Putin announces Ukraine military operation, explosions heard

A Ukrainian soldier talks with her comrades sitting in a shelter at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

As multiple attacks on several Ukrainian cities begin, Kyiv accuses Russia’s Putin of a ‘war of aggression’.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation today in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

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He said the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine.

In a televised address, Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. He said Russia’s goal was not to occupy Ukraine.

In a televised address, Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. He said Russia’s goal was not to occupy Ukraine.

As Putin spoke, big explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other areas of Ukraine.

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Putin also said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarization” of Ukraine. 

Putin announced the military operation after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance to help fend off Ukrainian “aggression.” 



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“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an emotional overnight address, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives, and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”

People wave a huge Ukrainian national flag during action in support of the country in Kramatorsk, Ukraine (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)

Zelenskyy said he asked to arrange a call with Putin late Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.

The United Nations Security Council had scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday night at Ukraine’s request. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the separatists’ request “a further escalation of the security situation.”

Anxiety about an imminent Russian offensive against its neighbour soared after Putin recognized the separatist regions’ independence on Monday, endorsed the deployment of troops to the rebel territories, and received parliamentary approval to use military force outside the country. The West responded with sanctions.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian lawmakers approved a decree that imposes a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days starting Thursday. The measure allows authorities to declare curfews and other restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organizations “in the interests of national security and public order.”

The Foreign Ministry advised against travel to Russia and recommended that any Ukrainians who are there leave immediately.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Russian force of more than 150,000 troops arrayed along Ukraine’s borders is in an advanced state of readiness. 

Early Thursday, the airspace over all of Ukraine was shut down to civilian air traffic, according to a notice to airmen. A commercial flight tracking website showed that an Israeli El Al Boeing 787 flying from Tel Aviv to Toronto turned abruptly out of Ukrainian airspace before detouring over Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. The only other aircraft tracked over Ukraine was a U.S. RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane, which began flying westward early Thursday after Russia put in place flight restrictions over Ukrainian territory.

Another wave of distributed-denial-of-service attacks hit Ukraine’s parliament and other government and banking websites on Wednesday, and cybersecurity researchers said unidentified attackers had also infected hundreds of computers with destructive malware.

In other developments, Russia evacuated its embassy in Kyiv; Ukraine recalled its ambassador to Russia and considered breaking all diplomatic ties with Moscow, and dozens of nations further squeezed Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets.

In Ukraine’s east, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and six more wounded after rebel shelling, the Ukrainian military said Wednesday. Separatist officials reported several explosions on their territory overnight and three civilian deaths.

Facing a barrage of criticism at the 193-member United Nations General Assembly, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, warned Ukraine that Russia will monitor a cease-fire in the east and emphasized that “no one intends to go softly, softly with any violators.”

Putin laid out three conditions that he said could end the standoff, urging Kyiv to renounce its bid to join NATO, to partially demilitarize and to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine long has rejected such demands.

Already, the threat of war has shredded Ukraine’s economy and raised the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across Europe and global economic chaos.