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Ukraine updates, Day 8: Russian forces try breaking through civilian barricade protecting Europe’s biggest nuclear plant

The mayor of the strategically important southern city of Kherson confirmed it had fallen into enemy hands, and that Russia planned to set up a ‘military administration’ there

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  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday he believed some foreign leaders were preparing for war against Russia and that Moscow would press on with its military operation in Ukraine until “the end.”
  • The second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine may start in Belarus at 1200 GMT, Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted chief Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky as saying.
  • Mariupol city council said Russia was constantly and deliberately shelling critical civilian infrastructure in the Ukrainian southern port, leaving it without water, heating or power and preventing bringing supplies or evacuating people.
  • The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, following a request to do so by 39 of the court’s member states.
  • A missile or bomb hit a Bangladeshi-owned cargo ship in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Olvia, killing one of its crew members, and efforts were underway to rescue the others from the vessel, its owner said on Thursday.

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11:00 a.m. EST — Russian forces renew effort to seize nuclear power plant, say Ukrainian officials

Russian forces are stepping up efforts to seize control of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday.

Russian troops were trying to break through a barricade to the plant erected by local residents and territorial defence forces, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said in an online post.

Another adviser, Vadym Denysenko, said the situation was alarming with Russians entering Energodar town where the plant’s workers live.

Russia has already captured the defunct Chernobyl plant, some 100 km north of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

10:30 a.m. EST — At least 22 killed in air strikes in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, say emergency services

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At least 22 bodies have been recovered from rubble in the wake of Russian air strikes in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, the Ukrainian emergency services said in an online post.

It said rescue work was ongoing, without specifying where exactly the attack took place. Earlier the regional governor said at least nine people had been killed by an air strike on two schools and private houses.

10:00 a.m. EST — Ukraine presidential adviser says talks with Russia have started

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have started and the Ukrainian delegation’s agenda is to agree an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave front line communities, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said on Thursday.

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“We have started talking to Russia’s representatives,” said adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter.

Ukrainian Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov (L) shakes hands with Russian negotiators prior the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus’ Brest region on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – Russia and Ukraine will discuss a ceasefire at upcoming talks on the border between Poland and Belarus, Moscow’s chief negotiator said on March 2, nearly one week into Russia’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
Ukrainian Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov (L) shakes hands with Russian negotiators prior the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus’ Brest region on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – Russia and Ukraine will discuss a ceasefire at upcoming talks on the border between Poland and Belarus, Moscow’s chief negotiator said on March 2, nearly one week into Russia’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbour. Photo by Maxim GUCHEK / BELTA / AFP

09:30 a.m. EST — Russia’s Lavrov says a third World War would be nuclear and destructive

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that if a third World War were to take place, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive, the RIA news agency reported.

Lavrov has said that Russia, which launched what it calls a special military operation against Ukraine last week, would face a “real danger” if Kyiv acquired nuclear weapons.

09:00 a.m. EST — Ukrainian delegation arrived for talks with Russia in Belarus

The Ukrainian delegation of negotiators has arrived by helicopter for talks with the Russian side in Belarus, Russian state news agency TASS said on Thursday, citing its reporter on the ground.

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08:30 a.m. EST — Ukraine regional governor says nine killed after Russian air strike hits two schools

At least nine people have been killed and four wounded after a Russian air strike hit two schools and private houses in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region on Thursday, governor Viacheslav Chaus said in an online post.

“Rescue work is ongoing. According to the state emergency services, there are for now nine people killed and four wounded,” he said.

This grab made from a handout video released by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, shows a damaged apartment building which is said was hit by shelling in Chernihiv on March 3, 2022. – Nine people died and four were injured after Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools, in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, the local governor said on March 3.
This grab made from a handout video released by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, shows a damaged apartment building which is said was hit by shelling in Chernihiv on March 3, 2022. – Nine people died and four were injured after Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools, in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, the local governor said on March 3. Photo by HANDOUT/UKRAINE EMERGENCY MINISTRY PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

08:00 a.m. EST — Cargo ship sinks off Odessa after explosion, crew members missing

The Estonian-owned cargo ship Helt sunk on Thursday off the Ukrainian port of Odessa after an explosion, the vessel’s manager said.

Two crew members were in a life raft at sea while four others were unaccounted for, Igor Ilves, managing director of Tallinn-based manager Vista Shipping Agency, told Reuters.

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“The vessel has finally sunk,” he said. “Two of the crew are in a raft on the water and four others are missing. I don’t know where they are at the moment.”

Ilves said the vessel might have struck a mine.

07:00 a.m. EST — Russian, Belarusian athletes barred from Beijing Paralympics

Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from the Winter Paralympics in Beijing on the eve of the Games following threats of boycotts by other teams over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.

Thursday’s decision comes a day after the IPC gave athletes from the two countries the green light to participate in the March 4-13 Games as neutrals, saying the “athletes were not the aggressors.”

But that led to an outcry and threats from other countries’ National Paralympic Committees (NPC) to boycott the Games, IPC President Andrew Parsons told a news conference in Beijing.

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06:30 a.m. EST — Russian forces have control of Kherson regional administration, says governor

Russian forces have occupied the regional administration building in Ukraine’s port city of Kherson, regional governor Hennadiy Laguta said in an online post on Thursday.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had captured Kherson on Wednesday but Ukraine has said its forces continue to defend the Black Sea port of about 250,000 people.

The mayor of the strategically important southern city of Kherson confirmed it had fallen into enemy hands, and that Russia planned to set up a “military administration” there.

It means that Putin has now established a bridgehead from which his forces can cross the River Dnieper, which cuts Ukraine in two, and head westwards and northwards to attack Kyiv from a second direction.

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Despite a pledge from Putin last week that he would not target cities or civilians, the southern port city of Mariupol is being “flattened”, with its water and electricity supplies cut off and rail links shut down. Intelligence chiefs suggested Mr Putin had adopted “classic siege” tactics. “Their mission is to destroy us,” said the city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko. “We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.”

Last night, a powerful explosion was reported near the central railway station in Kyiv, through which thousands of women and children are being evacuated, as a senior US official said that Russia was becoming more aggressive in targeting infrastructure in the capital. Ukraine also warned that Putin is planning to use his Black Sea fleet to launch a seaborne invasion in the south west of the country.

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Last night, Igor Kolykhayev, the mayor of Kherson, finally admitted defeat, making his city the first to fall to Russian forces.

He announced the surrender of Kherson in a Facebook post, in which he said “armed visitors” had taken part in a city executive meeting and that he had agreed to conditions including a curfew and a ban on groups of more than two people walking together in public. He said he had “nothing to promise” the invaders, but indicated that he had no choice but to agree to hand over the city because it was being defended by civilians.

06:00 a.m. EST — Bangladesh cargo ship hit in Ukraine, crew member killed -ship owner

A missile or bomb hit a Bangladeshi-owned cargo ship in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Olvia, killing one of its crew members, and efforts were underway to rescue the others from the vessel, its owner said on Thursday.

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“The ship came under attack and one engineer was killed,” Pijush Dutta, executive director of Bangladesh Shipping Corp, told Reuters. “It was not clear whether it was a bomb or missile or which side launched the attack. The other 28 crewmen are unharmed,” he said, without providing further details.

The Bangladesh-flagged Banglar Samriddhi had been stuck at the port of Olvia since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, and was hit by a missile, a Bangladeshi foreign ministry official said earlier on Thursday.

The vessel was struck on Wednesday evening and videos on social media showed crew members asking for help.

In one video, the vessel’s second engineer said the ship had been hit by a rocket with one crewmate already dead.

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“We have no power supply. Emergency generator power supply is running. We are on the verge of death. We have not been rescued yet. Please save us,” the seafarer said.

05:50 a.m. EST — Tide of Ukrainian refugees grows as UN says a million have fled

A growing tide of Ukrainian refugees fleeing a brutal Russian invasion streamed into central Europe on Thursday, as volunteers and officials accelerated efforts to process arrivals whose numbers a U.N. official said had crossed the one million mark.

In the week since President Vladimir Putin ordered the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, most of those escaping have crossed into the European Union – membership of which Ukraine aspires to – in eastern Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary and northern Romania.

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Authorities have pitched tents to provide medical aid and process asylum papers.

Poland, whose Ukrainian community of around 1 million is the region’s largest, has welcomed a big chunk of the arrivals with officials estimating around 575,000 people have so far entered from Ukraine. Nearly 100,000 crossed on Wednesday alone.

05:20 a.m. EST —We are being destroyed,” city council of Ukraine’s Mariupol says

Mariupol city council said Russian forces were constantly and deliberately shelling vital civilian infrastructure in the southeastern Ukrainian port, leaving it without water, heating or power and preventing bringing supplies or evacuating people.

“They are breaking food supplies, setting us up in a blockade, as in the old Leningrad,” it said in a statement, referring to Nazi Germany’s protracted siege of the then-Soviet city now known as St. Petersburg during World War Two. Around 1.5 million people died in the more than two-year-long siege.

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“Deliberately, for seven days, they have been destroying (Mariupol’s) critical life-support infrastructure. We have no light, water or heat again,” the council said.

It added that it was seeking to create a humanitarian corridor for Mariupol, as well as trying to restore infrastructure.

“Mariupol remains under fire. Women, children and the elderly are suffering. We are being destroyed as a nation. This is genocide of the Ukrainian people,” it said.

04:50 a.m. EST — Russia-Ukraine talks may start within hours

The second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine may start in Belarus at 1200 GMT, Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted chief Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky as saying.

04:40 a.m. EST — Lavrov says he believes some leaders are preparing for war against Russia

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Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state television on Thursday that he believed some foreign leaders were preparing for war against Russia.

He also accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of presiding over “a society where Nazism is flourishing.”

04:20 a.m. EST — Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says defence lines holding against Russian attacks

Ukraine’s defense lines were holding against the Russian attack, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his latest video on Thursday, adding there had been no respite in Moscow’s shelling of Ukraine since midnight.

“We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” Zelenskyy said, adding Ukraine was receiving daily arms supplies from its international allies.

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Zelenskiy said Russia’s changing tactics and shelling of civilians in cities proved Ukraine was successful in resisting Moscow’s initial plan of claiming a quick victory through a land assault.

03:30 a.m. EST — Ukraine says 34 civilians killed in Kharkiv region, no water or power in Mariupol city

Russian shelling and attacks on civilian populations killed 34 civilians in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region in the past 24 hours between March 2-3, the emergency services said on Thursday.

Separately, the governor of the Ukraine-controlled eastern Donetsk region said the port city of Mariupol, one of the first targets of the Russian invasion, was without electricity or water supplies.

02:00 a.m. EST — France to call for ceasefire in Ukraine in UN Security Council, Russia hits communications facility in Kyiv, takes town near Kharkiv

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France will propose a resolution to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to demand a ceasefire to the war in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 2 television on Thursday.

The French presidency had said earlier that France envisaged taking such a step.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has the right to veto any substantive resolution.

Russian forces have struck a radio and television center in Kyiv and captured the town of Balakliya near the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying on Thursday.

Russian missiles struck a TV tower in Kyiv this week in what Moscow said was a targeted attack against Ukraine’s information warfare.

01:20 a.m. EST — Pro-Russian separatists threaten Ukraine’s Mariupol with strikes

Pro-Russian forces may launch targeted strikes on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol unless Ukrainian forces there surrender, the Interfax news agency quoted Donetsk separatist commander Eduard Basurin as saying on Thursday.

Russia and separatists say they have encircled the city of 430,000 located on the Azov Sea coast.

With additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg, The Washington Post and The Canadian Press

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