Russian forces fired missiles at numerous Ukrainian cities and landed troops on the country’s coast on Thursday, according to officials and the media, after President Vladimir Putin authorised a “special military operation” in the east.
Explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn stillness of Kyiv, Ukraine, just after Putin delivered a televised address on Russian state television.
According to media, gunshots rang out near the capital’s main airport, and sirens could be heard throughout the city.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin has just begun a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared, “Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strike.”
“This is an aggressive war.” Ukraine will defend itself and emerge victorious. Putin can and must be stopped by the rest of the world. “Now is the moment to act.”
In response to an invasion that the US had been predicting for weeks, US President Joe Biden stated his prayers were with the people of Ukraine “as they face an unwarranted and unjustifiable aggression,” and promised strong sanctions in retaliation.
In a statement, Biden said, “I will be meeting with the leaders of the G7, and the United States and its friends and partners will be placing strong sanctions on Russia.”
Russia has urged that NATO’s eastward expansion be halted, and Putin has reiterated that Ukraine’s membership in the US-led Atlantic military alliance is unacceptable.
He claimed he authorised military action after Russia was left with no alternative but to defend itself against threats posed by contemporary Ukraine, a democratic state with a population of 44 million people.
“With a continual threat emerging from the territory of contemporary Ukraine, Russia cannot feel comfortable, prosper, or exist,” Putin stated. “The ruling regime’s conscience will bear full responsibility for the killing in Ukraine.”
The scale of Russia’s military intervention was not immediately obvious, but Putin stated: “Our plans do not entail the occupation of Ukrainian territory.” We will not put anything on you through force.”
Putin said he had instructed Russian soldiers to protect the people and urged the Ukrainian military to lay down their arms as the United Nations Security Council met in New York for an emergency meeting.
Russian missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with explosions reported in various places. Uninterrupted cyber attacks, according to an authority.
Martial law had been imposed, according to Zelenskiy, and he had spoken with Biden over the phone. On Wednesday, reservists were activated.
Russian media said that three hours after Putin gave his order, Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed military facilities at Ukrainian air bases and weakened its air defences.
Ukrainian media had previously reported that missiles had hit military command centres in Kyiv and Kharkiv in the northeast, while Russian troops had landed in the southern port cities of Odessa and Mariupol.
According to Russia’s news agency, Russian-backed separatists launched an onslaught on the Ukrainian-controlled town of Shchastia in the east, while explosions rocked the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
The rebels had earlier appealed to Moscow for assistance in stopping purported Ukrainian aggression, which the US condemned as Russian propaganda.
Following Putin’s speech, global markets and US bond yields plummeted, while the currency and gold soared. For the first time since 2014, Brent oil surpassed $100 a barrel.
Biden, who has ruled out sending American soldiers to Ukraine, said Putin had chosen a deliberate war that will result in a massive loss of life and misery.
“Russia alone is to blame for the death and destruction that this strike will bring, and the US, its allies, and partners will respond in a united and decisive manner,” he added.
Russia’s “reckless and provocative strike” was criticised by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said NATO allies would convene to discuss the ramifications.
After the Security Council meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a last-minute appeal to Putin to end the war “in the name of humanity.”
Ukraine has banned its airspace to civilian flights due to a significant risk of safety, while Europe’s aviation body has issued a warning about the dangers of flying in Russia and Belarus’ border territories.
Domestic flights near Russia’s border with Ukraine have been halted until March 2, according to Russia’s aviation administration.
Shelling had increased since Monday, when Putin declared two separatist regions independent and ordered the deployment of “peacekeepers,” a move that the West interpreted as the commencement of an invasion.
Western countries and Japan placed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals in response to Putin’s Monday declaration, but they held off on the most severe actions until the invasion began.
The US ratcheted up the pressure on Russia on Wednesday, placing sanctions on the company developing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its executives.
Germany halted authorization for the pipeline on Tuesday, citing concerns that it may allow Moscow to weaponize energy supplies to Europe.