Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine early Thursday.
Ukraine’s interior ministry said the Russian “invasion has begun,” with reports of troops crossing the border from multiple directions and explosions in multiple cities, including the capital Kiev.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday imposed martial law across the country and called on citizens to remain calm. He previously said he had tried to call Putin on Wednesday but was unsuccessful.
The first explosions sounded before dawn on Thursday in the cities of Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his long-awaited military operation in Ukraine.
In a televised speech when the attack began, Putin warned other countries that any attempt to intervene “would lead to consequences you have never seen in history”.
US President Joe Biden declared that the world “will hold Russia accountable”. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s actions as a violation of international law and a threat to European security.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Russia’s intent was to destroy the state of Ukraine, a west-facing democracy that plans to get out of Moscow’s orbit.
Here are the things you need to know about the conflict over Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:
PUTIN MAKES HIS MOVEMENT
Putin said the military operation was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a claim the US had predicted it would make falsely to justify an invasion.
Putin accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from ever joining NATO and offering Moscow security guarantees.
Putin said Russia has no intention of occupying Ukraine, but it will “demilitarize”. Shortly after his speech, explosions were heard in the cities of Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa. Russia said it was attacking military targets.
He urged Ukrainian military personnel to “immediately lay down their arms and go home”.
The Ukrainian Border Guard said the Russian army attacked from neighboring Belarus and unleashed a barrage of artillery. The agency said Ukrainian border guards fired back and added that there were no immediate reports of casualties. Russian troops have been in Belarus for military exercises.
THE WEST RESPONDS QUICKLY
Biden and Stoltenberg were quick to denounce the Russian attack as unprovoked and unjustified.
Putin “has chosen a premeditated war that will cause catastrophic loss of life and suffering,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden promised united and decisive responses from the United States and its allies. “The world will hold Russia accountable,” he said.
“Despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country,” the NATO leader said.
UKRANE’S PRESIDENT URGES CALM
Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kiev could be heard on the streets when the first explosions sounded. But a sort of normalcy soon returned, with cars circulating the streets in the early morning commute.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video statement declaring martial law. He told the Ukrainians that the United States was rallying international support to respond to Russia. He urged residents to remain calm and stay at home.
GLOBAL MARKETS FALL
Asian stock markets plunged and oil prices skyrocketed after Putin announced Russian military action in Ukraine.
Market benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul were down 2% and Hong Kong and Sydney lost more than 3%. Oil prices rose nearly $3 a barrel on concerns over a possible disruption to Russian supply.
STATEMENT BY PUTIN ENTERS EMERGENCY MEETING OF UN SECURITY COUNCIL
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council convened by Ukraine over the imminent threat of Russian invasion.
Opening the meeting just before Putin’s announcement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Putin: “Keep your troops to attack Ukraine. Give Peace a chance. Too many people have died already.”
Guterres later pleaded with Putin, “In the name of humanity, return your troops to Russia.”
WHEN WILL THE WEST MAKE MORE SANCTIONS?
Ukraine’s armed forces are no match for Moscow’s military might, so Kiev is counting on other countries to hit Russia hard – with sanctions.
Biden on Wednesday authorized sanctions against the company that built the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and against the company’s CEO.
Biden waived sanctions last year as the project neared completion in exchange for Germany agreeing to take action against Russia if it used gas as a weapon or attacked Ukraine. Germany said Tuesday it was suspending the pipeline indefinitely.
He said more sanctions would be announced on Thursday.
Ukraine’s western supporters said they had already sent out a strong signal on Tuesday with a first set of sanctions.
“This is the strictest sanctions regime we have ever imposed against Russia,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday of measures targeting banks that finance the Russian military and oligarchs. “But it will go further if we see a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.”
The European Union has finalized a similar package, which also targets lawmakers in the lower house of the Russian parliament and makes it more difficult for Moscow to access the EU’s financial and capital markets.
The US actions announced Tuesday target senior Russian officials and two Russian banks considered particularly close to the Kremlin and the Russian military, with more than $80 billion in assets.
WHAT PENALTIES WERE CONSIDERED AMONG US IF RUSSIA INVASION?
The Biden administration had made it clear that it was holding heavy financial penalties in reserve in the event of such a Russian invasion.
The US has not specified what measures it will take now, although government officials have made it clear that full sanctions against Russia’s major banks are among the likely options. So are export restrictions that would deny Russia US high-tech for its industries and military.
Another tough measure under consideration would effectively lock out Russia from much of the global financial system.
HOW DOES THE ECONOMY LIKE UKRANE?
It was Ukraine, not Russia, where the economy eroded fastest under the threat of war.
Embassies and international offices in Kiev closed one by one. Flight after flight was canceled when insurance companies refused to cover planes arriving in Ukraine. Hundreds of millions of dollars in investment dried up within weeks.
Squeezing Ukraine’s economy is a key destabilizing tactic in what the government describes as “hybrid warfare” designed to eat away at the country from within.
The economic woes include restaurants that dare not keep food on hand for more than a few days, stalled plans for a hydrogen production facility that could help divert Europe from Russian gas, and precarious conditions for shipping in the Black Sea, where container ships are cautious. have to bypass. their way around Russian military ships.
UKRANE SEEING MORE CYBER ATTACKS
The websites of Ukraine’s defense, foreign and interior ministries were unreachable or painfully slow to load on Thursday morning after a debilitating spate of distributed denial-of-service attacks as Russia struck its neighbor.
In addition to DDoS attacks on Wednesday, cybersecurity researchers said unidentified attackers had infected hundreds of computers with destructive malware, some in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania.
Officials have long expected that cyber-attacks will precede and accompany any Russian military incursion.
HOW IS THE CONFRONTATION IN RUSSIA VIEWED?
In the run-up to the attack, Russian state media portrayed Moscow as coming to the rescue of the war-torn areas of eastern Ukraine, where residents were haunted by Ukrainian aggression.
“You paid with your blood for these eight years of torment and anticipation,” host Olga Skabeyeva said on a popular political talk show Tuesday morning. “Russia will now defend Donbas.”
Channel One took a more celebratory tone, with its Donetsk correspondent claiming that local residents “say this is the best news of recent war years”.
“Now they have faith in the future and that the years of war will finally come to an end,” she said.
Whether ordinary Russians bought it is another question.
@ Associated Press