Russia Launches Military Operation Inside Ukraine

Strikes on Ukrainian positions have been reported following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order of a military operation.

Blasts rang out across Ukraine on Thursday morning after Russia began what a Ukrainian official called a full-scale invasion, actions immediately condemned by President Joe Biden as “an unprovoked and unjustified attack.”

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in an address from the White House.

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable,” he added.

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Denouncing Russia’s move as a “war of aggression,” the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called on other countries to help.

“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,” Kuleba said on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law across the country. Biden said the U.S. and its allies would impose “severe sanctions” on Russia following a call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

The denunciation by U.S. and Ukrainian officials came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” in the Moscow-backed separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk—collectively known as Donbas. 

There have already been multiple reports on social media of an attack early Thursday morning on Kramatorsk, a city currently under Ukrainian government control, but close to the front line. A livestream video of Kharkiv, a city within 40 kilometres of the Russian border, shows a massive smoke plume rising into the sky, with other reports of an explosion there as well.

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Putin claimed the operation was in response to threats coming from Ukraine, claiming that he wasn’t seeking to occupy Ukraine but only to protect civilians and to “demilitarize and de-nazify” the country. He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

“For months, Russia has been holding a gun to Ukraine’s head,” UK ambassador to the United Nations, Dame Barbara Woodward, told a UN Security Council emergency meeting following Putin’s address. “Now, President Putin’s finger is on the trigger.”

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“A full-scale conflict in a country of 44 million people will bring immense suffering, casualties on both sides and devastating humanitarian consequences.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously claimed that rebels in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military aid in order to fend off acts of Ukrainian “aggression”—a suggestion that Ukraine President Zelenskyy rejected. Many, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, believe Russia’s claims were merely a “false flag” operation to be used as a pretext for war.

“This step could mark the start of a big war on the European continent,” Zelenskyy said “Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything.”

In a 10-minute address posted to Telegram in the early hours of Thursday morning, Zelenskyy claimed that Putin had not replied to his invitation to hold talks.

Many had feared that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was inevitable after Putin officially recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk and endorsed the deployment of troops to the regions on Monday—a move that prompted several Western nations to impose harsh sanctions against Russia. On Wednesday night, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the UN General Assembly that they were meeting “in the face of the most serious global peace and security crises in recent years,” declaring that the world faced “a moment of peril.”

“I truly hoped it would not come,” Guterres said. “The latest developments regarding Ukraine are a cause of grave concern … My thoughts are with all those who have already suffered so much death, destruction and displacement.”

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In his White House address, Biden further suggested that he would be announcing “further consequences” for what he described as Russia’s “needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security,” and said that the U.S. would coordinate with its U.S. NATO allies to “ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance.”

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On Thursday morning, a U.S. defence official told reporters that President Putin had put 80 percent of Russia’s assembled troops—estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 in number—in an attack position, ready to launch a full-scale onslaught. Some of those troops, the official claimed, were as little as 5 kilometres from Ukraine’s border.

“They have advanced their readiness to a point where they are literally ready to go—now—if they get the order,” the official said. “We do have indications that they plan to use reserves and their equivalent of the National Guard and that is concerning because that would connote to us ... long-term goals.”

The UN Security Council held a second emergency meeting on the Russia-Ukraine crisis on Thursday morning, shortly before Russian forces commenced their operation. In his opening remarks, and as the imminence of a full-scale onslaught became all but certain, Secretary-General Guterres implored Putin to withhold and “give peace a chance.”

“If indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart. President Putin—stop your troops from attacking the Ukraine,” Guterres said. “Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.”

With additional reporting from Ben Makuch.

Follow Gavin Butler on Twitter.

Tagged:

russia, Vladimir Putin, ukraine invasion, worldnews, world conflict

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