International condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pre-dawn attack against Ukraine mounted Thursday as U.S. and Western allies prepared to impose punishing sanctions against Moscow for a stunning full-scale invasion that global leaders had been warning about for weeks.
Explosions were heard in major cities, including the capital of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa. Oleksii Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said at least 40 people had been killed and dozens others wounded in the attack so far. Ukrainian authorities said Russian forces had hit military assets and other defense facilities, while footage shared by Ukrainian border guards showed Russian military vehicles moving across the border from Crimea.
Zelenskyy announced Ukraine had cut diplomatic ties with Russia, declaring martial law and offering to issue weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is due to address his nation, called it a “catastrophe for our continent.” British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said she has summoned the Russian ambassador “to meet me and explain Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
French President Emmanuel Macron called on Moscow to end its military operations immediately.
President Joe Biden condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified attack” shortly after it began and vowed that the world would hold Russia and Putin accountable for the aggression, which threatened to create global upheaval and escalate into the largest military conflict on European soil since the end of World War II.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement after Putin announced military action against Ukraine.
Biden will address the nation at noon Eastern time to announce additional steps the U.S. will take beyond sanctions already imposed.
Putin: Attack is to protect civilians
In a televised address that came overnight in eastern Europe, Putin told his country that Russia would conduct a military operation in Ukraine.
The Russian president said the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion. And he claimed that Russia doesn’t intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to “demilitarize” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.
Zelenskyy calls on veterans to help fight Russia
Zelenskyy said Thursday that Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with Russia, adding that “Ukraine is defending itself and shall not cede its freedom.”
“Dear citizens, this morning has gone down in history,” he said, according to a translation by CNN as he spoke. “But it is a different history for us and for Russia.”
Zelenskyy also called on veterans to help fight against Russian troops. He said Ukraine is issuing defensive weapons to those with military experience. He said they are able to join Ukraine defense by reporting to call up stations.
“We are issuing arms, defensive weapons, to all those capable of defending our sovereignty,” he said. “Each citizen of Ukraine will decide the future of our people.”
In a tweet shortly after, Zelenskyy wrote: “We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”
In a second tweet, he added: “We have severed diplomatic relations with Russia. For all those who have not yet lost their conscience in Russia, it is time to go out and protest against the war with Ukraine.”
– Rebecca Morin
Official says Ukraine attacked from 3 sides
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”
Podolyak said Thursday that “our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details.
He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.
Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure.
Oleksii Arestovich said the Russian strike hasn’t achieved its goal to rout the country’s military. He said that “we suffered casualties, but they aren’t significant,” adding that the Russian strikes “haven’t eroded the combat capability of the Ukrainian military.”
He said that the Russian troops moved up to 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) deep into the Ukrainian territory in the Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, and, possibly in other areas.
— Associated Press
‘An unmistakable message’: Biden unveils US sanctions on Russia after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
NATO in emergency session as Russia attacks Ukraine
NATO envoys met in emergency session Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale attack on Ukraine as the 30-nation military organization prepares to bolster its defenses in allies neighboring both countries. Preparations are also underway for a NATO summit.
“This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in statement. The allies are meeting, he said, “to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions.”
While some member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization is not, and it will not launch any military action in support of Ukraine, which is a close partner but has no prospect of joining.
“We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all allies,” Stoltenberg said.