Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will conduct “a special military operation” to “demilitarize” Ukraine, effectively declaring a major war on the country.
In a televized announcement that aired just before 5 a.m. Kyiv time, Putin said that NATO was threatening the existence of Russia and that to protect it, he is sending Russian military into Ukraine.
Immediately after, at around 5 a.m. Kyiv time, people in many Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv and Odesa, began reporting hearing loud explosions.
Russian forces began shelling Ukraine, namely Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Poltava, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, and Kyiv oblasts. At the airfields of Melitopol and Ozerne village of Zhytomyr oblast one plane was blown up. Information about the shelling is coming constantly.
“There have just been missile strikes on the centers of the military administration, airfields, military depots, near Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro. There is shelling of our borders” Anton Geraschenko, an adviser for the Interior Minister of Ukraine wrote on Facebook.
Ukraine introduced martial law, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an impromptu video address he released on Facebook. Zelensky also said he held a phone call with US President Joe Biden. “The United States already began consolidating international support,” Ukraine’s President added.
As of 6 a.m., the SES received information about the detonation of the locator at the airport in Odessa, on the territory of the military unit in Ananyiv town.
A fire took place in Revne village of Kyiv oblast – territory of a military unit and two billboards in the central part of the city were blown up in Kyiv.
As of 6:10 a.m., there was a report of an explosion in Kharkiv near the station, while surveillance cameras recorded the crossing of Russian troops on the border of Sumy and Kyiv oblasts (exclusion zone). The command and control point of the Nizhyn airfield was blown up.
State Border Guard of Ukraine said Ukraine’s border with Belarus and Russia was attacked “Russian troops supported by Belarus.”
Russian and Belarusian forces attack border units, border patrols and checkpoints with artillery, heavy equipment and small arms. This is happening within Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr oblasts, and also in Russia-occupied Crimea.
Ukraine’s forces shot down 5 enemy planes and one helicopter in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, said the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “The combined forces give a worthy rebuff to the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Military units in their positions. The enemy suffers losses,” the Facebook statement said.
At the same time, Kyiv City Administration said there was an air threat in Kyiv and urged Kyivans to immediately find shelter when they hear sirens. Users on social media have posted videos of air raid sirens already sounding in Kyiv.
Kyiv City Council also said schools and kindergartens are now closed, while all medical infrastructure begins operating on high alert.
Parts of Kyiv are now collapsing under traffic, as many flee Kyiv after Russia’s airstrikes.
In Luhansk oblast, two villages – Horodyshche and Milove – were taken over by Russian forces.
The Kremlin’s declaration of war comes days after Russia recognized its enclaves in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast and Donetsk Oblast as independent states on Feb. 21. Russia has been occupying territories in eastern Ukraine and the peninsula of Crimea since 2014.
Following the “recognition,” the Kremlin-installed leaders of the occupied areas of eastern Ukraine requested that Russia provides military protection from the supposed attack of the Ukrainian army, of which there has been no evidence.
Responding to their address, Putin announced the beginning of the “special military operation.”
Biden said he will be meeting with leaders of the G7 on Feb. 24, adding that the US and its allies will be imposing “severe sanctions” on Russia. He also said Russia’s attack on Ukraine was “unprovoked and unjustified”.