On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, ending months of debate about Russia’s intentions as it massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border.
Explosions could be heard in the silence of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, just after Putin spoke in a broadcast speech on Russian state TV. According to a news site, gunfire rang out near the capital’s main airport, and sirens could be heard throughout the city.
“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
In reaction to the invasion, US President Joe Biden stated his prayers were with the people of Ukraine “as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack,” and he promised strong penalties.
Russia has pushed for a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion, and Putin has stated that Ukraine’s participation in the US-led Atlantic military alliance is unacceptable. He said he sanctioned military action after Russia was compelled to protect itself against modern-day Ukraine’s threats.
The Russian military operation’s extent was not immediately evident. However, Putin said he had instructed Russian soldiers to protect the people and urged the Ukrainian military to lay down their guns as the United Nations Security Council met in New York for an emergency meeting.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stated Russia had launched missile attacks against Ukrainian infrastructures and border guards and that explosions could be heard in several places. An official also said that cyber-assaults were ongoing.
The martial rule had been imposed, according to Zelenskiy, and he had urged international leaders to impose all possible sanctions on Russia, particularly on Putin, who he said sought to destroy the Ukrainian state.
According to Russian media, Russia’s defense ministry announced it had destroyed military facilities at Ukrainian airbases and weakened its air defenses three hours after Putin’s order.
Earlier, Ukrainian media said that missiles had hit military command centers in Kyiv and Kharkiv in the northeast, while Russian troops had landed in the southern port cities of Odessa and Mariupol.
Following Putin’s speech, global markets and US bond rates plummeted while the dollar and gold skyrocketed. Brent oil has surpassed $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014. People waited in line to withdraw money and buy food and drink in Kyiv while traffic was congested, heading west out of the city towards the Polish border.
Biden, who has ruled out deploying US troops to Ukraine, said Putin had chosen a deliberate conflict that will result in a devastating loss of life and human misery.
French President Emmanuel Macron slammed Russia’s move, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO members will meet to deal with the fallout from Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack.”
After the Security Council meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a last-minute plea to Putin to end the conflict “in the name of humanity.”
China repeated its plea for all parties to maintain moderation and dismissed a foreign journalist’s characterization of Russia’s actions as an invasion.
Ukraine has closed its airspace to civilian flights, citing a major risk to public safety, while Europe’s aviation agency has advised against flying in Russia and Belarus’s neighboring regions.
Since Monday, the shelling had increased when Putin declared eastern separatist territories separate and authorized the deployment of so-called peacekeepers, which the West saw as the start of an invasion.
Western nations and Japan imposed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals in response to Putin’s announcement on Monday but reserved the most severe measures until the invasion began.