It’s now been 15 days since Russian forces entered the territory of Ukraine, launching what the Russian Federation calls a “military operation”. Since then, the war has become one of the most tragic events and the biggest humanitarian crises of the 21st century.
Below are updates on key battleground developments from the second week of this devastating war:
March 4, Friday: Russia Seizes Ukraine Nuclear Plant After Fire
The war in Ukraine entered a new phase on Friday when Russian troops seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, after a fire in a nearby training building was extinguished.
“Operational personnel are monitoring the condition of power units,” a local authority said on social media, quoted by Reuters news agency. Station personnel continue to work and monitor the state of the power units, it said.
In a Facebook post, the General Staff of the Armed Forces adds that Russian troops have managed to surround the port city of Mariupol. Residents of Mariupol have been describing a relentless barrage of shelling as Russian forces try to capture the city.
Both sides agreed Russian forces control the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, but both blamed the other for the fire.
No increases in radiation levels were detected and plant personnel were monitoring its operations, Ukrainian officials said. Russia’s defense ministry said the plant was operating normally.
What happened on the night of March 4: Briefly
In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of using “nuclear terror.”
Zelensky called on Europe to “wake up.” He said Russia wanted to repeat the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Russia is still trying to move forward and intensify hostilities in southern Ukraine. After occupying the city of Kherson, its forces are approaching the port city of Mariupol.
Vladimir Putin said the “special military operation” in Ukraine was “going according to plan.” In response, the United Kingdom Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace said that the Russian Federation “lags behind the plan.”
Since the beginning of the war by Russia, more than a million people have left Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine agreed in talks on March 3 to set up “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians.
March 7 Monday: Ukrainian Media: Russian Army Still Trying to Invade Mykolaiv
At 5AM local time, Russian troops launched a rocket attack on the city of Mykolaiv, located near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, reports the Ukrainian media.
Ukrainian edition RBC reported that the Russian army is still trying to invade the city.
It is the 12th day since Russia invaded Ukraine and started a full-scale war. Russia has also bombed cities, killing hundreds of civilians. More than 1.5 million people have left Ukraine, mainly for EU countries. This is the biggest and fastest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
March 7 evening:
At least 13 civilians were reported killed in an airstrike on a bread factory in the Ukrainian town of Makariv, just outside Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian state emergency service.
A statement on the Twitter account of Ukraine’s armed forces reads: “Russian occupiers carried out an airstrike on a bakery in Makariv, Kyiv region.
“As a result, a shell hit the area around the bakery, [and] 13 people died with five people being rescued from the rubble.
In parallel, a planned third round of peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were underway.
Children were among the victims from aerial attacks on the city of Sumy and its surrounding suburbs late on Monday.
According to the BBC, Dmytro Zhyvytsky, leading the Sumy Regional Military Administration, said in a video posted on Facebook that Russian forces carried out aerial strikes after 11pm local time.
“Unfortunately, children were among those killed,” Zhyvytsky said, explaining that more than 10 people were killed.
“Kids are being killed,” Zhyvytsky wrote in a Facebook post, sharing a video of the reported attack.
“We will never forgive this!” he added.
The BBC said it could not independently verify the claims.
Ukraine’s energy minister said Russian forces that now control a Ukrainian nuclear plant are forcing the exhausted staff to record an address that they plan to use for propaganda purposes.
Russian troops have been in control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, since seizing it in an attack on Friday that set a building on fire and raised fears of a nuclear disaster. It was later determined that no radiation was released.
Chernobyl plant disconnected from power grid
At the same time, the situation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is concerning, which was also taken over by Russian forces and was disconnected from the power grid. Ukraine demanded a cease-fire for urgent repairs.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it had lost contact with monitoring systems that transmit key data from Chernobyl.
Ukraine’s closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been disconnected from the nation’s power grid by Russian forces, Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said Wednesday, potentially jeopardizing the cooling of nuclear material stored at the site.
Electricity is needed for cooling, ventilation and fire-extinguishing systems at the closed site. In a statement on its Facebook page, Ukrenergo also said that emergency diesel generators have been turned on but that the fuel would last for only 48 hours.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday demanded a cease-fire with Russia to allow repairs.
He warned that after reserve diesel generators run out of fuel, “cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts the whole of Europe in danger.”
March 9: Russian airstrike hits Ukrainian maternity hospital
A Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol and buried people including children under the rubble, Ukrainian authorities said, as President Putin’s forces pressed their offensive across Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said people were trapped under the wreckage, and called the attack a war crime.
A regional official told Ukrainian media that at least 17 people were injured, including staff and patients. Three people including a child were killed in the Russian strike.
“We don’t understand how it’s possible in modern life to bomb a children’s hospital. People cannot believe that it’s true,” Mariupol Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC.
The White House condemned the “barbaric” use of force against innocent civilians, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that “there are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenseless”.
Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian forces for several days, and repeated attempts at a ceasefire to allow civilians to leave have broken down.
“The whole city remains without electricity, water, food, and people are dying because of dehydration,” Olena Stokoz of Ukraine’s Red Cross told the BBC, adding that her organization would continue trying to organize an evacuation corridor.
Deputy Mayor Orlov said at least 1,170 civilians had been killed in the city since Russia began its bombardment.
Russia is “not abandoning its plans to encircle” Ukraine’s capital Kyiv
The Ukrainian Armed Forces say the Russian occupiers are preparing to take over Kyiv, and the Russian military is rearranging for this purpose.
“Reportedly, the enemy is regrouping in preparation for another attempt to take over Kyiv,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.
In addition, the agency explains that after an unsuccessful attack on Fastiv, a city in the Kyiv Oblast in central Ukraine, the enemy is trying to resume attacks there.
In its bulletin at 24:00 local time (22:00 GMT) on Wednesday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said its “defense forces are repelling and holding back” the Russian offensive “in all directions”.
By Ana Dumbadze