Russia invades Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks about authorising a special military operation in Ukraine's Donbass region during a special televised address on Russian state TV, in Moscow, Russia, February 24, 2022, in this still image taken from video. Russian Pool/via REUTERS TV TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

MOSCOW / KYIV (Reuters) – Russian forces fired missiles at several cities in Ukraine and landed troops on its coast on Thursday, officials and media said, after President Vladimir Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east. Ukraine has declared a state of emergency. By Andrew Osborn and Natalia Zinets.

Russia invades Ukraine
Tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Russia invades Ukraine
A military vehicle is seen on a street on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 23, 2022. Picture taken February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Russia invades Ukraine
General view of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Shortly after Putin spoke in a televised address on Russian state TV, explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn quiet of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Gunfire rattled near the capital’s main airport, the Interfax news agency said, and sirens were heard over the city.


“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

“The world can and must stop Putin”

“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, reacting to an invasion the United States had been predicting for weeks, said his prayers were with the people of Ukraine “as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack”, while promising tough sanctions in response.

Russia invades Ukraine
Cars drive towards the exit of the city after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

“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,” Biden said in a statement.

Why the Russian invasion?

Russia has demanded an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and Putin repeated his position that Ukrainian membership of the U.S.-led Atlantic military alliance was unacceptable.

He said he had authorised military action after Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from modern Ukraine, a democratic state of 44 million people.

Russia invades Ukraine
People take a shelter in a subway station, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

“Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,” Putin said. “All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.”

Putin also said in his address that the People’s Republic of Donbass asked Russia for help, and that in accordance with several treaties, he decided to launch the special military operation. He claimed “it aims to protect people who have been bullied and subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years.”

South Africa speaks on developments on Ukraine border

The South African government finally expressed “concern” about the ongoing tensions at the Ukraine and Russia border yesterday, after remaining silent about its BRICS partner for so long. SA admitted that the situation could have regional and global ramifications.

“All parties have much to gain from a negotiated outcome and much to lose from an unnecessary and violent conflict,” the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, said on Wednesday.

She said South Africa has urged all parties to devote increased efforts to diplomacy and to find a solution that will help de-escalate tensions and avert armed conflict.

South Africa further called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to play a central role in the search for peace.

“The UNSC is the body given the mandate for maintenance of international peace and security, and it must exercise its role fully.

“As South Africa, we believe all the issues of concern to any of the parties must be addressed in inclusive talks led by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Security Council,” Pandor said.

For a look at both sides of the ever-evolving crisis, you can watch Carte Blanche on Showmax International if you’re overseas | Watch in SA on DStv Now

DIRCO said the world does not need another war, as “that will result in death and destruction,” hence the call for enhanced diplomacy.

However, it appears to be too late following the reports of a Russian invasion this morning.

Full scope of the Russian military operation

The full scope of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear but Putin said: “Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything by force.”

Speaking as the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York, Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to protect the people and appealed to the Ukrainian military to lay down their arms.

Russia invades Ukraine
People take shelter in a subway station, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Russia invades Ukraine
Ukrainian naval vessel is seen patrolling the port of Mariupol after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Russia invades Ukraine
Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions had been heard in many cities. An official also reported non-stop cyber attacks.

Zelenskiy said that martial law had been declared and that he had spoken by telephone to Biden. Reservists were called up on Wednesday.

Three hours after Putin gave his order, Russia’s defence ministry said it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukrainian air bases and degraded its air defences, Russian media reported.

Russia invades Ukraine
A military vehicle is seen on a street on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Russia invades Ukraine
Smoke is seen coming out of a military installation near the airport, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Russia invades Ukraine
Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Russia invades Ukraine
Tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Earlier, Ukrainian media reported that military command centres in Kyiv and the city of Kharkiv in the northeast had been struck by missiles while Russian troops had landed in the southern port cities of Odessa and Mariupol.

A Reuters witness later heard three loud blasts in Mariupol.

Russian-backed separatists said they had launched an offensive on the Ukrainian-controlled town of Shchastia in the east, Russia’s Interfax news agency said, and explosions also rocked the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Hours earlier, the separatists issued a plea to Moscow for help to stop alleged Ukrainian aggression – claims the United States dismissed as Russian propaganda.

Global stocks and U.S. bond yields dived, while the dollar and gold rocketed higher after Putin’s address. Brent oil surged past $100/barrel for the first time since 2014.

Ukraine has declared a state of emergency and told its citizens in Russia to immediately return home.

‘DECISIVE WAY’

Biden, who has ruled out putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine, said Putin had chosen a premeditated war that would 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,” he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack” and said NATO allies would meet to tackle the consequences.

Russia invades Ukraine
Local residents are seen refueling at gas station after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Russia invades Ukraine
Military vehicles are seen on a street on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 23, 2022. Picture taken February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking after the Security Council meeting, made a last-minute plea to Putin to stop the war “in the name of humanity’.

Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights citing a high risk to safety, while Europe’s aviation regulator warned against the hazards to flying in bordering areas of Russia and Belarus.

Russia suspended domestic flights at airports near its border with Ukraine until March 2, its aviation agency said.

Shelling had intensified since Monday when Putin recognised two separatist regions as independent and ordered the deployment of what he called peacekeepers, a move the West called the start of an invasion.

In response to Putin’s Monday announcement, Western countries and Japan imposed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals but held off their toughest measures until an invasion began.

For a look at both sides of the ever-evolving crisis, you can watch Carte Blanche on Showmax International if you’re overseas | Watch in SA on DStv Now

The United States stepped up the pressure on Wednesday by imposing penalties on the Russian firm building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its corporate officers.

Germany on Tuesday froze approvals for the pipeline, which has been built but was not in operation, amid concern it could allow Moscow to weaponise energy supplies to Europe.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus and SAPeople; Writing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Stephen Coates)

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