as from the coastline northeast of Berdyansk,” according to the official.

Approximately 90% of the more than 150,000 Russian forces that were arrayed at the border are inside Ukraine, according to the official. This is up from an estimated 82% on Wednesday.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. has counted more than 480 Russian missile launches.

The official said a majority of the Russian missiles are being launched from within Ukraine.

“They have mobile systems, they’re moving them inside,” the official said. “The next biggest chunk are coming from Russia, more than 160 from Russia. More than 70 are coming from Bellarus. And then a very small number, less than 10, that we’ve observed coming from the Black Sea.”

The official said the Ukrainians “still have a majority of their air and missile defense capabilities available to them.”

Mar 03, 2:45 pm
Putin claims Ukraine invasion going according to plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the Ukraine invasion is going strictly according to plan on Thursday.

“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly in accordance with the schedule, with the plan. All objectives are being successfully attained,” Putin said in a televised meeting of his national security council.

“The very course of fighting shows that it is neo-Nazis whom we are fighting against,” Putin said.

Mar 03, 2:44 pm
Macron says Putin ‘refuses to cease his attacks on Ukraine’

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “At this point, he refuses to cease his attacks on Ukraine. Maintaining the dialogue to avoid human tragedies is absolutely necessary. I will continue my efforts and contacts. We must avoid the worst.”

He added, “A dialogue to protect populations, to obtain moves that will avoid human tragedies, to put an end to this war: this is the meaning of my commitment alongside President Zelensky and the international community. My determination is and will remain total.”

Mar 03, 2:25 pm
Talks between Russia and Ukraine delegations end

Talks held between Russia and Ukraine on Thursday have stopped, according to officials.

Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted, “Unfortunately, the results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved.”

Russia’s lead negotiator said the two sides agreed to open “humanitarian corridors” for civilians to leave Ukrainian cities.

The negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, who is an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that both sides had agreed to a possible “temporary cease-fire” in some “sectors” connected to the humanitarian corridors.

Medinsky called the result “substantial.”

Mar 03, 2:17 pm
World leaders discuss new humanitarian assistance, disaster relief for Ukraine

President Joe Biden met with the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan on Thursday where the Quad leaders discussed the conflict in Ukraine.

“The Quad leaders discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications. They agreed to stand up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Mar 03, 1:18 pm
Canada will accept refugees from Ukraine with no limit on how many can apply

Canada announced a new program on Thursday that will “cut through red tape” to expedite arrivals for Ukrainians seeking temporary or permanent residency, said Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“There is no limit on how many can apply,” Fraser said.

“All those who arrive in Canada as part of these measures will be eligible for open work permits and will quickly be able to work if they so choose,” Fraser noted.

He went on, “Our commitment to Ukrainians goes beyond the historic ties between Canada and Ukraine and beyond the cultural connections between our people. It’s a commitment to humanity.”

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 03, 12:47 pm
US expected to announce new sanctions against Russian oligarchs

The U.S. Treasury and State Departments are expected to announce new sanctions against Russian oligarchs on Thursday, according to a White House official.

The sanctions will expand upon recently announced EU sanctions, block specific oligarchs’ travel to the U.S. and target the oligarchs’ relatives, according to the official.

-ABC’s Ben Gittleson

Mar 03, 12:47 pm
UN children’s agency says half a million children have fled Ukraine

One week into the conflict, half a million children have already fled Ukraine to neighboring countries with the number continuing to grow, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said on Thursday.

“Millions of children could be caught up in the violence as the fighting intensifies in and around the country’s major urban centers,” UNICEF said in a statement.

Since Feb. 24, 17 children have been killed and 30 others have been injured, according to reports the UN has been able to verify. UNICEF said the true number of casualties is “likely far higher.”

“The use of explosive weapons in cities could quickly turn this crisis into a catastrophe for Ukraine’s children,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

“There are no armed operations of this scale that do not result in children being harmed. The consequences will be tragic,” Khan said.

The conflict has sparked massive population displacement that could soon constitute one of Europe’s largest refugee crises since World War II, UNICEF warned.

UNICEF said hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed and there are reports of schools, orphanages and health centers sustaining heavy damage.

“Humanitarian needs across the country are multiplying by the hour,” UNICEF said.

The country is running low on critical medical supplies and has had to halt urgent efforts to curb a polio outbreak, UNICEF said.

– ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 03, 12:22 pm
Zelenskyy says he doesn’t know how long Ukraine will hold out against Russia

When asked by reporters how long Ukraine can hold out against the Russian advance, Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy said “I don’t know.”

In a press conference on Thursday reporters asked the president if he would ever leave Kyiv, Zelenskyy said “no!”

Zelenskyy said he’s ready to meet and talk directly with Russia President Vladimir Putin and stressed once again the need for a ‘no-fly’ zone immediately over the entire country, saying it would act as a deterrent.

He paid tribute to the valor of Ukrainian forces and appealed to Russian mothers not to send their sons to die on foreign soil.

Zelenskyy also thanked President Joe Biden for the continuing support, but criticized the West for being late to introduce sanctions that he believes could’ve prevented the Russian invasion in the first place.

-ABC News’ Ian Pannell

Mar 03, 8:51 am
Zelenskyy warns Putin: ‘You will repay everything you did against Ukraine’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a warning to his Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, as Russian forces continued their offensive.

“You will repay everything you did against Ukraine — in full,” Zelenskyy said in a televised statement. “And we will not forget those who perished — and God won’t.”

Zelenskyy noted that his country receives “more and more powerful weapons everyday” from “partners” and “real friends.” He also likened the Russian invasion to being “attacked by another virus.”

“Exactly two years ago, the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Ukraine. The first weeks of fighting it were extremely difficult, but we were united and therefore strong and therefore we withstood,” he said. “Exactly a week ago, Ukraine was attacked by another virus, another disease, by those who suffer from severe annexation and occupation of foreign lands. The first hours and days of full-scale war were extremely difficult, but we were united and therefore strong and therefore we withstood. And it will be so and we will continue to stand.”

Mar 03, 8:22 am
Russia freezes supplies of rocket engines to US

Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos announced Thursday its decision to suspend supplies of Russian-made rocket engines to the United States.

“In this situation, we can no longer supply the U.S. with our rocket engines that are the best in the world,” Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin said on state-owned television channel Russia-24. “Let them fly on something else, like their brooms or whatever. But at least we are freezing our shipments.”

Mar 03, 8:07 am
Russia wants to make Mariupol ‘like Aleppo,’ local official says

Russian forces continue to intensely bombard the key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, according to local councillor Petro Andrushenko.

Speaking to ABC News by telephone from a bomb shelter in Mariupol on Thursday, Andrushenko said Russian forces have been striking the southern city with missiles and heavy artillery non-stop for more than 24 hours. He said the firing was continuing even as he spoke, hitting the city center.

Mariupol is now besieged and surrounded by Russian troops. A last column of journalists and diplomats managed to pull out on Wednesday under the guns of advancing Russian forces.

Andrushenko said one neighborhood, Livoberezhna, has been “destroyed” and that authorities have tried to evacuate the residents there. The entire city is without power and has waning supplies, according to Andrushenko.

“We haven’t any heat, we haven’t any water, we haven’t any electricity, but we have Russian rockets,” he told ABC News.

At least 10 people have been killed and 150 others have been injured in Mariupol so far, according to Andrushenko. But it’s virtually impossible to get an accurate count because authorities are unable to recover bodies under such heavy bombardment.

Andrushenko said he believes Russia is trying to make Mariupol “like Aleppo,” the Syrian city that the Russian military helped Syrian government forces devastate during a siege there in 2016. Aleppo ultimately became a symbol of the brutality of the Syrian civil war.

“They want to do like Aleppo for Mariupol now,” Andrushenko said, “because Mariupol is a symbol of Ukrainian power.”

Mar 03, 7:43 am
One million refugees have fled Ukraine in a week: UNHCR

More than one million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Over 50% of the refugees from Ukraine are in neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

“In just seven days, 1 million people have fled Ukraine, uprooted by this senseless war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Thursday. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”

“Hour by hour, minute by minute, more people are fleeing the terrifying reality of violence. Countless have been displaced inside the country,” he added. “Peace is the only way to halt this tragedy.”

Mar 03, 6:50 am
Russian foreign minister declines to comment on civilian deaths in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wouldn’t comment on civilian deaths from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when pressed during an interview Thursday with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

“I cannot comment,” Lavrov said, adding that there are “a great deal” of “conjectures.”

Mar 03, 6:36 am
Russia says talks with Ukraine will resume Thursday

A second round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will be held at the previously planned venue in neighboring Belarus on Thursday at around 3 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), according to Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation and aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The talks will take place — we are now in contact with the Ukrainian side — at the same venue where they were planned, on the territory of the Brest region of Belarus,” Medinsky told reporters Thursday, adding that Russian negotiators are “waiting calmly.”

“I think the talks will begin at 3 p.m.,” he said.

Mar 03, 6:08 am
Ukraine claims to have raised flag over town outside Kyiv

Ukraine claimed Thursday to have raised its flag over the town of Bucha, close to the Ukrainian capital where some of the most intense fighting has been taking place in recent days and where Russia’s push south on Kyiv appears to have stalled.

A video posted on the official Facebook page of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ ground troops purportedly shows soldiers hoisting the national flag outside Bucha’s town hall. The town is just a few miles north of the edge of Kyiv and about 15 miles from the center of the capital. Fighting is reported to be ongoing nearby and, in the video, an explosion can be heard in the distance as they raise the blue and yellow flag.

Mar 03, 5:34 am
Ukraine requests no-fly zone over Chernobyl

Ukraine is asking the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to call on NATO to close access to the airspace over the country’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the surrounding exclusion zone.

The deserted exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where the world’s worst nuclear accident took place in 1986, was seized by Russian forces last week.

A joint appeal to the IAEA was signed Wednesday by Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko, Oleh Korikov, head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, and Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company Energoatom.

“The fact of the seizure of the world-famous Chernobyl nuclear power plant has all the hallmarks of an act of nuclear terrorism committed against Chernobyl nuclear facilities and its personnel by Russian military units,” they said in the appeal.

Mar 03, 5:06 am
Russia claims to have hit another TV tower in Kyiv

Russia claimed Thursday that its forces have “disabled” another television tower in Ukraine’s capital.

Russian troops fired precision-guided weapons at a TV and radio center in the Lysa Hora region of Kyiv, according to Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“A strike delivered by a long-range precision-guided weapon disabled a reserve TV and radio center in the Lysa Hora area in Kyiv which the Ukrainian Security Service has been using for psychological operations against Russia,” Konashenkov said at a press briefing Thursday. “There are no casualties and there is no damage done to residential buildings.”

There were reports of more explosions in Kyiv on Thursday morning, but Ukrainian officials have yet to confirm that a second TV tower was hit.

A Russian missile struck Kyiv’s main TV tower in the heart of the capital on Tuesday.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said that Russia is aiming to cut off a large part of Ukraine from the internet and communications.

Mar 03, 4:37 am
Russia claims to have seized eastern Ukrainian city

Russia claimed Thursday that its forces have seized the eastern Ukrainian city of Balakliya.

Russian troops worked together with Russia-backed separatist forces on the “successful offensive,” according to Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“The city of Balakliya has been freed from nationalist battalions,” Konashenkov said at a press briefing Thursday.

Balakliya is about 55 miles southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where heavy shelling continued Thursday.

Mar 02, 11:25 pm
US condemns Kremlin’s ‘full assault’ on ‘truth’ in media

The U.S. State Department is condemning Moscow’s attack on the media, saying the Kremlin “is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth, and Moscow’s efforts to mislead and suppress the truth of the brutal invasion are intensifying.”

“The people of Russia did not choose this war. Putin did,” Ned Price, State Department spokesman, said in a statement. “They have a right to know about the death, suffering and destruction being inflicted by their government on the people of Ukraine. The people of Russia also have a right to know about the human costs of this senseless war to their own soldiers.”

The statement comes 24 hours after the Russian government blocked the country’s only two major independent news broadcasters, Dozhd TV and Radio Ekho Moskvy, accusing them of spreading “false information” about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Ekho Moskvy has been respected for its even-handed treatment of breaking news since its founding 32 years ago, and, until yesterday, its broadcasts reached some 1.8 million daily listeners throughout Russia and beyond,” the State Department said in a statement Wednesday night. “Dozhd, which has been operating for more than a decade, is similarly known for high-quality reporting.”

Russian state channels, such as RT and Sputnik, are banned from using the word “war” or “invasion” in relation to Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin instead has referred to it as a “special military operation.”

The State Department said the Russian Parliament will consider a bill Friday to make “unofficial” reporting on the invasion punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

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