Early Thursday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on television that he had decided to “carry out a special military operation” in Ukraine, explosions were reported across the country.
Explosions were heard in the capital, Kiev. in Kharkiv, the second largest city; And in Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, one of two regions in eastern Ukraine claimed by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russian troops had landed in the southern port city of Odessa and were crossing from Russia into Kharkiv. Footage taken by security cameras showed Russian military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine from Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.
The missile attacks targeted Ukrainian fighter planes parked at an airport outside Kiev, and Ukraine closed its airspace to commercial flights, arguing “the potential danger to military aviation”.
As sirens sounded in Kiev, the western city of Lviv and other urban areas, residents rushed to take cover at bus and subway stations. In Kiev, people packed up their cars and waited in long lines to fill up on gas on their way out of the city. In eastern Ukraine, early signs of panic appeared on the streets as streaks formed at automated teller machines and gas stations.
With attacks across the country, it soon became apparent that the Russian campaign, no matter what Putin intended as a “special military operation,” was targeting much more than rebel areas in the east. Within an hour, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service said that attacks had been carried out in 10 regions of Ukraine, mainly in the east and south, and that reports of new shelling were “constantly coming in”.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, called it a “total invasion of Ukraine” and said his country would defend itself, while calling on the world to “stop Putin.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said it is using “high-precision weapons” to disable military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airports and Ukrainian army aircraft, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported. But the ministry said it did not attack the cities, and promised that “the civilian population is not in danger.”
Ukrainian authorities said invading naval forces were coming ashore at multiple points, including in Kharkiv and the southern city of Kherson. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reported that three emergency workers were injured when a command center was bombed in the northern city of Nizhin, and six people were trapped under the rubble when the city’s airport was attacked.
The ministry said that the warehouses of the army, warehouses and the National Guard were hit by artillery shelling.
As dawn broke in Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had declared martial law. The country’s defense minister told citizens that the army was “repelling enemy forces” and “doing everything in its power to protect you.”
But the army was under siege. In the east, the Russian-backed separatists – their ranks strengthened with the arrival of Hundreds of Russian mercenaries In recent days, according to European officials – they said they have been attacking Ukrainian forces along the 250-mile front line that has divided rebels and Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Russian media reported that the rebels, in their quest to seize the entire territory of Donetsk and Luhansk, whose independence Putin recognized on Monday, were “using all the weapons at their disposal.” Ukrainian officials said the attacks included artillery strikes.
The Ukrainian State Border Service reported that Russian forces stationed in Belarus, northern Ukraine, launched an offensive with the support of the Belarusian army. Russia has deployed up to 30,000 troops to Belarus this month for exercises that the United States has warned could provide cover for an attack against Kiev, which lies 140 miles by car from a major border crossing.
By mid-morning in Kiev, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had disabled all Ukrainian air defenses and air bases. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said that Russian forces had captured two villages in the Luhansk region.
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