Russia-Ukraine (March 2): Russian Troops in Kherson, Mayor Says

Russia-Ukraine (March 2): Russian Troops in Kherson, Mayor Says
A military truck and tank are seen on a street of Kherson, Ukraine, on March 1, 2022. (Screenshot via Reuters)
The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, March 2. Click here for updates from March 1.

Russian Troops in Kherson, Mayor Says

Russian troops are in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and forced their way into the council building, the mayor said after a day of conflicting claims over whether Moscow had made the first major gain of a city in its eight-day-long invasion.

The Black Sea port of Kherson, a southern provincial capital of around 250,000 people, is strategically placed where the Dnipro River flows into the Black Sea and would be the first significant city to fall into Moscow's hands.

Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday morning it had captured Kherson, but several hours later an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky responded the Ukrainian side was continuing to defend the location.

Late on Wednesday, Mayor Igor Kolykhayev said Russian troops were in the streets.

"There were armed visitors in the city executive committee today," he said in a statement. "I didn't make any promises to them ... I just asked them not to shoot people."

He called on civilians to walk through the streets only in daylight and in ones and twos.


Ukraine Refugees Reach 1 Million in 7 Days

The U.N. refugee agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion less than a week ago, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.

The tally from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week. The World Bank counted the population at 44 million at the end of 2020.

The U.N. agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward.

In an email, UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams wrote: “Our data indicates we passed the 1M mark” as of midnight in central Europe, based on counts collected by national authorities.

On Twitter, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, wrote: “In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.”


Biden Hails UN Vote Over Russia's Attack on Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden is hailing Wednesday’s vote by the United Nations General Assembly demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, saying it “demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor.”

In a statement Wednesday evening, Biden said the U.N. vote recognizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “attacking the very foundations of global peace and security—and everything the United Nations stands for.”

The vote on the “Aggression against Ukraine” resolution was 141–5, with 35 abstentions.

Echoing his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden said: “Together, we must—and we will—hold Russia accountable for its actions. We will demonstrate that freedom always triumphs over tyranny.”


Prosecutor to Investigate Potential War Crimes

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide in Ukraine dating back to 2013, but also covering the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said he launched the probe after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation, a process known as a referral.

“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan said in a statement.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” he added.


Ukrainian Brewery Trades Beer for Molotov Cocktails in Fight Against Russia Invasion

A Ukrainian brewery has traded in craft beer for Molotov cocktails in the fight against Russia’s military invasion.

It comes after residents in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv were told to “make Molotov cocktails” last month following Russia’s invasion.

“We ask citizens to inform about the movement of [Russian] equipment! Make Molotov cocktails, neutralize the occupier! Peaceful residents—be careful! Do not leave the house!” the Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter, according to a translation.


US Delays Missile Test Launch in Attempt to Tone Down Russia Nuclear Tensions

The United States has postponed a test missile launch to try to demonstrate it has no intention of getting into a nuclear war, the military said March 2.

“In an effort that we have no intention of engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, scheduled for this week, to be postponed,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

The launch was going to be held by the Air Force. Military officials declined to say when or where it would have been held.


Sweden Scrambles Fighter Jets After Russia Allegedly Violated Airspace

Swedish officials on Wednesday accused four Russian fighter jets of violating its airspace over the Baltic Sea.

The jets, identified as two SU-27 and two SU-24 fighters, flew over Swedish airspace near Gotland Island, according to the Swedish Armed Forces. The incident occurred earlier on Wednesday.

“With the current situation as backdrop, we take this incident very seriously. Russia’s conduct is unprofessional and irresponsible,” Swedish Air Force chief Carl-Johan Edstrom said in a statement.


Russian Economy Taking 'Serious Blows'

Top Russian officials acknowledged that Western sanctions have dealt “serious blows” to Russia’s economy as Moscow continues its attack on Ukraine.

“Russia’s economy is experiencing serious blows,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN and other news outlets on Wednesday. “But there is a certain margin of safety, there is potential, there are some plans, work is underway,” he added.

Since Russia invaded its neighbor, the United States, European Union, and other countries have imposed harsh sanctions on Russia’s economy, including its Central Bank, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and its oligarchs.


China Will Not Join Sanctions on Russia

China will not join in sanctions on Russia that have been led by the West, the country's banking regulator said on Wednesday.

"As far as financial sanctions are concerned, we do not approve of these, especially the unilaterally launched sanctions because they do not work well and have no legal grounds," Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, told a news conference.

"We will not participate in such sanctions. We will continue to maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with relevant parties," he said.


UN Assembly Votes to Demand That Russia Stop War in Ukraine

The U.N. General Assembly voted at an emergency special session Wednesday to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine and withdrawal of all Russian troops, with very strong support from the world organization’s 193 member nations that sparked sustained applause.

The vote on the resolution, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine,” was 141–5 with 35 abstentions.

Russia got support for its appeal to vote against the resolution only from Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea.

The resolution states that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine “are on a scale that the international community has not seen in Europe in decades and that urgent action is needed to save this generation from the scourge of war.” It “urges the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict” and reaffirms the assembly’s commitment “to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”


Ukraine, Russia to Hold Talks on Thursday

A top aide for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukrainians are on their way to Belarus for talks that have been scheduled for Thursday.

“As far as I know, the Ukrainian delegation has already departed from Kyiv, is en route ... We’re expecting them tomorrow,” Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening.

According to Medinsky, the two sides agreed on the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, as the site of the talks.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office confirmed to The Associated Press that the delegation is on its way, but gave no details on the time of the arrival.


Russia Rejects Claims of 'Incalculable Losses'

The spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday rejected reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation” and revealed Russia’s military casualties in Ukraine for the first time since the start of the invasion last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.

Konashenkov also said that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise.

Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and some 3,700 more sustained injuries, while 572 others have been captured by the Russians. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the claim and it could not be immediately verified.


Biden Says US Is Open to Banning Russian Oil Imports

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he is open to banning Russian oil imports to penalize Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

“Are you considering banning Russian oil imports?” a reporter asked Biden on the White House lawn on Wednesday morning. “Nothing is off the table,” the president said.

Following the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the United States and European Union hammered Russia, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and top Russian banks with sanctions, while a number of private corporations, shipping firms, sporting leagues, and tech companies said they would refuse to do business in Russia.


Ukraine Denies Kherson Captured by Russia

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that Russia had not captured Kherson, a southern port city that Russia had earlier said it had seized.

Oleksiy Arestovych said fighting continued for the provincial capital of around a quarter of a million people, which sits at the Dnipro river's exit into the Black Sea.

"The city has not fallen, our side continues to defend," Arestovych told a live briefing broadcast on the website of the president's office. "Fighting in the streets continues."

"Information that Kherson has fallen and so on—that's not true. Our military and local defenders continue resisting in the city and around it."


Russians to Compete as 'Neutral Athletes' at Paralympics

Russians and Belarusians at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing will compete as “neutral athletes” because of their countries' roles in the war against Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said Wednesday.

Russian athletes had already been slated to compete as RPC, short for Russian Paralympic Committee, as punishment for the state-sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a subsequent cover-up.

The IPC added more restrictions when the Paralympics open on Friday, but stopped short of expulsion. Belarus was sanctioned for its part in aiding Russia with the invasion and war against Ukraine.

Both delegations will be excluded from the medal table, and the IPC said it would not hold events in either country “while the present situation continues."

Athletes from Russia and Belarus will compete under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem. The RPC delegation must cover the “RPC” symbol on uniforms in all events and ceremonies. The Belarus delegation must cover its national flag on uniforms.


Belarus President May Have Shared a Map of Russia's Invasion Plans

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko appeared to stand in front of a map that shows plans to invade the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova while he was holding a meeting with officials that was broadcast via state-run media.
"At today's security council meeting, Lukashenko showed what looks like an actual invasion map," Belarussian journalist Tadeusz Giczan wrote on Tuesday. "It shows Ukraine military facilities destroyed by missiles from Belarus, attacks directions ... Also, Ukraine is divided into 4 sectors."

The map appeared to show troop movements, including an apparent attack or occupation of what appears to be Transnistria from Odessa, a city located in southwestern Ukraine. The Russian military reportedly has troops stationed in the area.

During the broadcast, Lukashenko is heard telling his officials: "They warned us, and literally, six hours before the launch of the missiles, we discovered this," according to a translation.

Russia Batters Ukraine; Both Sides Say Ready for More Talks

Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.

The escalation of attacks on crowded cities followed an initial round of talks between outgunned Ukraine and nuclear power Russia on Monday that resulted in only a promise to meet again. It was not clear when new talks might take place—or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.

The bombardment continued Wednesday. Ukrainian UNIAN news agency quoted the health administration chief of the northern city of Chernihiv as saying two cruise missiles hit a hospital there.

The hospital's main building suffered damage, Serhiy Pivovar said, and authorities were working to determine the casualty toll. No other information was immediately available.

A Russian strike also hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city with a population of about 1.5 million, killing four people and wounding several, the state emergency service of Ukraine said. It added that residential buildings were also hit, but did not provide further details.

A blast blew the roof off of the five-story police building and set the top floor alight, according to videos and photos released by the service. Pieces of the building were strewn across adjacent streets.


Ford Suspends Operations in Russia

On Tuesday, American automobile manufacturer Ford said it has suspended operations in Russia, effective immediately, until further notice.

“Ford is deeply concerned about the invasion of Ukraine and the resultant threats to peace and stability. The situation has compelled us to reassess our operations in Russia,” Ford said.


Russia Says It Controls Ukraine's Kherson

A week after launching its invasion of Ukraine, Russia said its forces took control of the first sizable city on Wednesday, seizing Kherson in the south, as fighting raged around the country and Western nations tightened an economic noose around Russia.

More than half a million Ukrainians have fled the fighting since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of his southern neighbor nearly a week ago.

Russian bombardments of Ukrainian cities continued, with video posted on social media showing heavily damaged buildings around the second city of Kharkiv.

The invaders' advances have been met with fierce resistance by Ukrainian forces and a miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv has made little progress toward the capital.

The southeast city of Mariupol had been under intense shelling since late Tuesday and was unable to evacuate the wounded, according to its mayor.


Plot to Assassinate Zelensky Foiled, Top Ukrainian Official Says

An assassination attempt against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by Chechens has been foiled, a top Ukrainian official said.
An "elite group" of Chechens had arrived in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, to assassinate Zelensky, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said during a briefing, according to a Telegram post by Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications, a government office.

The Kadyrovites—made up of elite Chechen special forces—were allegedly sent to assassinate the Ukrainian president, and the group was split into two, said Danilov. One half was destroyed in Hostomel, a town northwest of Kyiv, and the other unit was “under fire” from Ukrainian forces.

“We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president,” Danilov said.


US Will Bar Russian Planes from American Airspace: Biden

At the State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that the United States will join several other western nations in barring Russian aircraft—including commercial and private flights—from entering U.S. airspace.

"Six days ago, Russia's Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world," Biden said. "He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined—he met the Ukrainian people."

"Yes, we the United States of America stand with the Ukrainian people," Biden continued. "Throughout our history, we've learned this lesson: When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving, and the cost, the threats to America and to the world keeps rising.

"That's why the NATO alliance was created, to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member along with 29 other nations."

Biden continued, "It matters. American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters."


Russian Bank Exiting Europe Amid Sanctions

Leading Russian bank Sberbank announced Wednesday it is pulling out of European markets amid tightening Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The bank said its subsidiaries in Europe were facing an “abnormal outflow of funds and a threat to the safety of employees and branches,” according to Russian news agencies. They did not provide details of the threats.

Authorities in Austria and Czech Republic had taken actions in recent days against Sberbank’s activities in Europe.

The move was the latest consequence of Russia’s invasion last week, which has led to warfare across Ukraine and unprecedented Western sanctions aimed at isolating Russia’s economy.


Sony Donating $2 Million to Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine

Sony is donating $2 million as humanitarian aid to Ukraine though the United Nations Refugee Agency and aid group Save the Children.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has already said it will halt theatrical releases in Russia. Upcoming films include "Morbius," featuring the Marvel comics hero.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly,” Sony Pictures said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Mickey Mikitani, chief executive of Japanese online retailer Rakuten, donated 1 billion yen ($8.7 million) to the Ukrainian government through the embassy in Japan.

Separately, the foreign ministry said the Japanese embassy in Kyiv is closing temporarily, with operations transferred to an office in Lviv, western Ukraine.

Isabel van Brugen, Joseph Lord, Katabella Roberts, Jack Phillips, Zachary Stieber, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics