By Shelby Talcott
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced early Thursday morning in Russia that he had decided to conduct “a special military operation in Donbas.” Minutes later, reports rang out of explosions in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian interior minister announced that “the invasion has begun.”
Putin, speaking around 5:30 a.m. local time, called on Ukraine to “lay down its arms” and said his goal is not to occupy Ukraine, but to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” the country. The Russian president also warned against interference – presumably speaking to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the U.S. – promising that “Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history.”
“We are ready for all outcomes. All decisions have been made,” Putin added, according to a translation of his remarks.
Trending: Cartoon of the Day: One Man’s Trash…
Reports of explosions on the ground
Shortly after Putin’s announcement, journalists on the ground in Ukraine from various networks reported hearing explosions in Kyiv. Adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister Anton Gerashchenko later confirmed that Russia had begun its invasion via missile strikes on Kyiv, according to a post on his Facebook.
“The invasion has begun,” Gerashchenko wrote. “There have just been missiles on the military headquarters, airports, military warehouses, near Kiev, Kharkov, Dnieper. Gunfire at the border is underway. A new geopolitical reality in the world from today.”
“Either Ukraine and the world will stop the new Hitler now or there will be a Third World War,” he added.
Explosions here in Kyiv
— Ian Pannell (@IanPannell) February 24, 2022
— Samantha Barry (@samanthabarry) February 24, 2022
CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv: “I just heard a big bang right here behind me.” Here’s the video of the moment pic.twitter.com/prYeVlDvkn
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 24, 2022
BREAKING: The war in Ukraine has begun.
— Norah O’Donnell 🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) February 24, 2022
This is the moment when senior international correspondent Matthew Chance, a 21-year veteran of CNN, donned his flak jacket and helmet live on the air pic.twitter.com/sbj5Fao5uJ
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 24, 2022
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, tweeted that Russia’s “airborne forces are attempting to take control of the airport in #Kyiv.” This would allow them to “fly in forces to occupy the capitol city,” he added.
Just hours after journalists began reporting explosions in Ukraine, air raid sirens began to go off in Kyiv around 7 a.m. their time. Zelenskyy also announced marital law across the country, telling Ukrainians in a statement to “warn your loved ones,” according to News Nation.
An amphibious assault on the key port city of #Mariupol is now underway
Ground forces now moving in from Belarus,Crimea & from #Russia
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 24, 2022
At the conclusion of an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, meanwhile, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador stared down his Russian counterpart and offered up a harsh statement about those responsible for Russia’s actions.
“There is no purgatory for war criminals,” he warned. “They go straight to hell, ambassador.”
Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador directly addressed his Russian counterpart at conclusion of U.N. Security Council meeting: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, Ambassador.” https://t.co/iqOY0jHTUu pic.twitter.com/sybeINLSJj
— ABC News (@ABC) February 24, 2022
Biden condemns Putin
President Joe Biden issued a stark statement amid the reports of explosions and, shortly after Putin’s address, told Ukraine that “the prayers of the entire world” are with them.
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” Biden said. “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
BIDEN ON UKRAINE:
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering … The world will hold Russia accountable.” pic.twitter.com/xlWFR1cPUB
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) February 24, 2022
Biden vowed to monitor “the situation from the White House this evening.” He also said he will “speak to the American people” on Thursday regarding “further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security.”
“Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine,” Biden concluded.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki offered up an additional update late Wednesday, tweeting that the president had been briefed “on a secure call this evening by Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin, Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark] Milley and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the ongoing attack on Ukraine by Russian military forces.”
Shortly after midnight Thursday morning, Biden issued another statement detailing his phone call with the Ukrainian president. Biden said “Zelenskyy reached out” to him and that the two had “just finished speaking.”
“I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” Biden said in a statement. “I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the United Nations Security Council.”
“He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine,” the president’s statement continued. “Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Leaders of the G7, and the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia. We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
U.S. warned of war
Putin’s announcement, made Thursday in the early hours Russian time, coincides with the Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Wednesday evening that he believed something “akin” to a full-scale invasion would occur before the night’s end. That same evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a last-ditch plea for peace to Russian citizens, saying that war would be a “great misfortune.”
Just days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separatist-controlled Ukrainian territories and delivered a scathing, anti-Ukraine speech. Biden and allies responded with sanctions, warning that any escalation would spark more repercussions.
As reports rolled in Wednesday evening and into Thursday Ukrainian time suggesting Russia planned to launch a full invasion imminently, the Ukrainian government announced a state of emergency across the country, CNN reported. Fox News’ foreign correspondent Trey Yingst, reporting on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine, described the usually bustling city as “quiet” with “not a single car on the road” earlier in the evening.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted prior to Putin’s address noting that Biden “is closely monitoring the developments in Ukraine and he will continue receiving regular updates from Jake Sullivan, his National Security Advisor.”
“He also spoke with his UN Ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield before the UNSC meeting this evening,” she added.