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Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 2

A woman looks at her phone as she walks past anti-tank constructions in the center of Kyiv on March 1, 2023.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EST.

10 p.m.: Divisions over assistance to Ukraine are looming in Estonia as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in which far-right nationalists are set to make gains, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Baltic state, a member of the EU and NATO, has led international calls over the past year for more military aid to help Ukraine fight Russia's invasion.

However, the far-right EKRE has argued against providing Ukraine with more arms, saying that Estonia should not worsen its relationship with Russia.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas's Reform Party is set to win, according to opinion polls, but would likely have to form a coalition to stay in power.

"We support an open, friendly, Western-minded, European, smart country," Kallas told AFP.

9:20 p.m.: A senior Russian diplomat warned Thursday that increasing Western support for Ukraine could trigger an open conflict between nuclear powers, The Associated Press reported.

Speaking at the U.N. conference on disarmament, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the U.S. and its allies for openly declaring the goal of defeating Russia in a hybrid war, arguing that it violates their obligations under international agreements and is fraught with the war in Ukraine spilling out of control.

Ryabkov warned that "the U.S. and NATO policy of fueling the conflict in Ukraine" and their "increasing involvement in the military confrontation is fraught with a direct military clash of nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences."

He emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to suspend the 2010 New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the U.S. came in response to the U.S. and NATO action on Ukraine.

8:19 p.m.: The U.S. government on Thursday called on companies to ensure they comply with Russia-related sanctions imposed after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, warning that a failure to do so could lead to potential prosecution or enforcement actions.

"Given the proliferation of sanctions and export controls imposed in response to Russia's unjust war, multinational companies should be vigilant in their compliance efforts and be on the lookout for possible attempts to evade U.S. laws," the departments of Justice, Commerce and Treasury said in a joint notice. "Businesses of all stripes should act responsibly by implementing rigorous compliance controls."

The departments said "malign actors continue to try to evade Russia-related sanctions and export controls," including through use of third party intermediaries.

7:32 p.m.: Moldova's parliament adopted a declaration on Thursday condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has contributed to a rise in tensions between Moscow and Chisinau, Reuters reported.

A narrow majority of 55 lawmakers in the 101-seat assembly voted for the declaration, which stated that Moscow's invasion began with the seizure of the Crimea Peninsula in February 2014 and demanded the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine.

The declaration said Russia was waging an illegal, unprovoked and unfounded war of aggression in Ukraine that violated the principles of international law, and echoed calls by Kyiv for an international tribunal to prosecute war crimes.

The tiny former Soviet republic has protested to Moscow that Russian missiles aimed at Ukraine have entered Moldovan airspace, and that missile debris has landed inside Moldova, and has accused Moscow of plotting to topple the pro-European government in Chisinau.

6:47 p.m.: Russian lawmakers on Thursday approved legislation that could see people who criticize mercenaries, including members of the Wagner Group fighting in Ukraine, jailed for up to 15 years, Agence France-Presse reported.

The laws build on penalties introduced after Russia deployed troops to Ukraine that Kremlin opponents say was designed to criminalize criticism of the conflict.

Mercenary groups like Wagner, which has recruited from Russian prisons and is spearheading Moscow's assault on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, have recently gained a huge public profile.

"This legislative initiative will protect everyone that risks their lives to ensure the security of our country and our citizens," said the chairman of Russia's lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin.

Lawmakers at the same time tightened penalties relating to the existing laws.

"Discrediting" servicemen or "volunteers" fighting with regular troops will be punishable by up to seven years in prison, compared to five years previously.

The maximum term for spreading "false information" about Russia's forces is 15 years in prison.

6 p.m.: Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder won't be sanctioned by his political party because of his ties with Russian state-owned companies, local media reported Thursday, according to The Associated Press

The dpa news agency and others cited a decision by the Social Democratic Party's regional committee in Hannover rejecting bids to punish Schröder for his involvement with Russian state energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom and with Nord Stream, which operates undersea gas pipelines that explosions damaged last year.

The SPD party's panel ruled there was insufficient proof that Schröder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and the Social Democrats' leader from 1999 to 2004, had broken party principles or statutes.

Had the committee upheld the complaint, Schröder, who is a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin — could have faced expulsion from the party.

The panel's decision can be appealed.

5:19 p.m.: The United States is not providing Ukraine with intelligence for targets inside Russia, the Pentagon said on Thursday, calling the Russian accusations nonsense, Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week warned the West over the war in Ukraine and said Moscow was suspending its participation in the latest START treaty after accusing the West of being directly involved in attempts to strike its strategic air bases.

"I don't have any information in regards to whether or not the Ukrainians have conducted these type of operations, I'd refer you to them," Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters.

"I can say definitively that the notion of the U.S. providing intelligence or information to the Ukrainians to target locations inside Russia is nonsense. We are not at war with Russia, nor do we seek war with Russia," Ryder said

4:22 p.m.: Kyiv urged the European Union on Thursday to begin work "as soon as possible" on an 11th package of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko said Kyiv was grateful for the measures implemented by Brussels so far, but that the 10th package adopted last month stopped short of punishing Russia's nuclear and IT sectors.

"The reality is that Russia still has access to huge financial and technological resources," he said in a statement, estimating their worth at hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Without in any way diminishing the importance of eliminating loopholes for circumventing sanctions, we are convinced that the EU must begin preparations to adopt the next, 11th package of sanctions," he added.

3:48 p.m.: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland says he would not object to designating Russia's Wagner mercenary group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, calling its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a war criminal, VOA's Masood Farivar reported.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Garland was asked by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of Ukraine, if he agreed that the Wagner group "should be a Foreign Terrorist Organization under U.S. law."

"I think they're an organization that is committing war crimes, an organization that's damaging the United States," Garland said, noting that the designation is made by the State Department.

Pressed by Graham if he would "object to me making it a Foreign Terrorist Organization," Garland said, "I don't object, but I'd defer in the end to the State Department."

3 p.m.: A new team of monitors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog has taken up its post at Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station after a delay of almost a month, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi announced on Thursday, according to Reuters.

In a statement, Grossi said their presence was "indispensable to help reduce the risk of a nuclear accident."

"Our courageous experts – working closely with the plant’s operating staff – are providing technical advice and monitoring the situation in extremely difficult and challenging circumstances," he added.

Renat Karchaa, adviser to the general director of the Russian nuclear agency Rosenergoatom, told the state-run TASS news agency that three IAEA monitors had arrived along with four U.N. security personnel.

2:12 p.m.: A seasoned diplomat, Wolfgang Ischinger served in a number of positions in Germany's foreign service since the mid-1970s, including as deputy foreign minister and ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Ischinger spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Georgian Service on the sidelines of this year's Munich Security Conference, which was dominated by the war in Ukraine, about the evolution of Germany's policy on Russia and why Berlin so badly misjudged Vladimir Putin.

1:19 p.m.: Canada is sending four more battle tanks to Ukraine — doubling its commitment — and sanctioning an additional 192 Russian individuals and entities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The new sanctions target Russian lawmakers who've backed the invasion of Ukraine, including deputy prime ministers, ministers, others in Putin's office, its military and defense sector, as well as family members of individuals already on Canada's sanctions list.

Trudeau's office said four previously announced German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks have been delivered to Poland where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained on their use.

In addition to the four new Leopard 2 tanks, Canada is also sending an armored vehicle and munitions.

12:10 p.m.: Russian shelling of Ukraine's southern city of Zaporizhzhya killed several civilians, regional officials said, and Moscow is intensifying its assault on Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, RFE/RL reports.

The number of Russian offensive actions repelled by Ukrainian defenders increased more than twofold compared to the previous 24 hours, and Ukraine’s General Staff is reporting upwards of 170 attacks in the east and northeast.

Russia focused its assault on Bakhmut, though it also targeted Lyman, Avdiyivka, and Shakhtarsk, according to the the General Staff.

"The enemy continues to advance in the direction of Bakhmut, attempting to storm Bakhmut," the military said.

11:20 a.m.: The European Union is setting up a joint procurement plan to hasten the delivery of howitzer artillery rounds Ukraine says are the key to countering Russian forces, AP reports. With Ukraine facing shortages of ammunition to fight Russia, the 27-nation bloc wants to set up a joint procurement initiative similar to the one used during the coronavirus pandemic to buy vaccines. According to an EU official with direct knowledge of the plan who briefed reporters Thursday, the priority now is to guarantee the swift delivery to Ukrainian armed forces of 155mm artillery rounds.​

10:30 a.m.: Ukraine says it sees no need to limit wheat exports for the upcoming 2023-2024 season, as the winter harvest looks to be larger than expected, though smaller than in peacetime, a top agriculture ministry official told Reuters Thursday.

Ukraine was the world's fifth-largest wheat exporter before the war with Russia, and its shipments were critical for poor countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Based on results collected by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, as well as satellite images, farmers planted more wheat in southern areas than the ministry had forecast in autumn, first deputy farm minister Taras Vysotskiy told Reuters.

8:15 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked briefly Thursday at a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of 20 nations in the first high-level meeting in months between the two countries, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. officials said Blinken and Lavrov chatted for about 10 minutes on the sidelines of the G-20 conference in New Delhi. The short encounter came as relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted, while tensions over Russia's war with Ukraine have soared.

A senior U.S. official said Blinken used the discussion to make three points to Lavrov: the U.S. would support Ukraine in the conflict for as long as it takes to bring the war to an end; Russia should reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear treaty, and that Moscow should release detained American Paul Whelan.

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation, said Blinken had "disabused" Lavrov of any idea they might have that U.S. support for Ukraine is wavering.

7:20 a.m.: The Associated Press is reporting that Russian officials say Ukrainian saboteurs are operating in western Russia and attacking villages there. Ukraine denies these accusations, predicting they would be used by Moscow to increase attacks. Amid conflicting initial reports, Russia’s Federal Security Service said fighting with the sabotage unit was taking place in the Bryansk region. The service was quoted by the Russian state Tass news agency as saying that “activities to eliminate armed Ukrainian nationalists who violated the state border” are underway.

6:10 a.m.:

5:55 a.m.: A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that reports of a sabotage attack by Ukrainian forces in Russia's Bryansk region are a "deliberate provocation," according to Reuters.

"The story about (a) Ukrainian sabotage group in RF is a classic deliberate provocation," Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

"RF wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war."

5:50 a.m.: Reuters reported that the Kremlin said on Thursday that measures were being taken to destroy "Ukrainian terrorists" who had mounted a cross-border attack and were reported by Russian officials to have taken hostages.

Russian officials were cited by state news agencies as saying earlier on Thursday that Russian forces were battling Ukrainian sabotage group which had infiltrated Bryansk region that borders Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin was receiving regular updates from security agencies and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the situation.

Peskov denied reports that Putin planned to hold an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday but said he would hold a meeting of the Council on Friday when it convenes regularly.

5:25 a.m.:

5:05 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of repressing domestic critics and called on U.N.- mandated investigators to keep documenting Russia's alleged abuses in the Ukraine war in a speech to the Human Rights Council on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Blinken described Russia's civil society crackdown as a "systematic muzzling" and also urged U.N.-appointed investigators to continue documenting Russia's Ukraine abuses to provide "an impartial record of what's occurring, and a foundation for national and international efforts to hold perpetrators accountable".

His video address comes ahead of an expected speech by a senior Russian official Sergei Ryabkov who is due to appear before the same Geneva-based body for the first time since Moscow invaded Ukraine more than a year ago.

4:35 a.m.:

4:05 a.m.: A network of at least 20 torture chambers in the recently liberated southern Ukrainian region of Kherson was "planned and directly financed by the Russian State," war crimes investigators said on Thursday, citing new evidence, according to Reuters.

The Mobile Justice Team, funded by Britain, the EU and the United States, has been working with Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors across Ukraine and in Kherson since the city was reclaimed from Russian forces in November after more than eight months of occupation.

No comment was immediately available from the Kremlin in response to a Reuters request.

Reuters reported on the scale of torture chambers in Kherson in January, when Ukrainian authorities said around 200 people had allegedly been tortured at 10 locations. Survivors told Reuters about being tortured, including electric shocks and suffocation techniques.

At the time, the Kremlin and Russia's defense ministry did not respond to Reuters' questions, including about alleged torture and unlawful detentions. Moscow, which has said it is conducting a "special military operation" in Ukraine, has denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

The mobile team, backed by international experts, is supporting Ukraine's Office of the Prosecutor General as it reviews more than 71,000 reports of war crimes nationwide since the February 24, 2022, invasion.

"New evidence collected from recently liberated Kherson reveals torture chambers were planned and directly financed by the Russian State," the team, established by British attorney Wayne Jordash, said in a statement.

Witnesses described the use of electric shock torture and waterboarding by Russian forces. At least 1,000 torture chamber survivors have submitted evidence to investigators and more than 400 people had been reported as missing from Kherson, it said.

Funding a network of torture facilities was part of a Russian state plan to "subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters," the team said.

Torture centers were operated by different Russian security agencies, including the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service, it said.

Reuters was unable to verify the allegations.

An investigation is also underway by the International Criminal Court, part of a both domestic and international efforts to hold those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide across Ukraine to account.

3:35 a.m.: Ukraine plans to have 15 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in storage for the 2023/24 heating season despite Russia's invasion, Reuters cited the head of state energy firm Naftogaz as saying.

Ukraine's main natural gas deposits are in eastern areas affected by the war, but Naftogaz Chief Executive Oleksiy Chernyshov said Ukraine may potentially be able to get by without any imports this year.

Ukraine was once one of the main buyers of Russian gas but has not imported gas directly from Russia since 2015, instead buying it from the European Union.

"The Naftogaz team is already working on a strategic plan for the 2023/2024 heating season," Chernyshov said in a column for media outlet Ukrainska Pravda.

He said there was around 10 bcm of gas in underground storages and this "allows us to count on sufficient gas reserves for the end of the heating season."

Ukraine built up storage of around 15 bcm of gas for the current 2022/23 heating season, and domestic gas consumption has decreased by at least 40% because of the war, analysts and officials say.

Chernyshov said eastern Ukraine accounted for more than 80% of the state's natural gas production, but the country intended to increase gas production despite hostilities.

"Our goal for this year is an additional 1 bcm. If the total gas production in Ukraine reaches more than 18.5 bcm, we will be able to do without imports altogether," he said.

Last month, Chernyshov said natural gas production could rise by more than 5% this year to 19 bcm.

3:05 a.m.: Activists are mobilizing to reverse what they warn is a stark decline in women's rights in the run-up to International Women's Day on March 8, Agence France-Presse reported.

Women have been living in exile or confronting daily violence at home following Russia's invasion a year ago.

The war has had "devastating" consequences for women and girls in Ukraine, UN Women said in a report.

"The report shows that there are alarming increases in gender-based violence; transactional sex for food and survival; sexual exploitation and trafficking," the group said.

It also highlighted "early, child, and forced marriage as a result of these worsened living conditions in conflict, crisis, and humanitarian contexts worldwide".

NGOs accuse Russian forces of resorting to rape as a "weapon of war". The European Parliament condemned the practice in May.

Despite the war, Ukraine was able to last year ratify the Istanbul Convention, the first international treaty to set legally binding norms to prevent violence against women.

2:35 a.m.:

2:10 a.m.: A Russian missile hit a five-story building in Ukraine's southern city of Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, killing three people and wounding at least four, Ukraine's police said.

Reuters reported that eleven people have been rescued from the part of the building that collapsed, the state emergencies service said in a statement.

1:30 a.m.:

1 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that multilateral institutions had failed to meet the world's most pressing challenges while opening the G-20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is set to dominate the meeting of the world's top diplomats, with host India laboring to avoid the discord that ended its last G-20 meeting.

"We must all acknowledge that multilateralism is in crisis today," Modi said in a recorded statement.

"The experience of the last few years — financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and wars — clearly shows that global governance has failed."

While India shares Western concerns about China, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and has ramped up Russian oil imports.

India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, although Modi told Putin last year that this was "not a time for war" in comments seen as a rebuke to Moscow.

Modi on Thursday implored G-20 delegates to make the meeting a success while tacitly acknowledging the bloc's deep divisions over the conflict.

"We should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those we can," he said.

12:30 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: The latest rotating team of experts from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has failed to take up its duties at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, a senior Russian official told TASS on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Russia has accused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of disrupting the latest rotation of staff at the plant, Europe's largest with six reactors.

The facility was occupied by Russian troops in the early days of their invasion of Ukraine and remains near the front line, with each side accusing the other of shelling it and risking a nuclear accident.

"It is true that the rotation of specialists which is planned for once a month, has been excessively delayed," Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's representative to the IAEA in Vienna, told Russia's TASS news agency.

"It was supposed to occur on February 7, but hasn't yet happened, through no fault of our own. We expect the changeover of experts to take place very soon, in the next few days," he said.

IAEA monitors have been posted at the station since last September. Other IAEA teams have since been put in place in Ukraine's three other nuclear plants.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said on Monday he hoped the changeover would take place this week, the agency said in a statement. He also said the agency's teams had reported more explosions near the plant, which on several occasions have caused it to lose its only remaining back-up power line.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.