Russian forces launch invasion of Ukraine with strikes on defences

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Tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Russian forces fired missiles at several cities in Ukraine and landed troops on its coast on Thursday, officials and media said, after President Vladimir Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east.

Shortly after Putin spoke in a televised address on Russian state TV, explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn quiet of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Gunfire rattled near the capital’s main airport, the Interfax news agency said, and sirens were heard over the city.

“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

“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.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, reacting to an invasion the United States had been predicting for weeks, said his prayers were with the people of Ukraine “as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack”, while promising tough sanctions in response.

“I will be meeting with the leaders of the G7, and the United States and our allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia,” Biden said in a statement.

Russia has demanded an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and Putin repeated his position that Ukrainian membership of the U.S.-led Atlantic military alliance was unacceptable.

He said he had authorised military action after Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats from modern Ukraine, a democratic state of 44 million people.

“Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,” Putin said.
“All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.”

The full scope of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear but Putin said: “Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories.

We are not going to impose anything by force.”

Speaking as the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York, Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to protect the people and appealed to the Ukrainian military to lay down their arms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions had been heard in many cities.

An official also reported non-stop cyber attacks.

Zelenskiy said that martial law had been declared and he had appealed to world leaders to impose all possible sanctions on Russia, including on Putin, who he said wanted to destroy the Ukrainian state.