Russian troops have launched a military attack on neighboring Ukraine, crossing its borders and bombing target near big cities.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia in a pre-dawn TV statement said that his country did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanded that the Ukrainian military lay down their arms.
Moments later, attacks were reported on Ukrainian military targets, as Russian military vehicles were seen breaching the borders in that north, south, and east, including from Belarus. At least seven people are reported to have been killed in Russian attacks, police say, and about 19 are missing.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that material law was now being imposed across all of Ukraine.
“No panic. We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone because we are Ukraine,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video statement. Ahead of Russia’s attack, he had made a last-ditch attempt to avert war, warning that Russia could start “a major war in Europe” and urging Russian citizens to oppose it.
Warning sirens blared across the capital, Kyiv which has a population of almost three million. People are piled in traffic queued to leave the city during the night and crowds sought shelter in the Kyiv underground. Several neighboring countries have begun preparations to take in a large number of refugees.
The Russian leader launched the “special military operation” repeating a number of unfounded claims he has made this week, alleging that Ukraine’s democratically elected government had been responsible for eight years of genocide. He said the goal was demilitarisation and “denazification” of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Western allies had repeatedly warned that Russia was poised to invade, despite repeated denials from Moscow. The US, EU, UK, and Japan imposed sanctions against leading Russians, Russian banks, and MPs who backed the move.
Responding to Russia’s assault, US President Joe Biden said Washington and its allies would respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” said President Biden. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”
European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU stood with Ukraine and that Russia “must withdraw its military”. The EU’s 27 leaders were due to hold an emergency summit meeting later on Thursday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine” and that President Putin “has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack”.