Explosions were seen in Kiev, Chuguev, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Odessa before dawn. The Ukrainian government has said that 40 soldiers were killed, but media reports have only confirmed eight deaths so far.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed citizens on television this morning, alerting them to the conflict and warning international leaders that any attempt to intervene in the affair will “lead to consequences you have never seen in your history.”
“Russia’s response will be immediate,” he said.
Announcing the attack as a “special military operation,” Putin said that the impetus behind moving troops in on Ukraine was “the protection of people who … suffer from abuse and genocide from the Kiev regime” as well as a pre-emptive strike against threats from NATO, which he said is using Ukraine as a proxy to challenge the Russian military.
“We have been left no other option to protect Russia and our people,” the president said, denying claims that he plans to occupy Ukraine.
Putin urged Ukrainian forces to “lay down arms immediately and go home,” promising that he will not attack any servicemen who opt to leave the field of battle while stating that the country is “ready for any outcome.”
Watch the moment Russia’s President Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine’s Donbas region, warning other nations of consequences if they interfere ⤵️
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 24, 2022
Attack helicopters and tanks have moved across both the Russian and Belarusian borders with Ukraine.
In response to the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared a state of martial law for 30 days across the country and severed all diplomatic ties with neighboring Russia. He urged Ukrainians to leave Russia immediately.
In a video statement, Zelensky said the country should not panic as citizens rushed to leave the burgeoning capital. “We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine,” he said.
Describing Putin’s early morning advance as “villainous,” Zelensky said that “Ukraine is defending itself and will not give up its freedom, no matter what Moscow thinks. Russia vilely and suicidally attacked our state in the morning. Just like fascist Germany did during the second world war.”
International leaders denounced this morning’s events, with European Union President Ursula Von der Leyen condemning the attack as “barbaric,” while the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg characterized Putin’s actions as “reckless.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed that the U.K. “and our allies will respond decisively.”