Russia launches military operations in Ukraine


Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a military operation in Ukraine, with explosions heard across the country and his foreign minister warning that a “full-scale invasion” was underway.

Weeks of intense diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia failed to deter Mr Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders.

“I have made the decision for a military operation,” Putin said in a surprise television announcement that sparked immediate condemnation from US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders, and sent global financial markets into a frenzy. turmoil.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said Russian troops have landed in Odessa and are crossing the border at Kharkiv.

Explosions and gunshots were heard at Kiev airport.

Ukraine’s foreign minister said on social media: “Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Peaceful Ukrainian cities are being struck. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and win. The world can and must stop Putin. Now is the time to act.”

The Interior Ministry reported that Ukrainian military command posts in Kyiv and Kharkov were hit by rocket fire.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the nation in a broadcast “keep calm, stay at home. The army is doing its job, we are strong, glory to Ukraine”.

Hours after Putin’s speech, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had neutralized Ukrainian military airbases and its air defense systems.

In his televised address, the Russian president justified the operation by saying that the government was overseeing a “genocide” in the east of the country.

The Kremlin had earlier said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military help against Kiev.

Mr Zelensky ordered the army “to inflict maximum casualties”, the Ukrainian military leader said.

The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council announced that it would impose martial law.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement: “Ukraine is under attack from an aggressor.

“In Kyiv you can hear the sound of shelling. The worst enemy now is panic. Stay calm, everyone who is not involved in critical infrastructure and the function of the city stay at home.”

Mr Biden, who had for weeks sought to lead a Western alliance to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, spoke to Mr Zelensky after the Russian operation began pledging “support” and ” assistance” from the United States.

He condemned the “unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Russian military forces” and urged world leaders to speak out against Mr Putin’s “blatant aggression”.

“Help repel Ukraine’s aggression”

The excuse for the military operation was given on Wednesday when the Kremlin said separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk had sent separate letters to Mr Putin, asking him to “help them repel the aggression of the Ukraine”.

Both letters were published by Russian state media and were both dated February 22.

Their calls came after the Russian president recognized their independence and signed friendship treaties with them that include defense agreements.

The United Nations Security Council convened on Wednesday evening for its second emergency session in three days on the crisis, with a personal call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres coinciding with Putin’s announcement.

“President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia,” Guterres said.

“In the name of humanity, do not allow what could be the worst war since the turn of the century to begin in Europe.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has warned that a full Russian invasion could displace five million people, triggering a new European refugee crisis.

live in fear

Western nations said ahead of today’s operation that Russia had amassed 150,000 troops in battle formations on Ukraine’s borders with Russia, Belarus and Russian-occupied Crimea and on ships of war in the Black Sea.

Ukraine has around 200,000 military personnel and could increase this figure with up to 250,000 reservists.

Moscow’s total forces are much larger – around a million active duty personnel – and have been modernized and rearmed in recent years.

But Ukraine has received advanced anti-tank weapons and drones from NATO members. More have been promised as allies try to deter a Russian attack or at least make it costly.

Shelling had intensified in recent days between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists – a Ukrainian soldier was killed on Wednesday, the sixth in four days – and civilians living near the front were scared.

Dmitry Maksimenko, a 27-year-old coal miner in Krasnohorivka government detained, told AFP he was shocked when his wife came to tell him that Vladimir Putin had recognized the two Russian-backed separatist enclaves.

“She said, ‘Did you hear the news?’ but to be honest, I’m scared.” he said.

Russia has long demanded that Ukraine be banned from joining the NATO alliance and that US troops withdraw from Eastern Europe.

Speaking to reporters, Putin on Tuesday set out a number of strict conditions if the West was to defuse the crisis, saying Ukraine should abandon its NATO ambition and become neutral.

Washington on Wednesday announced sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which Germany had previously suspended by halting certification.

Additional reporting: AFP, Reuters


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