To the surprise of everyone, the Russian president took to the television at dawn to announce a “military operation” in Ukraine against military sites. and called on Ukrainian soldiers “to lay down their arms”.
“We will strive to achieve a demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” said Vladimir Putin. “We do not have in our plans an occupation of Ukrainian territories, we do not intend to impose anything by force on anyone,” he assured, calling on the Ukrainian military “to lay down their arms.” He promised “consequences that you have never known before” to those “who would try to interfere”.
Several explosions first sounded in the east of the country, Ukrainian border guards reported that Russian ground forces had entered the country, including from the annexed Crimea as well as from the north, at the Belarusian border, from the northeast and from the east, at the Russian border. The Ukrainian foreign minister said a “full-scale invasion” was underway.
Shortly after the statements of the Russian president, powerful explosions were heard in Kiev, Odessa, and eastern Ukraine. In the capital, at least two explosions were heard in the city center. Bomb warning sirens also sounded in the center of Kiev and in Lviv, in the west of the country.
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said Thursday that the army of his country, an ally of Moscow, did not participate in the invasion of Ukraine launched in the morning by Russia.
Russia says it has destroyed Ukrainian air bases and air defenses, after numerous missile strikes. Ukraine, which has closed its airspace, says it has been subjected to “intensive bombing” across its territory, according to its commander-in-chief.
U.S. President Joe Biden denounced an “unwarranted attack.” “The world will hold Russia to account,” he promised. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg condemned a “reckless and unprovoked attack” by Russia. And at the UN, Ukraine called on Russia to “stop the war”.
The ambassadors of NATO member countries will meet urgently Thursday morning in Brussels.