Russia launched an unprecedented invasion of its neighbor Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday morning, with reports of explosions and missile strikes on several key Ukrainian cities including its capital Kyiv.
The military assault on Ukraine appears to be taking place both on the ground and by air, with preliminary reports of the first casualties coming in from officials in the country.
Russia began attacking various positions across the country early on Thursday local time after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would carry out a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Its goal, Putin said, was what he called “the demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. He said Russia’s plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories, saying “we are not going to impose anything on anyone by force.”
Close followers of Russian politics believe Putin wants to destabilize Ukraine’s pro-Western government and to instead install a pro-Russia regime there.
U.S., Europe and Ukrainian officials have condemned the attack with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calling for “heavy sanctions” on Moscow.
It’s unclear, as yet, whether Western powers will deploy military means to stop Putin. Several countries, including the U.S. and U.K., have already sent weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself. Ukraine’s foreign minister has called for more weapons and financial and humanitarian assistance.
Putin issued a chilling warning to the West when he announced the military operation against Ukraine, saying any country that tried to “interfere” would face immediate consequences.
What’s going on?
The situation in Ukraine is rapidly deteriorating and developments are difficult to confirm but there are already reports of casualties.
Ukrainian police said that six people had been killed during bombing of Podilsk in the Odessa region, with a further seven people wounded and 19 people missing, which was confirmed by NBC News.
A video has also been released by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry which appeared to show military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine. The ministry said the video was filmed early Thursday morning at the border with Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Some of the vehicles were seen to have a “Z” mark, which has been a feature of Russian military vehicles that had been amassing along the border with Ukraine in recent months although it cannot be definitively said that the vehicles are Russian.