KYIV/DONETSK/MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons after President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation against the country, AFP reported.
“Military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are disabled with high-precision weapons,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
The statement comes after Russian President Putin on Thursday authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine in what appeared to be the start of a war in Europe following Russian demands to halt the expansion of NATO to the east.
Shortly after Putin gave a special televised speech on Russian state television, explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn calm of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Gunfire broke out near the capital’s main airport, the Interfax said the news agency.
All responsibility for bloodshed will lie with the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin
Explosions also rocked the separatist city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, and civilian planes were warned as the United States said a major Russian attack on its neighbor was imminent.
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Putin said he had authorized a special military operation in breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine and that clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces were only a matter of time.
Hours earlier, pro-Russian separatists appealed to Moscow for help in ending alleged Ukrainian aggression – claims the United States dismissed as Russian propaganda.
Putin said he ordered Russian forces to protect the people and demanded that Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.
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“All responsibility for the bloodshed will lie with the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine,” Putin said.
He reiterated his position that NATO enlargement to Ukraine was unacceptable and said Russia had had no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from the ‘Ukraine.
The scope of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear. Moscow has long denied plans to invade despite gathering tens of thousands of troops near its neighbor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Wednesday that Moscow had approved an offensive and had not responded to an invitation for talks.
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“Today I started a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. The result was silence,” he said.
Martial law throughout Ukraine
Later, Zelensky said Russia was attacking his country’s “military infrastructure” and border guards, but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.
In a video message posted on Facebook after Putin announced the launch of a military operation against Ukraine, Zelensky also introduced martial law across the country, adding that he spoke by phone with the US president Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, Biden said his prayers are with the people of Ukraine “as they come under unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Russian military forces.”
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will result in catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia bears sole responsibility for the death and destruction this attack will cause, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond. in a united and decisive manner.The world will hold Russia accountable.
He said he would announce new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, in addition to the financial measures imposed this week.
The Russian operations began when the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis in New York.
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A draft resolution calling on Moscow for its actions towards its neighbor is doomed due to Russia’s veto power, but a Security Council diplomat said he would warn Russia that it “is not inconsistent with international law”.
‘Ensure the security’
Ukraine has restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to ‘potential risk’, hours after a conflict zone observer warned airlines they must halt overflights due to the risk involuntary culling or cyberattack.
An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto and a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv left Ukrainian airspace as a notice was issued, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Russia has also partially closed its airspace in the Rostov flight information region east of its border with Ukraine “in order to ensure the safety” of civil aviation flights, according to its advice to airmen.
Convoys of military equipment, including nine tanks, were seen heading towards Donetsk earlier on Wednesday from the Russian border, a Reuters witness reported.
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The shelling has intensified since Monday, when Putin recognized two breakaway regions as independent and ordered the deployment of what he called peacekeepers, a move the West calls the start of an invasion.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke separately with her British and Canadian counterparts, while G7 leaders are also due to meet on Thursday.
Satellite images taken on Wednesday showed new deployments in western Russia, many within 10 miles of the border with Ukraine and within 50 miles of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the US company said. of Maxar satellites.
The images showed a field deployment, military convoys, artillery and armored personnel carriers with support equipment and troops. The images could not be independently verified by Reuters.
A 30-day state of emergency in Ukraine, restricting the freedom of movement of conscripted reservists, restricting the media and imposing checks on personal documents, according to a draft text, begins on Thursday.
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The Ukrainian government has also announced compulsory military service for all men of fighting age.
Western countries and Japan imposed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals, but suspended their toughest measures until an invasion began.
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The United States increased the pressure on Wednesday by imposing sanctions on the Russian firm building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its corporate officers.
Germany on Tuesday froze approvals for the gas pipeline, which has been built but not yet in operation, over fears it could allow Moscow to militarize Europe’s energy supply.
Europe warns airlines not to fly over or approach Ukraine
Meanwhile, in Paris, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Thursday warned airlines to avoid flying over Ukraine and exercise “extreme caution” in flying. airspace within 100 nautical miles (185 km) of the borders between Belarus and Ukraine and Russia and Ukraine.
UN chief urges Russia to cease military operations in Ukraine
UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged Russia to end aggression against Ukraine.
“President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia,” the secretary-general said after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the crisis.
“In the name of humanity, let’s not allow what could be the worst war since the turn of the century to start in Europe,” he said, adding that the conflict “must end now.”
This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly