Russian missiles targeted major cities across the sovereign nation of Ukraine beginning before dawn on Thursday (Feb. 24), including multiple bombing attacks on the capital city of Kiev.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin formally announced the start of “military operations” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine at around 3 am Thursday.
The world is describing it as a “full-scale invasion,” a description confirmed by Putin himself.
The goal, he claimed in his televised address, “is to protect the people that are subjected to abuse, genocide from the Kiev regime for eight years.
“To this end, we will seek to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine and put to justice those that committed numerous bloody crimes against peaceful people, including Russian nationals,” he said, according to the Russian TASS news agency.
Putin also warned Western nations not to interfere.
“To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the attack in a brief statement at midday Thursday, calling it a “serious violation of international order.”
Israel’s deputy ambassador Yoav Bistratsky said hours earlier that many Israelis have been since contacting the embassy for help to leave Kyiv (Kiev). Israel has been trying to convince Israelis to leave Ukraine for the past week.
Israel on Thursday also relayed to Russia the exact air coordinates of its embassies in Kyiv and Levov, to prevent Israeli diplomatic personnel from being targeted during the attacks.
Russians ground forces invaded from Crimea into Odessa and Kharkiv, and bombed Kiev, according to a Kan 11 report.
Ukraine has closed its civilian airspace, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law on Thursday morning.
There were reports of explosions from missile fire in Kiev, Uman, Odessa and Mariupol, some as early as 3:30 am, around the same time as Putin’s announcement. At least seven people were killed and multiple others injured.
Just a few hours earlier, Zelensky issued an emotional appeal on national television, saying the people of Ukraine, and the government of Ukraine “want peace” but if attacked, they would “fight back.”
Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD rockets have been taking out targets from eastern Ukraine to the west, aimed at airfields, military bases, ammunition dumps, and command posts, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.
Exclusive: Jews Trapped as Bombing Begins in Uman – Interview with Hatzalah Ukraine CEO
One man was killed in Uman, but there were unconfirmed reports in Hebrew-language media that at least seven are dead.
US official tells me: Right now we are seeing the pre assault fires. Expect this to go on for a few hours. Land attack to follow with ALL of the full forces Putin has arrayed. Explosions heard in Kiev, Odessa, Mariupol. “It’s begun.”
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) February 24, 2022
Ukraine’s foreign minister has been warning its citizens in Russia to get out.
BREAKING: Air raid sirens wail across Ukraine's capital pic.twitter.com/jclNZ5h7kx
— BNO News (@BNONews) February 24, 2022
The White House released a statement holding Russia accountable for the invasion.
Statement from Biden: “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 … The world will hold Russia accountable.” pic.twitter.com/rOTVPDl71D
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) February 24, 2022
“President Zelensky reached out to me tonight and we just finished speaking,” President Joe Biden tweeted early Thursday. “I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the UN Security Council,” he wrote.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement that he was “appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine” and spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky “to discuss next steps.
Johnson added, “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.”
WATCH LIVE: My update to the @HouseOfCommons on the situation in Ukraine | 22 February 2022 https://t.co/gByQwOH1TN
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 22, 2022
In his address to the House of Commons less than 24 hours earlier, Johnson warned British lawmakers, “we should steel ourselves for a protracted crisis.”
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he “strongly condemns” what he called “Russia’s reckless 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.
“This is a grave breach of international law,” he added, “and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO Allies were set to meet later Thursday under Article 4, which allows for members to gather for consultation when a threat to their territory is perceived.
In addition, Stoltenberg was slated to meet during the day with Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, as well.
The European Union said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by armed forces of the Russian Federation.”
The EU demanded in a statement that Putin “immediately stop the Russian military operations and unconditionally withdraw all military forces and equipment from all territory of Ukraine.
“Russia bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and for all the destruction and loss of life it will cause,” the statement said, adding that Moscow “will be held accountable” for its actions.
“Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state, is a blatant violation of international law and of the core principles on which the rules of international order are based,” the statement continued.
“The EU, together with transatlantic partners and like-minded people, were united in making unprecedented efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to the security crisis caused by Russia. Russia did not respond to these efforts and instead unilaterally opted for a severe and pre-planned escalation.
“The EU made it clear from the outset and at the highest political level that any further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe costs. The EU response will therefore include restrictive sectoral and individual measures that are fully coordinated with transatlantic partners with similar views… The EU calls on the international community to demand from Russia the immediate end to this aggression, which endangers international peace and security on a global scale.”
The EU called on Russia to “fully respect” international humanitarian law, and to “provide safe and unobstructed humanitarian assistance” to all those in need. “We also call on Russia to ensure the safety of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission,” the EU said, adding that it “reiterates its unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
“The EU also reiterates its unwavering support and commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova,” the statement concluded, in a clear reference to the threat posed by Russia to its former Soviet satellites.