Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a special military operation in Ukraine’s Donbas region in the early hours of Thursday morning and told the Ukrainian military to lay down their weapons and go home. In a special televised address on Russian state TV, Putin said Russia has been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from modern Ukraine.
The scope of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear. A Reuters reporter in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, heard explosions which sounded like artillery shelling in the distance.
Putin said Russia would respond instantly if any external force tried to interfere with its actions and that Moscow would try to de-militarize and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine. Putin’s comments come after the United States said Russia had stationed nearly 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and after Russian-backed separatists appealed to him for military help against what they said was growing Ukrainian aggression.
Kiev has denied any such aggression. “All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine,” Putin told state TV.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said later on Thursday morning that Russia had carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and the country’s border guards, and that explosions had been heard in many cities. He said that martial law had been declared across the country and that he had spoken by phone to US President Joe Biden. In a separate statement, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said the purpose of Russia’s military operation was to destroy the Ukrainian state.
“President (Vladimir) Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” said US President Joe Biden in a statement after blasts were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. He said that the United States and its allies will respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces.” Biden said he would announce on Thursday further consequences to be imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring. The world will hold Russia accountable.”