Russia has today launched an all-out war on Ukraine. Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, tanks rolled across the border from Belarus, troops parachuted down on eastern regions and explosions were seen across the country after Vladimir Putin personally gave the order for his forces to attack.
‘Hundreds’ of Ukrainian troops were killed in early clashes, Kiev said, as the fight came to them on all fronts at a moment’s notice. Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD rockets took out targets from east to west – aimed at airfields, military bases, ammo dumps, and command posts.
Five Russian jets were reportedly shot out of the sky over the Donbass before Moscow boasted of taking out all anti-aircraft defences, giving them control of the skies. Ukrainian border guards said they had come under attack by heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus – as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko threw his forces into the fight.
Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernihiv in the east of Ukraine all reported coming under attack, but blasts were also reported in the west – in Zhytomyr and Lviv, close to the border with Poland. Extraordinary video footage showed what appeared to be a cruise missile slamming into Ivano-Frankivsk airport, also in the west.
Meanwhile pro-Russian rebel forces pushed out from the occupied Donbass region, capturing two villages and claiming to have shot two Ukrainian jets out of the skies. The port city of Odessa, where Ukraine’s main naval base is located, also came under attack – though reports of an amphibious assault
It came after Vladimir Putin gave an extraordinary early-morning address to the Russian nation – delivered during a UN meeting aimed at avoiding war – in which he declared a ‘special military operation’ to ‘de-militarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine in what amounted to a outright declaration of war.
The Russian strongman also issued a chilling warning to any country thinking of coming to Ukraine’s aid, vowing ‘consequences greater than any you have faced in history’.
Ukrainian President Zelensky then followed with his own address – delivered from home – in which he declared martial law and vowed to resist the Russian attack, come what may. ‘Don’t panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine,’ he said.
But as Russian bombs fell, people’s nerve broke. Images from Kiev in the early hours showed highways out of the city gridlocked as people tried to flee – but with the whole country under simultaneous attack, there was little safety to be found. Others reported sheltering in subways and basements as air-raid sirens wailed.
The invasion marks the most concerted attempt to up-end world order since the end of the Cold War, and risks sparking the bloodies conflict in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
Western leaders lined up to condemn Russia’s actions in the early hours, with security councils convened the world over to mount a response. Heavy sanctions are expected to follow, along with more shipments of military equipment – provided they can be brought into the country.
But NATO and the US have made it clear that no troops will be sent, leaving Ukraine’s military – far the inferior of Russia – to hold off the assault alone. Few expect it to emerge victorious.
Unconfirmed reports said that Russian forces had destroyed or rendered unusable the Ukrainian navy, and taken control of Boryspil Airport in Kiev.
Access to the Black Sea and Azov Sea was cut off.
President Joe Biden will address the nation at noon on Thursday, and on Wednesday night he condemned Russia’s ‘unprovoked and unjustified attack.’ He was speaking to Ukraine’s president.
Biden said in a statement: ‘President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.
‘Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.’
Biden said he will be monitoring the situation from Washington, DC, and will continue to get regular updates from his national security team.
Putin justified it all in a televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion.
He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. He also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to ‘demilitarize’ it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.
Biden in a written statement condemned the ‘unprovoked and unjustified attack,’ and he promised that the U.S. and its allies would ‘hold Russia accountable.’ The president said he planned to speak to Americans on Thursday after a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders. More sanctions against Russia were expected to be announced Thursday.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the assault as a ‘full-scale invasion’ and said Ukraine will ‘defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.’
In the capital, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko advised residents to stay home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate. An Associated Press photographer in Mariupol reported hearing explosions and seeing dozens of people with suitcases heading for their cars to leave the city.
‘We are facing a war and horror. What could be worse?’ 64-year-old Liudmila Gireyeva said in Kyiv. She planned to head to the western city of Lviv and then to try to move to Poland to join her daughter. Putin ‘will be damned by history, and Ukrainians are damning him.’
The Russian claims about knocking out Ukrainian air defenses and Ukrainian claims to have shot down several Russian aircraft could not immediately be verified. The Ukrainian air defense system and air force date back to the Soviet era and are dwarfed by Russia’s massive air power and its inventory of precision weapons.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons and claimed that ‘there is no threat to civilian population.’
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Facebook that the Russian military had launched missile strikes on Ukrainian military command facilities, air bases and military depots in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro.
Biden announced he will join G7 counterparts on Thursday morning, and will address the country later on Thursday to ‘announce the further consequences the United States and its Allies and partners will impose on Russia.’
‘We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance. Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine,’ the statement added.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, tweeted early on Thursday: ‘I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps. President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
‘The UK and our allies will respond decisively.’
Putin in his speech on Thursday told other countries not to get involved.
‘To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside – if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history,’ he said in the television broadcast around 6am Moscow time.
The consequences of the conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia could reverberate throughout the world, upending geopolitical dynamics in Europe as well as affecting energy supplies in Europe and jolting global financial markets.
Asian stock markets plunged and oil prices surged as the attack began. Earlier, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance.
Anticipating international condemnation and countermeasures, Putin issued a stark warning to other countries not to meddle, saying, ‘whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.’
Putin urged Ukrainian servicemen to ‘immediately put down arms and go home.’
In a stark reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, Putin warned that ‘no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.’ He emphasized that Russia is ‘one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons.’
Though the U.S. on Tuesday announced the repositioning of forces around the Baltics, Biden has said he will not send in troops to fight Russia.
Putin announced the military operation after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance to help fend off Ukrainian ‘aggression,’ an announcement that the White House said was a ‘false flag’ operation by Moscow to offer up a pretext for an invasion.
Putin’s announcement came just hours after the Ukrainian president rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and made a passionate, last-minute plea for peace.
‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,’ Zelenskyy said in an emotional overnight address, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens. ‘But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.’
Zelenskyy said he asked to arrange a call with Putin late Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.
In an apparent reference to Putin’s move to authorize the deployment of the Russian military to ‘maintain peace’ in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky warned that ‘this step could mark the start of a big war on the European continent.’
‘Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything,’ he said.
He challenged the Russian propaganda claims, saying that ‘you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free.’
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Ukraine because of the imminent threat of a Russian invasion, members still unaware of Putin’s announcement appealed to him to stop an attack. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting, just before the announcement, telling Putin: ‘Stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.’
NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg issued a statement condemning ‘Russia’s reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives. Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.’
European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to hold the Kremlin accountable.
‘In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,’ they said on Twitter.
Even before Putin’s announcement, dozens of nations imposed sanctions on Russia, further squeezing Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has shrugged off the sanctions, saying that ‘Russia has proven that, with all the costs of the sanctions, it is able to minimize the damage.’
The threat of war has already shredded Ukraine’s economy and raised the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across Europe and global economic chaos.
Across Ukraine, cruise and ballistic missiles were destroying military infrastructure and strategically important facilities, according to unofficial Russian sources.
Mariupol, on the Black Sea 50 miles from the Russian border, appeared to be under fierce attack. Taking this strategic location would give the Donbas republics access to the sea.
The moment Ukraine and the rest of Europe had dreaded for months finally came shortly after 4.35am local time when huge explosions were heard in Kiev and other cities across the country.
Terrified citizens rushed to bomb shelters, though no air raid warnings sounded in the capital – only the frequent muffled crump of missile or air strikes breaking through the pre-dawn stillness.
In Kiev, people were sheltering in basements as the sounds of distant explosions became a constant backdrop.
Within an hour Russians special force and airborne troops were reported to be on the ground at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport, amid fierce fighting.
A woman in the Ukrainian capital said: ‘I was woken by a friend.
‘I am in the centre of Kiev.
‘I hear the sound of distant explosions and ambulance sirens.’
At 7.05am the first air raid sirens were heard in central Kiev.
A CNN reporter in Kiev reported hearing blasts live on air in the early hours of Thursday morning.
‘I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I’ve never heard anything like it,’ said Matthew Chance, senior international correspondent for the network.
Chance said that he heard between seven and eight explosions and quickly put on his flak jacket and headgear while he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.
‘There are big explosions taking place.
‘I can’t see them or explain what they are.
‘But I will tell you the U.S has warned the Ukrainian authorities there could be air strikes and ground attacks as well around the country, including the capital.
‘I don’t know if that’s what’s occurring now but it’s a remarkable coincidence that the explosions come just minutes after Putin gave his speech,’ Chance explained.
‘This is the first time we’ve heard anything. It has been absolutely silent.
‘This is the first time. It has to be more than just a coincidence.
‘I think it’s safe where I am. I have a flak jacket,’ Chance remarked, before ducking down to put on his protective gear.
He suggested that the blasts he heard in the Ukrainian capital were still some distance away from the center.
‘It was so quiet in Ukraine tonight up until those explosions,’ Chance explained.
The blasts came within minutes of Putin saying Russia would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Explosions could also be heard from Ukraine in the Russian city of Belgorod.
Putin told Russians: ‘I have decided to conduct a special military operation.
‘Russia cannot exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of Ukraine.
‘You and I have been left with no opportunity to protect our people other than the one we use today.’
It comes after explosions were also heard near the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, as fears mounted that shelling is underway.
Residents in the city, which is located in south eastern Ukraine, have been woken up at 3.30am by blasts 30 miles from the Russian border.
Video footage appeared to show clouds of smoke rising up into the night sky near Mariupol, but it was unconfirmed whether it was as a result of shelling.
Putin earlier this week said he wanted to take the major Azov Sea Port of Mariupol, which handles 50 percent Ukraine’s steel and mineral exports.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s actions were a ‘grave breach of international law’ and that allies would meet to address the ‘renewed aggression’.
He said on Twitter: ‘I strongly condemn #Russia’s reckless attack on #Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives.
‘This is a grave breach of international law & a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. #NATO Allies will meet to address Russia’s renewed aggression.’
The British foreign secretary Liz Truss tweeted her condemnation of the attack just after 4am local time.
‘I strongly condemn the appalling, unprovoked attack President Putin has launched on the people of Ukraine,’ she said.
‘We stand with Ukraine and we will work with our international partners to respond to this terrible act of aggression.’
The explosions come just hours after the U.S. warned the Ukrainian government that Putin’s troops are ‘ready to go now’ with an invasion of Ukraine, with 80 percent of Russian soldiers now assembled around the country in attack positions.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a further stark warning and said, hours before the invasion, that he believed Russia would invade before the night is over.
Russia on Wednesday afternoon issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) which closed the airspace along its northeastern border with Ukraine to all civilian air traffic.
Ukraine later said early on Thursday it had restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to ‘potential hazard’.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed that the Ukrainian people will ‘fight back’ if Putin threatens their freedom and lives by launching a full-scale invasion.
President Zelenskyy made an emotional address to his nation after Moscow-backed rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine asked Putin for military assistance in fending off Ukrainian ‘aggression’.
In an emotional televised address on Wednesday night, President Zelenskyy said: ‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace.
‘But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves.
‘When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.’
The Ukrainian president said he had tried to call Putin this evening, but there was ‘no answer, only silence’, adding that Moscow now has around 200,000 soldiers by Ukraine’s borders.
The United Nations Security Council quickly scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday night – the second in three days – at Ukraine’s request.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the separatists’ request ‘a further escalation of the security situation.’
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine was placed on a war footing: A state of emergency was declared and approved by parliament, 200,000 military reservists called up, border zones were restricted and three million Ukrainians told to leave Russia, with Kiev acknowledging for the first time that an attack could now take place anywhere, at any time.
Biden on Wednesday warned President Zelenskyy of an ‘imminent’ attack by Putin’s troops in the next 48 hours – , just hours after Ukraine was hit by a ‘massive’ cyberattack targeting its government and banks.
But Blinken cut that time frame of a Russian invasion drastically and said on Wednesday night he expected Russia to invade Ukraine before the night was over.
U.S. intelligence chiefs knew Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was at particular risk of being targeted in a Russian invasion as it is close to the Ukrainian-Russian border.
On Wednesday night, a huge military convoy of more than 100 trucks with soldiers were heading in the direction of the city.
Source: Daily Mail