Latest Ukraine updates: US slams Russian nuclear plant attack

Ukraine-Russia news from March 4: At UNSC meeting, Ukrainian envoy accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terrorism’.

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant is pictured in the town of Enerhodar April 9, 2013.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant [File: Reuters]
  • The US has condemned Russia for its attack and capture of the largest nuclear power station in Europe at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, calling it “reckless” and “dangerous”.
  • A fire broke out at the complex in the southeastern city of Enerhodar early on Friday morning, but it has now been extinguished.
  • Ukraine, its Western allies and the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog have said a Russian attack sparked the blaze.
  • Russia has denied attacking the site and blamed the fire, which Kyiv claims killed “several” people, on Ukrainian “saboteurs”.
  • Russia’s offensive has sparked a mass exodus from Ukraine and a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis.


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Here were the updates for March 4:

CBC suspends on-ground reporting in Russia

Canada’s public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada has temporarily suspended news operations in Russia, citing a newly passed legislation by the Russian parliament which “appears to criminalize independent reporting”, the outlet said in a statement.

“We join other media in standing up for a free press and unimpeded access to accurate, independent journalism in Ukraine and Russia,” the statement noted.

Biden meets Niinisto as support grows in Finland for NATO

US leader Joe Biden and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto agreed on Friday to deepen ties but stopped short of making public security guarantees or suggesting that Finland could join NATO after Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

Biden said during the White House meeting that Finland is a “strong defense partner” involved in a “united trans-Atlantic response to holding Russia accountable” for what he called an attack on global peace.

“We are really living in very difficult times,” said Niinisto. “I want to thank you also for the leadership you have showed. We need it now.”

Russia at risk of expulsion from Council of Europe: chief

Pressure is mounting among member states for Russia to be expelled from the Council of Europe, after it was suspended amid the invasion of Ukraine, the pan-European rights group’s secretary general has said.

“Today, more and more voices are demanding that the next step is the expulsion of the Russian Federation,” Marija Pejcinovic Buric told the AFP news agency in an interview.

Russia ‘restricts access’ to Twitter amid invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor has “restricted access” to social media network Twitter after blocking Facebook in the country, Russian news agencies reported.

According to the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies, access to Twitter is restricted on the basis of a request of the Prosecutor General from February 24, the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nearly 600 Nigerians who fled Ukraine return home

A group of 174 Nigerians who fled Ukraine landed home late on Friday, bringing the total number of citizens evacuated to almost 600.

Earlier, a group of 415 people, most of whom were students, arrived from Romania’s capital Bucharest, one of the hubs from where African governments are scrambling to extract stranded citizens.

“The second batch of Nigerians (174) have arrived [in] Abuja from Poland,” Nigerian airline Air Peace tweeted, bringing the total number to 589.

Russia blocks access to Facebook amid war with Ukraine

The country’s communications regulator says it blocked Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook in response to what it said were restrictions of access to Russian media on its platform, more than a week after Moscow invaded its neighbour Ukraine.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said there had been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020, with access restricted to state-backed channels like RT and the RIA news agency.

Read more here.

Serbians rally in support of Russian war in Ukraine

Some thousand demonstrators have rallied in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the Serbian capital Belgrade as they chanted anti-NATO slogans and showered praise on Putin.

The demonstrators chanted “Serbs-Russians, brothers forever” as they marched through central Belgrade, lighting road flares and waving Russian flags.

“Ukraine is being liberated from neo-Nazis. Russians, our brothers, are liberating the country, and hopefully the world,” Nikola Babic, a 22-year-old security guard, told the AFP news agency.

France, partners to propose measures to boost security of nuclear energy sites

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that France and its partners will propose in the coming hours a set of concrete measures to boost the safety and security of Ukraine’s five main nuclear energy sites, based on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criteria.

Macron said in a statement he had spoken with the IAEA director on Friday and supported the organisation’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s nuclear installations.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech
French President Emmanuel Macron [File: Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool/Reuters]

Not clear if nuclear site safe: Former IAEA official

Speaking from Vienna, Austria, a former IAEA official told Al Jazeera it was not yet clear if the Zaporizhzhia facility was secure.

“We can’t really tell if its [nuclear plant] is safe or not, especially if the operators of the nuclear power plant are sitting at their desk, with Russian soldiers with guns behind them.

“According to the state nuclear regulatory inspector of Ukraine, which is … responsible for the safe operation of nuclear power plants … has pointed out that many of these operators have been working very long shifts and have not had rest,” Tariq Rauf said.

“Therefore, they may not be in a position to properly monitor the control room and to monitor the reactor that is running,” he added.

A view shows a damaged administrative building of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
A view shows a damaged administrative building of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, amid the Russian invasion, in Enerhodar, Ukraine [Press service of National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom/Handout via Reuters]

‘No-fly zone’ means NATO would have to directly engage Russia: Ex-US official

A former US deputy assistant secretary of state has said that imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could drag NATO and Western nations into a direct confrontation with Russia.

Joel Rubin’s comments came after NATO earlier rejected calls from Ukrainian leaders to enforce a no-fly zone amid Russia’s continued attacks on the country.

“It’s not just a call for a no-fly zone and then aircraft cease. What this would mean is that NATO would be directly engaging Russian military aircraft, and if the aircraft were to fly, NATO would be obligated to shoot them down. So that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s a horrible conundrum,” Rubin told Al Jazeera.

“NATO is part of that puzzle in trying to push back against Russia and to get Vladimir Putin to back off,” Rubin added. “He needs to pull back, accept a negotiated outcome and stop killing innocent civilians in Ukraine.”

Ministers of G7 urge Russia to stop attacks in vicinity of nuclear plants

G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US released a joint statement condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling on Moscow to end its “aggression” and immediately withdraw its forces.

“We urge Russia to stop its attacks especially in the direct vicinity of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants,” the statement said.

“Any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of international law. We support the initiative of IAEA Director General Grossi announced today for an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.”

Ukrainian UN envoy accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terrorism’

The Ukrainian UN Ambassador has accused Russia of committing “nuclear terrorism” after an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Russian forces have seized control of Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Sergiy Kyslytsya said several people were killed and injured in the fire.

“Employees of the Zaporizhzhia NPP are monitoring the condition of power units and ensuring their operation,” he told the UN Security Council.

EU’s Borrell says sanctions not aimed at regime change

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said sanctions imposed by the war were not about seeking any regime change in Russia.

“Sanctions have been triggered by the war,” he said.

Russian envoy dismisses reports of attack on nuclear plant

Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, has dismissed reports that Russian troops attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as “lies” and “disinformation”.

“You’re trying to present the situation in such a way as though the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was allegedly shelled by the Russian military as a result of which a fire broke out,” Nebenzya told the UN Security Council. “These statements are simply untrue.”

Nebenzya said Ukrainian “saboteurs” fired at Russian forces from a training facility outside the power plant early on Friday.

“The Russian patrol returned fire on the firing points of the Ukrainian saboteurs in the building of the training complex and suppressed their fire. As they were leaving the Ukrainian sabotage group set fire to the training facility,” Nebenzya said.

He stressed that Russian forces are not interfering with the work of the plant’s operators but are trying to ensure the security of the facility.

Russia committing war crimes, crimes against humanity: Ukraine’s UN envoy

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, has accused Russia of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during its invasion of the country.

“Russia has resorted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Russia does not even try to hide them,” Kyslytsya said.

“Residential areas of Ukrainian cities and villages across the country are being ruined by Russian bombs, shells and missiles. Peaceful civilians are being killed, critical infrastructure totally damaged.”

The International Criminal Court prosecutor this week launched a probe into potential war crimes committed in Ukraine, dating back to 2013.

Ukraine Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya
Ukraine Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya [File: Jason Szenes/EPA]

Mariupol in ‘classic siege’ situation: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull speaking from western Ukraine said the port city of Mariupol was “completely surrounded” by Russian forces.

“It is cut off from supplies … heat, electricity, and also internet and mobile phone communication,” he reported from Lviv.

“So it’s very difficult to get a comprehensive picture of what is going on inside, except the reports we hear indicate pretty sustained bombardment of the city. It’s a classic siege situation.”

Read more here.

US envoy to the UN says Putin must ‘Stop this madness’

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy at the UN, has said Russia’s attack put Europe’s largest nuclear plant at grave risk.

“The world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night,” the envoy said.

“Russia’s attack last night put Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at grave risk. It was incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe.”

“Mr Putin must stop this madness and he must stop it now,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield called on Moscow to withdraw its troops from the plant, permit medical treatment for injured personnel and allow the site’s operators to communicate with nuclear regulators and conduct shift changes.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in New York City, US, March 4, 2022 [Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

World Bank chief says Ukraine war will have lasting consequences for Russia

President David Malpass has said the bank’s shareholders were “horrified” by Russia’s war in Ukraine and predicted it would have lasting consequences for Russia’s standing in the world after the conflict ends.

Malpass also told Fox Business Network that China’s reaction to the war and to Western sanctions would be influential in determining how Russia’s future trade relationships develop.

UNSC calls emergency meeting after Russia captures nuclear facility

The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Russia’s attack at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

UN and Ukrainian officials say no radiation was released from a Russian attack at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine and firefighters have extinguished a blaze at the facility.

Ukraine to join NATO cyberdefence centre as ‘contributing participant’

Ukraine will join the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) as a “contributing participant”, the NATO-accredited military research institution said in a statement.

“Ukraine could bring valuable first-hand knowledge of several adversaries within the cyber domain to be used for research, exercises and training,” CCDCOE Director Colonel Jaak Tarien said in a statement on the CCDCOE website.

BBC suspends operations in Russia

The BBC has temporarily suspended news operations within the Russian Federation while it assesses the implications of new legislation adopted by Russian authorities.

BBC News will continue its service in Russian from outside of Russia.

“The safety of our staff is paramount and we are not prepared to expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement.

 In this file photo dated Wednesday, July 19, 2017, The BBC sign outside the entrance to the headquarters of the publicly funded media organisation in London.
The BBC sign outside the entrance to the headquarters of the publicly funded media organisation in London, the UK [File: Frank Augstein/AP Photo]

EU wants Ukraine membership ‘as soon as possible’: deputy chief

Ukraine should become a member of the European Union “as soon as possible”, the deputy head of the EU Commission has said.

“Now it is time for a strong message. It is time for signaling that the Ukrainian people are one of the European peoples. We want them in as soon as possible,” Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said after a meeting of EU ministers in Arles, in the south of France.

Putin ready for Ukraine dialogue if ‘all Russian demands’ met

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a telephone call that Russia was ready for dialogue over Ukraine if all its demands are met, the Kremlin said.

Putin “confirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the Ukrainian side, as well as with everyone who wants peace in Ukraine. But under the condition that all Russian demands are met,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

A demonstrator holds a stop Putin sign
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest at Brandenburg Gate, after Russian President Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine last month, in Berlin, Germany [File: Michele Tantussi/Reuters]

British ad group WPP says it will leave Russia

The world’s biggest advertising group, WPP, has announced it would discontinue its operations in Russia, saying its continued presence in the country would be “inconsistent” with its values.

“WPP stands with Ukraine and the international community in condemning the Russian invasion, which has created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe,” the company, which employs nearly 1,400 in Russia, said.

“The Board of WPP has concluded that WPP’s ongoing presence in Russia would be inconsistent with our values as a company, and we are therefore discontinuing our operations in the country.”

IPC president calls for peace at Winter Paralympics opening ceremony

The president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has made an impassioned call for peace in Ukraine during the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

“I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now. The 21st century is a time for dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate,” Andrew Parsons said in an address at the Chinese capital’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.

“The world must be a place for sharing, not dividing,” he added.

The IPC has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the games, which close on March 13.

Hungary’s Orban struggles to maintain balancing act

Former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe are at the forefront of efforts to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

But Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has established close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is dragging its feet.

Read more here.

Putin’s forces ‘targeting civilians with brutal rigour’: Germany

Russian forces in Ukraine are increasingly targeting the civilian population, Germany’s foreign minister has alleged.

“It is clear to see that this war of aggression by Putin is targeting the civilian population with the most brutal rigour,” Annalena Baerbock told reporters in Brussels before a meeting with her European Union counterparts.

Paramedics are see moving a patient in Mariupol
Moscow says it is only targeting military infrastructure, but reports from the ground suggest a mounting civilian death toll [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo]

UN says 331 civilians killed amid Russia’s offensive

The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) says it has confirmed that 331 civilians, including 19 children, have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

OHCHR, which has monitors in Ukraine, added that 675 others had been wounded as of Thursday midnight, and warned the true toll from the conflict was likely much higher.

Most of the victims were killed by explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and missile and air raids, it said.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Russia’s TV Rain broadcasts emotional farewell, then goes dark

Russian television channel Dozhd, or TV Rain, has broadcast an emotional farewell to its viewers after announcing it would temporarily halt its work in response to the Kremlin’s intensifying crackdown on critical reporting of the war in Ukraine.

“I very much hope that we’ll be back on air. How, where, on what platforms, and what will it look like – we don’t know yet,” Natalia Sindeeva, TV Rain’s general director, said in a speech delivered moments before employees walked out of the studio and the channel went dark.

Navalny calls for March 6 protests in Russia, across the world

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has called on Russians to protest against the war in Ukraine in cities across Russia and the world on March 6.

“Show the world that Russians don’t want war. Come out in the squares of Berlin, New York, Amsterdam or Melbourne, wherever you are. Now we are all responsible for Russia’s future. For what Russia will be in the eyes of the world,” Navalny said in a post on his blog.

“You may be scared, but to submit to this fear is to side with fascists and murderers. Putin has already snatched away from Russia its economy, relations with the world and hope for a future,” he added.

Several rounds of anti-war protests have already taken place in cities across Russia. More than 8,000 people have been arrested for taking part in the demonstrations, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info.

Ukraine reports deaths from nuclear plant blaze

Ukraine’s foreign ministry says that “several” people were killed and wounded in the now-extinguished fire that broke out as a result of Russia’s alleged attack on the Zaporizhzhia plant.

The site’s employees are monitoring the plant to make sure it is operating safely and that radiation levels do not spike following the blaze, the ministry, which did not specify an exact death toll, added in a statement on Facebook.

But it warned there could be major radioactive damage if the facility’s cooling process is disturbed.

“Thousands of people – including civilians who are currently unable to evacuate the area near the plant due to ongoing shelling and fighting – would be hurt by this,” the ministry said.

It also called for Kyiv’s allies to take “urgent steps” to force Russian troops to withdraw from the area in order to ensure the facility’s safety.

Moscow has blamed the attack at the site on Ukrainian saboteurs, calling it a “monstrous provocation”.

BBC ban in Russia ‘won’t save Putin from truth’, UK minister says

The United Kingdom’s defence minister has slammed Russia’s move to cut domestic access to several foreign news outlets, including the BBC, as “an outrageous step”.

“I think it’s the wrong thing to do, it won’t save President Putin from the truth,” Ben Wallace told journalists after a meeting with his Danish and Swedish counterparts in Copenhagen.

“It is an outrageous step against our freedoms,” he added.

The BBC Press Office has issued advice in English, Russian and Ukrainian on how to get around Russia’s restrictions.

NATO chief warns of ‘more deaths and suffering’ to come

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned the war in Ukraine will lead to more deaths and destruction over the coming days as he appealed to Putin to withdraw all Russian troops without conditions.

“The days to come are likely to be worse, with more deaths, more suffering and more destruction,” Stoltenberg told reporters after a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

But he ruled out sending NATO troops to Ukraine or setting up a no-fly zone over the country, as has been requested by Kyiv, amid fears such moves would draw the alliance into a direct military confrontation with Russia.

“Allies agree we should not have NATO planes operating in Ukrainian air space or NATO troops on Ukraine’s territory,” Stoltenberg said.

Q&A: Moscow’s ‘lone climate protester’ confronts war on Ukraine

Arshak Makichyan, 27, is a prominent activist who has been protesting in the Russian capital for years, warning people against the dangers of climate change.

His efforts have seen him nicknamed Moscow’s “lone climate protester”, as a law in Russia bans unsanctioned protests of more than one person.

But now, with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, mass protests are needed, Makichyan told Al Jazeera.

Read more on what he had to say about the war here.

Majority of Swedes now in favour of joining NATO: Poll

A majority of Swedes are now in favour of joining NATO following Russia’s invasion, according to a new opinion poll, with Moscow’s assault seemingly spurring a rapid shift in attitudes in a country long known for neutrality.

A poll commissioned by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet showed 51 percent of Swedes are now in favour of NATO, up from 42 percent in January. The number of those opposed to joining the alliance fell to 27 percent from 37 percent.

The data, compiled by Demoskop, marks the first time any poll has shown a majority of Swedes back NATO membership.

Stoltenberg said in January that Sweden could join the alliance “very quickly” if it decided to apply for membership.

INTERACTIVE- NATO history and expansion

Kremlin calls for Russians to ‘unite’ around Putin

The Kremlin has urged Russians to rally around Putin as Moscow continues its offensive.

“Now is not the time to divide, now is the time for all to unite, be together, and unite of course around our president,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s told reporters on a call.

He added that what happened next in Ukraine would depend on Kyiv’s reaction to this week’s negotiations between the two sides.

Peskov said that Russian officials had told their Ukrainian counterparts their “vision of solving this problem”.

Germany says 18,000 refugees have arrived from Ukraine

More than 18,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine to Germany since Moscow launched its incursion, a German Interior Ministry spokesman said.

About 3,000 of those who had entered the country were not Ukrainian nationals, the spokesman added.

“But of course, people who are now fleeing the war zone can enter the EU, regardless of whether they are Ukrainian asylum seekers or third-country nationals,” he said.

_INTERACTIVE- Where are Ukrainians fleeing to

Putin says Russia’s neighbours should not escalate tensions

Putin has urged Russia’s neighbours not to escalate tensions with Moscow by imposing more sanctions or restrictions on his country, saying the Kremlin has “no bad intentions” towards them.

“I would … advise them [our neighbours] not to escalate the situation, not to introduce any restrictions,” the Russian president said in televised remarks.

“We do not see any need here to aggravate or worsen our relations. And all our actions, if they arise, they always arise exclusively in response to some unfriendly actions, actions against the Russian Federation,” he added.

“I think everyone must think about how to normalise relations, co-operate normally and develop relations normally.”

Putin was shown taking part online, from his residence outside Moscow, in a flag-raising ceremony for a ferry in northern Russia.

Russian advance on Mykolayiv has been halted, Zelenskyy adviser says

A Russian advance on the southern port city of Mykolayiv has been halted, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

“We can feel cautious optimism about the future prospects of the enemy offensive – I think that it will be stopped in other areas also,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised briefing.

His remarks came after local authorities reported Russian troops had entered the shipbuilding hub on the Black Sea for the first time.

Governor Vitaliy Kim said fighting was under way in parts of the city. “Let’s not get nervous,” Kim said in a video statement shared online.

UN rights body approves probe into alleged Russian violations in Ukraine

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has voted in favour of a resolution condemning alleged rights violations during Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate them.

“It is our common duty to ensure accountability by mandating the documentation and verification of Russia’s crimes and identification of those responsible,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, told the Council minutes before the vote.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine. Its own delegate, Evgeny Ustinov, told the Council that the resolution’s backers “will use any means to blame Russia for the events in Ukraine”.

Russia blames attack at nuclear power station on Ukrainian saboteurs

Russia’s defence ministry has blamed the attack at the Zaporizhzhia plant on Ukrainian saboteurs, calling it a “monstrous provocation”.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the facility was operating normally and claimed the area had been under Russian control since Monday.

“However, last night, on the territory adjacent to the power plant, an attempt was made by the Kyiv nationalist regime to carry out a monstrous provocation,” Konashenkov said.

“On March 4 at about 2 am during a patrol of guarded territory adjacent to the … plant, a mobile patrol of the National Guard came under attack from a Ukrainian sabotage group,” he added.

“To provoke return fire on the building, heavy small arms fire was opened on Russian National Guard servicemen from the windows of several floors of a training complex located outside the power plant.”

Konashenkov said the Russian patrol returned fire to suppress the attack, and the “sabotage group” abandoned the training complex, setting fire to it as they left.

His account was diametrically opposed to the version of events put forward by Kyiv, which said Russian forces attacked the plant in the early hours of Friday, setting an adjacent five-storey training facility on fire.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify either the Russian or the Ukrainian account of the incident.

Surveillance camera footage shows a flare landing at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during shelling in Enerhodar, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine March 4, 2022,
Moscow and Kyiv have traded contradictory accusations over the blaze at the Zaporizhzhia plant [Zaporizhzhia NPP via YouTube via Reuters]

Italy’s Draghi condemns ‘atrocious’ Russian attack on nuclear plant

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has condemned what he described as Russia’s “atrocious attack” on the Zaporizhzhia plant, saying it threatens “everyone’s security”.

“The European Union must continue to react united and with the utmost firmness, together with its allies, to support Ukraine and protect European citizens,” Draghi’s office said in a statement.

Belarusian forces will not be mobilised in Ukraine, Lukashenko says

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country’s troops are not currently taking part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and will not participate in the offensive in the future either.

A close ally of Moscow, Lukashenko said he spoke to Putin at length by telephone on Friday.

Russia has used Belarusian territory to carry out its multipronged invasion of Ukraine.

No radiation release at Ukraine plant, UN nuclear watchdog says

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog says there has been no release of radioactive material at the Zaporizhzhia plant following Russia’s alleged attack on the site.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been in contact with the Ukrainian nuclear regulator and staff at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Addressing reporters at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna, Grossi said no damage had been done to the site’s six reactors but that two people on the site were injured in the fire there.

He added that the plant’s operators and the Ukrainian regulator have warned the situation at the site “continues to be extremely tense and challenging”.

Of the plant’s reactor units, Unit 1 is shut down for maintenance, Units 2 and 3 have undergone a controlled shut down, Unit 4 is operating at 60 percent power and Units 5 and 6 are being held “in reserve” in low power mode, according to the IAEA.

Miles-long Russian military convoy ‘essentially stalled’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says the miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv “is essentially stalled”.

“According to satellite imagery and Western intelligence agencies … it hasn’t moved, barely an inch, in three days now,” Hull said.

“They speculate about the causes of that, they are potentially multiple – logistical, mechanical, morale-related and potentially resistance-related as well,” he added.

“There are suggestions that all sorts of things are going wrong … but the simple fact is this convoy may be bogged down now, but it is at some point going to get started again.”

BBC says Russian block will not stop it providing accurate news

The BBC says it will continue to try and make its news available in Russia after the country’s media watchdog moved to restrict access to the British broadcaster’s Russian-language websites.

“Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia, millions of whom rely on BBC News every week,” the BBC said in a statement.

“We will continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia, and across the rest of the world,” it added.

Ukraine’s president urges Russians to protest against seizure of nuclear infrastructure

Zelenskyy has appealed to Russians to stage protests against Moscow’s seizure of nuclear power infrastructure in Ukraine.

“Russian people, I want to appeal to you: how is this possible? After all, we fought together in 1986 against the Chernobyl catastrophe,” he said in a televised address.

Blinken says NATO does not seek conflict with Russia, but warns alliance is ready for it

NATO will defend all its allies and territory in the event of any Russian attack on the United States-led transatlantic military alliance, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“Ours is a defensive alliance. We seek no conflict. But if conflict comes to us we are ready for it and we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Blinken told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Brussels.

“And overnight, we’ve also seen reports about the attack against a nuclear power plant. This just demonstrates the recklessness of this war and the importance of ending it and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engaging in good faith in diplomatic efforts,” he added.

INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

France activates crisis cell at nuclear watchdog

France has activated the crisis cell of its Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) watchdog after the fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant, the country’s energy minister says.

Barbara Pompili said in a tweet that no changes in radiation levels had been recorded at the site. She added that “more than ever, the only desirable outcome is de-escalation”.

Death toll from air raids in Chernihiv rises to 47, local authorities say

Regional authorities in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region have said 47 people were killed during Russian air raids on a residential district on Thursday, in an upwards revision of the death toll from an earlier figure of 33.

Rescue work in the affected area had to be suspended on Thursday due to heavy shelling, according to the local emergency services.

Kyiv says it will not share details of any Russia talks in advance

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says Kyiv will not share details on the timing or location of any talks with Russia in advance.

Arestovych remarks, delivered in a video broadcast, came after negotiators from both sides said a third round of discussions could take place early next week following the second meeting on Thursday.

Russia to introduce jail terms for spreading ‘fake’ information about army

Russia’s lower house of parliament has approved a proposed law that would allow authorities to imprison people for up to 15 years if they are convicted of spreading intentionally “fake” information about the country’s armed forces.

The bill, which also makes calling for sanctions against Russia a criminal offence, comes as Moscow ramps up its efforts to control the domestic narrative over its war in Ukraine.

“If the fakes lead to serious consequences then imprisonment of up to 15 years threatens,” the lower house of parliament, known as the Duma in Russian, said in a statement.

Russia’s upper house of parliament must now approve the bill, which it is expected to do, after which it will be passed to Putin for him to sign it into law.

Calls for NATO no-fly zone in Ukraine ‘irresponsible’, Lithuanian PM says

Calls for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine are irresponsible, Lithuania’s prime minister has said, warning such a measure would risk dragging the alliance into direct conflict with Russia.

“I believe that all encouragements for NATO to get involved in the military conflict now are irresponsible,” Ingrida Simonyte told a news conference in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

The term “no-fly zone” refers to an area of airspace in which it has been determined that certain aircraft are not permitted to fly. In a conflict setting, the measure is primarily used to prevent aerial attacks from taking place.

China calls for Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to be safeguarded

China’s foreign ministry has urged all sides to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine amid fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

“We will monitor the situation and call on all sides to exercise restraint, avoid escalation and ensure the safety of relevant nuclear facilities,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing.

Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy and is home to 15 reactors, which generate about half of the country’s electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association.

INTERACTIVE - Zaporizhzhia

Western leaders condemn Russia’s Zaporizhzhia attack

Several Western leaders have strongly condemned Russia’s alleged attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, accusing Moscow of a “reckless” assault.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson slammed the assault as “reckless”, warning it could “directly threaten the safety of all of Europe”.

His remarks came after the US and Canada also voiced concern.

US President Joe Biden urged “Russia to cease its military activities in the area”, a call that was echoed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who demanded Moscow immediately stop its “unacceptable attacks”.

Russian forces seize control of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Russian troops have seized control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to local officials and the Ukrainian nuclear inspectorate.

The inspectorate said staff at the facility were continuing to operate the reactor and supply power according to normal safety rules.

UK says Mariupol under Ukrainian control, but subject to intense strikes

The key port city of Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but has been encircled by Russian forces, according to the UK’s defence ministry.

In its latest daily intelligence update, the ministry said the city’s civilian infrastructure had been “subjected to intense Russian strikes”.

Russia curbs access to BBC, Deutsche Welle and other media

Russia’s state communications regulator says it has restricted access to several independent media websites, including the BBC, following a request from prosecutors.

Access to the Latvian-based independent news website Meduza, the Russian-language website of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Svoboda, and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s page was also “limited” by Roskomnadzor.

The agency said in each case, the prosecutors’ request was filed on February 24 – the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Okhtyrka without heat, electricity

A Russian air attack has destroyed the power plant in Okhtyrka, a city located between Kharkiv and Kyiv, leaving residents without heat or electricity, according to the head of the region.

“We are trying to figure out how to get people out of the city urgently, because in a day the apartment buildings will turn into a cold stone trap without water, light or electricity,” Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said on Telegram.

The raid took place on Thursday.

Okhtyrka is home to a key military base, where some 70 Ukrainian soldiers died last week in a Russian attack.

China-led bank halts business in Russia, Belarus

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says it has put all activities related to Russia and Belarus on hold in light of “the evolving economic and financial situation”.

The move is a further sign of the limits of Beijing’s support for Moscow as it faces censure over the war in Ukraine.

Read more here.

Fire at Ukraine nuclear plant ‘extinguished’

Emergency services in Ukraine say they have extinguished a fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

“At 06:20 [04:20 GMT] the fire in the training building of Zaporizhzhia NPP in Energodar was extinguished. There are no victims,” the emergency services said in a statement on Facebook.

Emergency services able to access nuclear plant

Ukraine’s emergency services say they have gained access to the Zaporizhzhia plant, where a fire erupted after alleged shelling by the Russian military.

“As of 05:20 at the Zaporizhzhia NPP in Energodar, State Emergency Service units went to put out the fire in the training building,” the state emergency services wrote on Facebook, noting that 40 people and 10 vehicles were involved in the operation.

Boris Johnson to seek UN Security Council meeting

Johnson’s office has said he will seek an emergency UN Security Council meeting after Russian troops allegedly attacked Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and sparked a fire there.

The British prime minister spoke to Zelenskyy in the early hours of Friday morning, his office said in a statement.

It added that he and Zelenskyy agreed that Russia must immediately cease attacking and allow emergency services unfettered access to the plant.

“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” Johnson’s office said. “He said [the UK] would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Johnson has accused Russian forces of carrying out war crimes in Ukraine under Putin’s orders [File: Dylan Martinez/Reuters]

US waives COVID test for Americans leaving Russia, Belarus

The US is waiving a requirement for negative COVID-19 tests from Americans leaving Belarus or Russia to travel home, the State Department has said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it would exercise its discretion to allow travel by US citizens, permanent residents and holders of valid immigrant visas who were in either country by a February 28 cut-off date.

Nuclear reactors being safely shut down

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm has said the reactors at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station “are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down”.

Granholm said on Twitter she had just spoken with Ukraine’s energy minister about the situation at the plant, where a fire broke out during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

“We have seen no elevated radiation readings near the facility,” Granholm said.

Ukraine says ‘essential’ equipment at plant not affected by fire: IAEA

The IAEA has said local officials told it the “essential” equipment at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is unaffected by the fire there.

“#Ukraine tells IAEA that fire at site of #Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has not affected ‘essential’ equipment, plant personnel taking mitigatory actions,” the UN’s nuclear watchdog said in a tweet.

Biden gets update on Ukraine nuclear plant fire from Zelenskyy

Biden spoke with Zelenskyy to receive an update on the fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the White House has said.

The US president joined Zelenskyy “in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” the statement said.

Biden also received an update on the situation from the US Energy Department’s under secretary for nuclear security, it said.

Nuclear reactors ‘not meant to be exposed to missiles’, analyst says

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said “we don’t know much” about the details of the fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

But, these machines are “not meant to be exposed to missiles and high explosives – they’re not designed for this,” Sokolski told Al Jazeera.

“The power plant itself, if it was hit, would not generate the radioactivity or in all likelihood that Chernobyl did,” he said, referring to the site of a plant where radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster 36 years ago.

“But if the spent fuel pond, which is where they put the used fuel, was hit – it could easily by a multiple of the effect of Chernobyl,” he said. “It depends on what you hit and what happens to what you hit.”

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terror’

Zelenskyy has accused Moscow of resorting to “nuclear terror” and wanting to “repeat” the Chernobyl disaster after he said Russian forces shot at a nuclear power plant.

“No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units. This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind. The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror,” he said in a video message.

Situation at Ukrainian nuclear plant ‘secured’, authorities say

Ukrainian authorities say the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has now been safely secured after a fire broke out at the facility when it allegedly came under fire from Russian forces.

“The director of the plant said that the nuclear safety is now guaranteed. According to those responsible for the plant, a training building and a laboratory were affected by the fire,” Oleksandr Starukh, head of the military administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Facebook.

US, other OSCE nations to review reports of humanitarian abuses

The US and 44 other member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will review reports of humanitarian abuses by Russia in Ukraine, the US State Department has said.

Russia and Ukraine are both members of the body.

IAEA warns of ‘severe danger’ if nuclear reactors hit

The UN’s nuclear watchdog has urged Russian forces to stop attacking Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, warning of “severe danger” if the reactors were hit.

“IAEA Director General @RafaelMGrossi speaks with #Ukraine PM Denys Shmygal and with Ukrainian nuclear regulator and operator about serious situation at #Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, appeals for halt of use of force and warns of severe danger if reactors hit,” the International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted.

US, Ukrainian officials discuss aid to Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed additional security, economic and humanitarian support needed by Ukraine in a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the State Department has said.

Radiation level unchanged at Zaporizhzhia

Background radiation levels remain unchanged at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant where a fire has broken out following an alleged attack by Russian forces, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency has reported, citing a plant spokesman.

Separately, the UN’s nuclear watchdog said Ukraine’s regulator reported “no change” in radiation levels at the plant site.

Russian army ‘firing from all sides’ at blazing nuclear plant

Russian troops are “firing from all sides” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s foreign minister has said.

“If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl!,” Kuleba warned on Twitter, referring to the site of another plant where radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster 36 years ago.

He added: “Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

Firefighters unable to extinguish blaze at nuclear plant

So far, firefighters have not been able to start extinguishing a fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant due to continuing Russian shelling, the town’s mayor has said, according to the Nexta news outlet.

The plant was set ablaze earlier after an attack by Russian troops, Enerdohar’s Mayor Dmytro Orlov said.

EU agrees to offer protection to Ukraine refugees

The EU has agreed to approve temporary protection for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine while also setting up a humanitarian hub in Romania.

EU interior ministers agreed at a Brussels meeting to activate a temporary protection mechanism that was drawn up two decades ago in response to the wars in the former Yugoslavia but never used at the time.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who attended the meeting, praised the move as “historic”.

“The EU stands united to save lives!” she tweeted.

Zaporizhzhia power plant is on fire, says mayor of local town

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire after an attack by Russian troops, the mayor of the nearby town of Enerdohar has said.

“As a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is on fire,” Orlov said.

US grants temporary protection to Ukrainians in the country

Biden’s administration has said it is shielding Ukrainian citizens already in the country from deportation.

The US Department of Homeland Security said it is offering temporary protected status (TPS) to Ukrainians for 18 months because the current situation prevents them from safely returning to the country.

“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,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said.

Russian-owned SCF oil tankers returning to Russia

Two oil tankers owned and managed by Sovcomflot, the Russian maritime and freight shipping company that the US blacklisted last week, are rerouting from their Canadian destinations, while another is returning to Russia after discharging, according to tracking data and marine sources.

The two tankers are the first Russian-owned oil vessels to change course after Canada this week ratcheted up pressure on Russia by shutting ports to Russian-owned ships and barring them from Canadian waters.

“It’s incredibly confusing for where these ships go, whether they will be received or not and if ports will accept them,” said Dan Yergin, vice chairman of energy research and consultancy IHS Markit.

IDPs recount spending ‘days and days’ without food

Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people fleeing the conflict are being housed in public buildings in the outskirts of Dnipro.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from a public school that is being used as a temporary shelter, said many fleeing from Kharkiv and Mariupol, as well as eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region had arrived at the facility. They will soon be continuing their journey to try and reach the nearest border.

“There are a lot of people here … a lot of children,” Abdel-Hamid said.

“Those who are fleeing Kharkiv told me how they spent days and days in the shelter with no food, in the cold, not being able at any point to go out,” she added.

Many said they “don’t know if they will ever return,” Abdel-Hamid said.

IDPs Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a major humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Czech Republic to send additional military aid to Ukraine

The Czech Republic will send an additional military aid package worth 17 million crowns ($730,000) to Ukraine, including light weapons and ammunition rounds, the defence ministry has said.

The ministry said on its Twitter account the package included hundreds of machine guns or assault rifles and more than 100,0000 ammunition rounds from Czech weapons groups, such as CZG-Ceska Zbrojovka Group.

Saudi crown prince supports de-escalation in call with Zelenskyy

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has told Ukraine’s president in a phone call that Saudi Arabia is willing to mediate between Russia, Ukraine and all parties related to the continuing crisis, the kingdom’s state news agency reported.

The Saudi leader, known as MBS, also said the Gulf kingdom will extend the visas of Ukrainian visitors, tourists and residents in the country.

WHO fears more vulnerable refugees could flee Ukraine

The next wave of refugees to flee Ukraine is likely to be even more vulnerable to illness and economic hardship than the one million people who have already left, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.

Speaking from a warehouse in Warsaw, Poland, where the WHO is coordinating the delivery of 36 tonnes of medical aid to Ukraine, Europe Director Hans Kluge said the “humanitarian catastrophe” was set to worsen as Russian troops surround and bombard major Ukrainian cities.

“If the military conflict escalates, that means we are going to see more and more very vulnerable people coming with only the clothes on their body,” Kluge told the Reuters news agency.

INTERACTIVE_Refugees DAY 8 - March 3 - one million

Senegal calls Ukraine embassy war recruitment post illegal

Senegal’s foreign ministry has condemned as illegal a Facebook post by Ukraine’s embassy that called for Senegalese volunteers to join its fight against Russia.

The recruitment of volunteers, mercenaries and other foreign fighters is illegal in Senegal and punishable by law, the ministry said in a statement.

Ukrainian ambassador Yurii Pyvovarov was summoned to the ministry to explain the post, where after verifying its legitimacy he was asked to take it down, the statement said.

Fresh US sanctions target Russian elites, Putin’s inner circle

The White House has announced additional sanctions on several wealthy Russian elites and individuals in Putin’s inner circle, including Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman.

The sanctions, which include visa restrictions and seizure of assets, target 19 “oligarchs” and 47 of their family members.

Read more here.

Zelenskyy asks Putin to meet for talks

Zelenskyy has challenged Putin to sit down for talks while urging the West to offer stronger military assistance to Ukraine.

In a sarcastic reference to a long table Putin used for his recent meetings with foreign leaders and Russian officials, Zelenskyy said: “Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 metres.”

The Ukrainian president added: “I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?”

Zelenskyy said that prospects for another round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiations do not seem promising, but emphasised the need to negotiate, adding that “any words are more important than shots”.

Russian troops head to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine

The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Enerdohar has said a column of Russian troops was headed towards the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant late on Thursday.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian troops were stepping up efforts to seize the plant and had entered Enerdohar with tanks.

“Loud shots can be heard in the town,” Mayor Dmytro Orlov said in a statement posted online.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Thursday, March 3, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies