A live stream video captured a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.
Moscow/Kyiv — Ukraine’s President stood defiant against the Russian military invasion that has already left dozens dead and prompted Western leaders to condemn Moscow and vow unity with Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials said over 40 soldiers and as many as ten civilians were killed in the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began shortly before dawn.
Russia’s invasion follows weeks of US warnings and other European powers of an imminent attack against Ukraine; and weeks of denials by Moscow that it planned no such action.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has enacted martial law, and government ministers accused Moscow of launching a “full-scale invasion.”
Heavy traffic clogged the roads heading west out of the city at dawn while the mayor of Kharkiv urged citizens to remain in their homes.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that “peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strike” and dubbed the situation “a war of aggression”. Anton Gerashchenko informed journalists Russia’s “invasion has begun” with “missile strikes on Kyiv.”
On CNN, a live stream video showed troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from its border with Belarus. The column entered Ukraine at around 6:48 a.m. local time. t
Russia has amassed many tanks, troops, and vehicles in Belarus in recent weeks near the border with Ukraine. The two countries also held joint military exercises near the Belarus-Ukrainian border.
CNN teams reported explosions in and near multiple Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, the second-largest city, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhiya. An image released by Zelensky’s office showed large explosions with vast columns of smoke to the east of the capital Kyiv.
The spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed shooting down five Russian aircraft and a helicopter early Thursday, claims that Russia denied.
The military operation is in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which contains Donetsk and Luhansk; the separatist-held areas that Moscow recognized as independent on Monday — in violation of international law.
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In a live address on Russian national television; Putin urged Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and go home, saying, “Our plans are not to occupy Ukraine; we do not plan to impose ourselves on anyone.”
He added, “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so threatens our people, our country should know Russia will respond immediately; and with consequences as you have never experienced in your history.”
In a second video message on his Facebook page on Thursday; Zelensky said that the Ukrainian military had “already taken on the first blow and are resisting the enemy .”
The launch of the Russian military operation came as the members of the UN Security Council met in New York for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, Ukraine’s borders were reportedly under attack from Russian forces to the south from Crimea and the north in Belarus.
The Russian military invasion has claimed that Ukraine’s border service “did not offer any resistance”; and claims to have “suppressed” the Ukrainian air defenses. No independent verification of these claims is available.
Ukraine Interior Ministry adviser Gerashchenko tweeted that troops had landed in the southern city of Odesa; and control centers such as airfields and military headquarters were being hit by shelling in Kyiv and Kharkiv. There was artillery fire along the border.
Thursday, the Russian military released a statement, “the civilian population is not at risk;” claiming it was not targeting Ukrainian cities.
“The Russian Armed Forces are not launching artillery or missile strikes on the cities, high-precision weapons destroy air defense; aviation, military infrastructure and military airfields of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the statement read.
CNN quoted witnesses saying subway stations had become improvised bunkers filled with people and supplies.
European aviation regulators warned that civilian aircraft were now at “high risk” near the Ukrainian border as this is now an active conflict zone.
US President Joe Biden’s statement said that the world would hold Russia accountable; as Russia had launched “an unjustified and unprovoked attack” on the Ukrainian people.
“These are among the darkest hours for Europe since World War II. A major nuclear power has invaded a neighboring country.
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission President; promised to “weaken the Russian economic base and its capacity to modernize” following the “barbaric attack” against Ukraine. She said, “We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets.”
The Russian currency Rubel hit an all-time low against the dollar and the euro as Russian stocks fell; by more than 40% after trading resumed on Thursday on the Moscow Stock Exchange.
Italy also condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling it “unjustifiable and unjustified”. In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy was “close to the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment”. He added that Italy was working with “European and NATO allies to respond immediately, with unity and determination.”
Germany has pledged support to its neighboring countries, including Poland, if Ukrainians flee due to the Russian invasion.