The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has ordered a special military operation in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, immediately followed by reports of explosions, propelling the country into war after months of massive Russian troop build-ups
This is as explosions have been heard in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the eastern port city of Mariupol, in the early hours of Thursday shortly after Russia’s President announced the commencement of operations to demilitarise the country.
The directive for the military operations was made by Putin in a televised address on a Russian television, where he urged Ukrainian soldiers who are facing off Russian-backed rebels to lay down weapons and return to their homes.
The attack by Russia was happening at the same time the United Nations Security Council in New York called an emergency meeting at the instance of Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, to deal with the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
- Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a tense relationship since 2014, and a revolution in Ukraine removed a Russia-pro president and when Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, an area roughly the size of Vermont whose 2.4 million inhabitants are mostly ethnic Russians.
- Russian troops and military hardware were also deployed 8 years ago in support of separatists in the Donbas, an area of Ukraine bordering Russia, though the Kremlin officially denied participating in the conflict.
- In December, Russia moved about 100,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine, a number that swelled to over 150,000 by last week according to the U.S., prompting the White House to warn that Russia could launch an attack justified by a “false-flag” operation portraying Ukraine as the aggressor.
What the Russian President is saying
Putin in his speech, said that Russia has no plans of occupying Ukraine, but warned that there would be grave consequences that have not been seen in history with Moscow’s response expected to be “instant” if anyone especially from the West, tries to take on Russia.
Putin also claimed in the speech that Russia launched the operation in response to calls for assistance from Russian-backed separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian President called on Ukrainians to lay down their weapons and insisted he doesn’t want to occupy the country, claiming the military action is designed to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine.
What the US President is saying
The US President, Joe Biden, said Washington and its allies would respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine.
He denounced Putin’s actions and vowed to impose additional sanctions for the needless act of aggression on Ukraine.
The US President said, “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Mr Biden said. “The world will hold Russia accountable.
“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.”
What the Ukrainian President is saying
In a last-ditch attempt to avert war shortly before Mr Putin’s announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia could start “a major war in Europe” and urged Russian citizens to oppose it and put pressure on the Russian authorities.
Mr Zelensky said Russia had almost 200,000 troops and thousands of combat vehicles on Ukraine’s borders. He said he attempted to contact Putin, but the Kremlin didn’t respond.
Russia is launching its military operation just days after recognising the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
The breakaway regions – who control large swathes of the Donbas region – later asked Moscow for military support.
In his announcement, Mr Putin said the military operation’s objective was to defend those people who had been subjected for eight years to “genocide by the Kyiv regime”.