Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday a military operation in Ukraine to defend separatists in the east of the country, and “demilitarize and de-nazify” its pro-Western neighbor.
“I have made the decision of a military operation,” he said in a surprise statement on television shortly before 6 am (0300 GMT).
He went on to denounce what he called a “genocide” orchestrated by Ukraine in the country’s east, as well as NATO’s aggressive policy towards Russia.
“For this, we will strive to achieve demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine,” said Putin, promising to bring “to court those who have committed many crimes, responsible for the bloodshed of civilians, including Russian citizens.”
US to Deploy 7,000 More Troops to Germany
The United States will deploy 7,000 more troops to Europe, to be based in Germany, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
“They will deploy to Germany to reassure NATO Allies, deter Russian aggression and be prepared to support a range of requirements in the region,” a Pentagon official said, adding that they are expected to depart “in the coming days.”
Biden announces sanctions and export controls against Russia
Russia’s Vladimir Putin will become “a pariah on the international stage” following his country’s invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said Thursday, revealing he had “no plans” to talk with his counterpart.
“Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association,” Biden said in a White House appearance where he announced new sanctions on Moscow.
Russia’s invasion “was never about genuine security concerns on their part,” Biden added. “It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire, by any means necessary.”
Canada Sanctions 58 Russian Individuals and Entities
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced sanctions Thursday against 58 Russian individuals and entities in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which he called “a massive threat to security and peace around the world.”
“Today in light of Russia’s reckless and dangerous military strike, we’re imposing further severe sanctions,” Trudeau told a news conference.
These sanctions will target members of the Russian elite and their families, security officials, the Wagner group — a private military company — as well as Russian banks, he said, adding that Canada was also cancelling export permits for Russia.
“President Putin’s brazen disregard for international law, democracy and human life are a massive threat to security and peace around the world,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister vowed to “punish Russia” and “respond forcefully” to its violation of the world rules-based order as well as the UN charter.
In a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky moments before making his nationally-televised address, Trudeau said he pledged Canada’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and right to self-determination.
Ottawa in recent years has sent military trainers to Ukraine that have instructed some 35,000 Ukrainian troops, according to Defense Minister Anita Anand.
Canada has a large Ukrainian diaspora, numbering more than 1.3 million.
Ukraine Says Russian Forces Capture Chernobyl Power Plant
Ukraine announced Thursday that Russian forces had captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after a “fierce” battle on the first day of the Kremlin’s invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor.
“After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe. This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to the chief of the presidential administration.
Russia says destroys over 70 military targets, including 11 airfields, in Ukraine
Russia said Thursday that its military had destroyed more than 70 military targets, including 11 airfields in Ukraine.
“As a result of strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces, 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities were destroyed,” said Igor Konashenkov, a defence ministry spokesman.
Destroyed facilities included 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems, he said.
He added that a Ukrainian military helicopter and four drones had also been shot down.
Konashenkov said separatist forces continued an offensive backed by air support of the Russian armed forces.
Currently “armed groups of nationalists” are putting up resistance, he said, claiming that Ukrainian troops wanted to leave the area of hostilities.
He said that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered Russian troops to “treat Ukrainian servicemen with respect”.
Putin launched an offensive on Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday after a national address aired at around 5:40 am local time (0240 GMT).
Greece condemns ‘revisionist’ Russia attack on Ukraine
Greece on Thursday slammed Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “revisionist” as it scrambled to bolster consular support for its ethnic community of over 100,000 people in the country.
“Greece unequivocally condemns revisionist acts,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the start of an emergency meeting with military and energy staff.
“We strongly condemn the Russian aggression against an independent country,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said as she hosted visiting Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog.
“Europe needs to stay united,” she said.
Deputy foreign minister Andreas Katsaniotis earlier told Parapolitika radio that Athens had beefed up its consular presence mainly in Mariupol, the heart of the community that dates to the 18th century.
“While other countries withdrew their diplomats, we increased our personnel,” he said.
Greek officials in Kyiv, Mariupol and Odessa “are in constant contact with Greek citizens and (ethnic Greeks) to provide any support possible”, Katsaniotis said.
As tensions over an invasion ran high earlier this month, a Greek expatriate died in a clash in eastern Ukraine which Athens blamed on Ukrainian soldiers.
Two other ethnic Greeks were injured, the Greek foreign ministry said.
EU Tells Belarus to ‘Not Take Part’ in Russian Attack on Ukraine
EU chief Charles Michel on Thursday urged Belarus to “not take part” in Russia’s military assault on Ukraine, ahead of an emergency European Union summit to decide new sanctions on Moscow over its invasion.
In an appeal to Belarus and its people during a media conference at NATO headquarters, Michel said: “You have the choice not to follow Russia’s destructive action. You have the choice not to take part in this needless tragedy against your neighbours in Ukraine.”
Belarus, a Russian ally that borders Ukraine to the north, has welcomed tens of thousands of Russian troops in its territory in the wake of mass pro-democracy protests that erupted in 2020 after autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in skewed elections.
Belarus is permitting those troops to pour across its border into Ukraine and to using their positions to hammer Ukrainian forces with artillery, according to Ukraine’s government.
Lukashenko on Thursday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called him to inform him of his military operation against Ukraine. He said that Belarus’s own national forces “are not taking part in this operation”.
Italy Demands Russia ‘Withdraw Unconditionally’ From Ukraine
Prime Minister Mario Draghi demanded Thursday Russia “withdraw unconditionally” from Ukraine, saying the invasion of the pro-Western nation “concerns all of us, our lives as free people, our democracy”.
Italy and its allies urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “put an immediate end to the bloodshed and to unconditionally withdraw his military forces,” adding that Rome was “strengthening” its contribution to military deployment in “the most directly exposed” countries.
The foreign ministry said earlier it had summoned the Russian ambassador over the “clear and distinct violation of international law” following what Rome slammed an “unjustified and unjustifiable” assault.
Draghi has faced criticism in some quarters for appearing lukewarm over Western sanctions against Russia, saying they should not include energy imports. Russia is a key supplier of gas to Italy.
But Thursday he said Italy was “fully aligned” with its partners and would decide “on a very tough package of sanctions against Russia”.
“We have made it clear in every forum that we are ready to impose severe consequences if Russia… rejects our attempts to resolve the crisis through political means. Now is the time to apply them,” he said.
Rome would “do whatever it takes to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, Europe’s security, and the integrity of the international order based on the rules and values we all share,” he said.
French President Vows Response Over Ukraine Invasion
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday warned Russia of an uncompromising response to its attack on Ukraine, which he described as a turning point in European history.
“We will respond without weakness to this act of war, with calm, determination and unity,” Macron said in an address to the nation.
He added that the events were a “turning point in the history of Europe and our country” that would have “deep and lasting consequences for our lives”.
Decisions would be taken at meetings of the G7, EU and NATO in the next hours, he said, adding that the sanctions agreed against Russia would be “up to” the scale of the aggression Moscow had launched.
“In the military, economic and energy domains we will be without weakness,” he said.
Macron had repeatedly spoken to President Vladimir Putin seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff but to no avail.
After frenetic telephone talks at the weekend, he has not spoken to the Russian leader since Putin on Monday recognised two Ukrainian breakaway regions as independent.
The French president had notably unsuccessfully tried to broker a summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden.
Macron said that the “massive” Russian attack on Ukraine was “contrary to all the commitments made by the Russian authorities”.
“By going back on his word and refusing the diplomatic path and choosing war, President Putin not only decided to attack Ukraine, he decided to tarnish the whole sovereignty of Ukraine,” said Macron.
“He decided to inflict the most significant damage on peace and stability in Europe for decades,” Macron added, insisting that France and its partners had “done everything” to try and avert the crisis.
Ukraine military plane with 14 aboard crashes near Kyiv
A Ukrainian military plane with 14 people aboard crashed south of Kyiv on Thursday, the emergencies service said.
The service said it was “still determining how many people died.” The incident occurred about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Kyiv, amid reports of several locations around the city coming under attack.
UK, Allies Agree on ‘Massive Sanctions’ Against Russia
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “dictator” who now faced “massive” Western sanctions for invading Ukraine.
“We cannot and will not just look away,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, after phoning Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky just after 4:00 am (0400 GMT) as Russian forces moved in.
Ukraine can be assured of continued UK support given that “our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate”, the prime minister said.
Ahead of an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders, Johnson said the West “will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy”.
“And to that end we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on Western politics,” he added.
“Diplomatically, politically, economically — and eventually, militarily — this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.”
Johnson was unusually direct in highlighting Putin’s personal role in bringing war back to Europe, calling it “an attack on democracy and freedom in east Europe and around the world”.
The “flame of freedom” would return in time to Ukraine, he said.
“Because for all his bombs and tanks and missiles, I don’t believe that the Russian dictator will ever subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians and their passionate belief that their country should be free.”
Johnson summoned his security chiefs for an early-morning meeting in response to the Russian invasion, and was also to address parliament at 5:00 pm (1700 GMT).
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who spoke to her US counterpart Antony Blinken Wednesday evening before Putin announced the start of military operations, joined Johnson in condemning the attack.
The foreign ministry has deployed teams to five countries in eastern Europe to support Britons leaving Ukraine, she noted.
Meanwhile Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had instructed the UK Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace “to keep passengers and crew safe”.
The UK slapped sanctions Tuesday on five Russian banks and three billionaires, in what Johnson called “the first barrage” of measures in response to the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
Leading members of Johnson’s ruling Conservatives, as well as the main opposition Labour party, have urged him to hit the Kremlin as hard as possible with the new sanctions.
Foreign office minister James Cleverly vowed London would respond with “unprecedented” steps “to punish this aggression”.
“Those sanctions will be laid today and over forthcoming days to really prevent Russia from funding this invasion,” he told the BBC.
“The sanctions package that will be put in response to this is already actually having an effect,” Cleverly added, noting record falls Thursday on the Russian stock market and a slump in the ruble’s value.
Russian forces break into Kyiv region
Russian forces broke through on Thursday into the north of the Kyiv region, Ukraine’s border guards said, staging an attack with Grad missiles on government positions.
An AFP reporter in the northern part of Ukraine’s capital also saw several low-flying helicopters flying toward the city, amid reports that an airfield was under attack.
Eighteen killed in attack near Ukraine’s Odessa
Eighteen people died Thursday in an air strike on a military base near Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa, the local administration said.
“Eighteen died — eight men and 10 women. At the moment, we are still digging through the rubble,” the Odessa regional administration said in a statement.
The attack came on the first day of an invasion of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin launched after sparring for weeks with the West about NATO’s presence in eastern Europe.
It was the deadliest single strike so far of the day reported by Ukrainian officials, who had earlier put the death toll across the country at around 50, including about 10 civilians.
The attack struck a military base about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Odessa, in a region near Ukraine’s border with Moldova.
Canada: Russia’s ‘brazen’ attack on Ukraine ‘will not go unpunished’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday condemned Russia’s “egregious” and “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine, calling on Moscow to immediately withdraw from the country and saying its aggression “will not go unpunished.”
“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine,” Trudeau said in a statement issued in the hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of military operations.
The Canadian leader called the “unprovoked actions” a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called on Russia to “immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country.”
Trudeau warned of “severe consequences” for Moscow, vowing with allies “to collectively respond to these reckless and dangerous acts,” including imposing more sanctions.
“Russia’s brazen acts will not go unpunished,” he said.
Trudeau was due to join a virtual, closed-door meeting of G7 leaders — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — at 9:00 am (1400 GMT) Thursday.
The G7 meeting is likely to result in more sanctions against Russia, which has long claimed it would not invade Ukraine, despite putting a huge force of tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry on the country’s borders, while insisting that Kyiv abandon its pro-Western ambitions.
NATO Is Activating Its ‘Defense Plans’
NATO is activating its “defence plans” for allied countries as Russia attacks non-NATO member Ukraine, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg told a media conference on Thursday.
Stoltenberg also confirmed that NATO will hold a video summit on Friday to discuss the Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
And he reiterated that NATO had no “plans” to send alliance troops to Ukraine.
It is the first time the alliance has publicly said it is activating its defence plans, which were drawn up after Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
Stoltenberg did not give details of them beyond saying they are “defensive plans” allowing deployments that “cover the whole east of our alliance” and which “give our military commanders some more authority within politically defined guidelines”.
He said it would include elements of NATO’s rapid reaction force of 40,000 soldiers, including a highly prepared unit of 7,000 personnel, most of them French, and an air wing under French command.
Stoltenberg said Friday’s summit would also include non-NATO members Sweden and Finland, and EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
The NATO chief said the invasion would have “long-term effects” on the Western alliance’s relationship with Russia and NATO’s security posture.
“We don’t have all the answers today. But it will be a new reality. It will be a new Europe after the invasion we saw today,” he said.
Russia, he said, had not taken “seriously” efforts to find a political solution to the tensions that preceded its military attack on Ukraine.
“So Russia has shut the door to a political solution. We regret that. But that’s, sadly, the reality, which has severe and very serious consequences for the people of Ukraine, but also actually impacts the security for all of us.
“And that’s the reason why we step up our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.”
Erdogan Rejects Ukraine Invasion as ‘Heavy Blow’ to Peace
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “heavy blow” to regional peace.
“We reject Russia’s military operation,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, calling it a “heavy blow to regional peace and stability”.
Erdogan, whose government has friendly ties with Russia and Ukraine, had positioned Turkey, a member of NATO, as a neutral mediator for a resolution to the crisis.
He expressed “sincere sadness” over the fact that the two countries “with which we have close political, economic and social ties” were confronting each other.
Erdogan earlier today chaired a security summit in the capital Ankara after Moscow launched an attack on its neighbour.
The summit concluded that Russia’s attack was “a violation of international law” and “unacceptable”, according to the presidency.
It also discussed measures that can be taken with Russia and on international platforms for an “end to the attack that threatens regional and global security”.
Turkey “will continue to support Ukraine’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, it said.
In a separate statement, the foreign ministry urged Moscow to stop its “unjust and unlawful” invasion immediately.
“We consider the military operation… unacceptable and reject it,” the ministry said.
“We call on the Russian Federation to stop this unjust and unlawful action as soon as possible.”
Erdogan, who stepped up diplomacy with phone calls to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders this week, said Turkey had no desire to abandon ties with either of the countries.
“We want this issue to be resolved without us having to choose between the two,” he said in comments published in local media on Wednesday.
Putin Calls on Ukraine to Lay Down Arms
The Russian leader addressed the Ukrainian military, calling on soldiers to “lay down your arms” before issuing an assurance that they could “leave the battlefield without hindrance.”
He said that he did not want an “occupation” of Ukraine, but its “demilitarization.”
Putin then addressed those “who would try to interfere with us… they must know that the response of Russia will be immediate and will lead to consequences that you have never known before.”
“I am sure that the soldiers and officers of Russia will fulfill their duty with courage,” he said, adding “the security of the country is guaranteed.”
The Russian leader did not specify the scope of the military operation, or whether it would be limited to eastern Ukraine.
WORLD LEADERS’ REACTIONS
World leaders on Thursday swiftly condemned Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, with Western capitals vowing to escalate sanctions against Moscow while the head of the United Nations demanded the conflict end immediately.
US President Joe Biden
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” the US president said shortly after the operation began.
He warned “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring.”
“The world will hold Russia accountable,” he declared.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelensky compared Russia’s invasion of his country to Nazi Germany’s military campaigns during World War II.
“Russia has attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way, like Nazi Germany did during World War II,” Zelensky said in an online briefing.
UN chief Antonio Guterres
Guterres made a direct and personal plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin after an emergency Security Council session, urging him to stop the attack “in the name of humanity.”
“In the name of humanity, do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century,” he said.
“The conflict must stop now,” added the UN chief, who said it was the “saddest day” of his tenure.
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg
The Atlantic alliance’s secretary general said Russia had “chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.”
The attack “puts at risk countless civilian lives,” Stoltenberg said in a statement, describing it as a “grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO ambassadors were to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the attack.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelensky to discuss next steps,” the British leader tweeted.
“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.”
“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,” European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel said on Twitter. “We will hold the Kremlin accountable.”
Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Russia faced “unprecedented isolation” and would be hit with the “harshest sanctions” the EU has ever imposed.
“This is not a question of blocs. This is not a question of diplomatic power games. It’s a matter of life and death. It is about the future of our global community,” he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
The German leader lashed out at an “unscrupulous act” by Putin and spoke to Zelensky to express his country’s “full solidarity.”
Putin is “endangering the lives of countless innocent people in Ukraine… (and) jeopardising peace in our continent,” Scholz said.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned the world “will not forget this day of shame.”
French President Emmanuel Macron
“Russia must immediately put an end to its military operations,” Macron wrote on Twitter, saying Russia had made the decision to “wage war” on Ukraine.
“France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands by Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war,” he added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
“These unprovoked actions are a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and of Russia’s obligations under international law and the Charter of the UN,” Trudeau said in a statement.
He said he would meet with partners from the Group of Seven to shape a collective response, “including by imposing sanctions additional to those announced earlier this week.”
“These reckless and dangerous acts will not go unpunished.”
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), of which Russia is a member, said “this attack on Ukraine puts the lives of millions of people at grave risk and is a gross breach of international law and Russia’s commitments.”
The statement was issued by the OSCE’s current chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, and the organization’s secretary general, Helga Maria Schmid.
The world’s second-biggest economy, which shares a long border with Russia, said it was monitoring the crisis and urged restraint.
“China is closely watching the latest situation, and we call on all parties to maintain restraint and prevent the situation from getting out of control,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
“The latest Russian invasion shakes the foundation of the international order, which does not permit unilateral attempts to change the status quo,” Japan’s leader said after a meeting of his national security council.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
The leader of G7 member Italy’s government called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “unjustified and unjustifiable.”
“Italy is close to the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment,” Draghi said in a statement.
Turkey, a NATO member with a history of fractious relations with Russia, said the invasion was “unjust an unlawful”.
Despite West’s help, Ukraine forces vastly outnumbered by Russia
Ukraine’s armed forces find themselves vastly outnumbered and outmatched in firepower by their Russian opponents, despite growing military assistance for Kyiv’s troops by the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country had massed some 150,000 troops on the border in recent months, on Thursday ordered military operations against Ukraine.
There are also, according to Western estimates, some 30,000 Russian troops deployed in Belarus, ostensibly for exercises, who could also attack Ukraine from the north.
And Russia has massed naval forces in the Black Sea and closed to navigation the Sea of Azov between Russia and Ukraine.
According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Russia’s armed forces amount to 900,000 troops, plus some two million reserves and more than half a million other forces.
Ukraine’s forces meanwhile amount to barely more than the number of troops Russia had amassed around its borders, with a standing army of 145,000, 45,000 in the air force and 11,000 in the navy, according to the IISS.
It has some 100,000 other forces and 900,000 reserve soldiers.
Analysts also note that the gulf in firepower is even wider in terms of military hardware, with Russia’s almost 16,000 armoured fighting vehicles — including tanks — dwarfing the Ukrainian fleet of 3,300.
Artillery numbers show a similar difference, while the Ukrainian air force is a tenth the size of its Russian counterpart.
“The military balance of power is totally overwhelming” in favour of Moscow, said Francois Heisbourg, special advisor to the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in Paris.