Russia begins its full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has begun an all-out military invasion of Ukraine and ordered Kyiv’s troops to lay down their arms, starting what could be the biggest conflict in Europe since the second world war.

With attacks of artillery, heavy equipment and small arms, the Russian army launched attacks from Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, across its eastern border with Russia, and in the south from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula was invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014.

Soon after, Ukrainian authorities reported a series of Russian tanks and armored vehicles entering the country from all three fronts. Roads out of Kyiv were blocked as civilians fled the capital.

In a speech on state television shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday, the Russian president said Moscow would seek to “de-fascistize” Ukraine and “protect” the victims of the “genocide”. although there is no evidence of such crimes.

Putin warned other countries against “the temptation to meddle in events that are taking place” and said Russia’s response would “lead you to consequences you have never experienced in your history”. .

“All responsibility for the possible bloodshed will rest entirely on the conscience of the ruling regime,” Putin added.

On the Moscow stock exchange, the main index fell more than 45%. The ruble weakened by a tenth against the dollar to a record low of Rbs 89.99.

Brent crude oil prices rose as much as 7.2% to more than $103 a barrel, the first time international oil prices crossed the $100 threshold since 2014.

Global stock markets also fell. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng market share index lost more than 3%. European stocks opened sharply lower, while futures indicated US stocks would fall later in the day.

In Kyiv before dawn on Thursday, reporters for the Financial Times heard an explosion. In the downtown area, air raid sirens sounded around 7 a.m., sending people into shelters. Users of social media in Ukraine said they heard explosions in other cities, including Kharkiv and the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kramatorsk in the disputed eastern Donbas region.

The missile attacks hit about a dozen airports around the country, including Kyiv’s Boryspil airport and facilities in the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

Minsk said Putin spoke with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko an hour before the Russian president announced the start of a military offensive on Ukraine. The attack from Belarus shows that Russian activities will target Kyiv.

Fierce fighting has been reported in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been battling Russian-controlled separatists for eight years in a proxy war.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, said that Ukrainian forces destroyed five Russian planes and two helicopters, tanks and several trucks of the “armed forces of the Russian Federation”.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky called for martial law in a brief televised address to the nation, adding that he spoke “an hour ago” with his US counterpart Joe Biden.

“We are very strong. We are ready for anything. We will beat everyone. Because we are Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

Biden condemned “this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” in a statement following his call with Zelensky, adding that he would meet with G7 leaders on Thursday to coordinate efforts. further “severe” sanctions aimed at punishing Russia. “We will continue to support and help Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels would present “large and targeted sanctions” to EU leaders for approval later today at an extraordinary summit. .

During his broadcast, Putin appeared to be wearing the same suit and tie he wore on Monday while delivering another speech in which he recognized two breakaway territories in the Donbas, showing the video featuring pre-recorded body.

The Kremlin on Wednesday released letters from two separatist leaders asking Putin to use Russia’s armed forces to repel “Ukrainian aggression”.

Russia claims, based on little or no evidence, that Ukraine is attacking Separatist-held territories in the Donbas, where more than 14,000 people have died in a conflict that erupted after the annexation of Crimea.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday condemned Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine” and called an emergency meeting of the transatlantic alliance.

Estonia activated Nato’s Article 4, the group’s back-up when member states felt their security was threatened. The article differs from Article 5, which calls for a collective response against an attack on a member.

EU leaders planned to discuss further sanctions against Russia at a meeting on Thursday night after a first wave of sanctions was announced on Wednesday.

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council just before the Russian attack, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, told his Russian counterpart: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. . They go straight to hell.”

“This is not called war. This is called a special military operation in the Donbas,” replied Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

For weeks, the US has warned that Putin is preparing for an invasion after deploying more than 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. Until as recently as this week, Russia denied claims it had any such plans.

Additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo and Aime Williams in Washington

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