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Vladimir Putin Washington Post

Putin Has Launched ‘Full-Scale Invasion’

Daily Mail
February 23, 2022 -

Vladimir Putin has ordered an invasion of Ukraine, describing it as a 'special military operation' and saying he wants to 'demilitarize', not occupy, the country.

Within hours, Ukraine's interior ministry said there had been hundreds of casualties, CNN reported - despite Russia insisting early Thursday morning that they were only attacking military installations, and were avoiding populated areas.

The Russian president early on Thursday told Ukrainian service members to 'lay down their arms and go home' as he declared war on Ukraine in an early morning address to the nation.

Putin said Russia could not exist with a 'constant threat emanating from the territory of Ukraine' and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian solders was 'inevitable'.

Ukraine's president declared martial law in the early hours of Thursday, in a video message to the people urging people to remain at home and stay strong. He said he had just spoken to Joe Biden.

'We are working. The army is working,' he said.

'Don't panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine.'

Unconfirmed reports said that Russian forces had destroyed or rendered unusable the Ukrainian navy, and taken control of Boryspil Airport in Kiev.

Access to the Black Sea and Azov Sea was cut off.

More unconfirmed reports on Twitter appeared to show a huge seaborne landing by Russian forces in the Black Sea port of Odessa, involving large landing craft and helicopters shortly before 6am local time.

President Joe Biden will address the nation at noon on Thursday, and on Wednesday night he condemned Russia's 'unprovoked and unjustified attack.' He was speaking to Ukraine's president.

Biden said in a statement: 'President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will 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. The world will hold Russia accountable.'

Biden said he will be monitoring the situation from Washington, DC, and will continue to get regular updates from his national security team.

The developments came as:

- Explosions were heard across Ukraine, with the capital Kiev coming under attack and the city's main airport appearing to be a target, as well as a nearby military base.
- Reports said the port city of Odessa was coming under amphibious assault, while another Black Sea port city, Mariupol, was under fierce attack.
- Military assaults appeared underway on Kharkiv in the far east of Ukraine.
- Ukraine's government declared martial law and urged people to stay at home as the onslaught continues.
- Russia insisted in the early hours of Thursday that it was targeting military installations and avoiding populated areas, but Ukraine said there had been hundreds of casualties.
- Joe Biden was speaking to Ukraine's president in the early hours of Thursday, having earlier through his UN ambassador voiced his strong continued support for the country.

Metadata of Putin's declaration of war video shows it was recorded on Monday evening, but only broadcast early Thursday.

At the time, some Russian officials were denying any intention to invade.

The Russian armed forces are not inflicting any missile, air or artillery strikes on the cities of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow told RIA Novosti.

Military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and aviation of the Ukrainian army were being disabled by high-precision weapons, they said.

Nothing threatens the civilian population of Ukraine, they claimed.

All flights cancelled at Russian airports in Krasnodar, Sochi, and Anapa, close to the Black Sea.

Rostov also reported cancelled flights.

Within minutes of Putin's public address, explosions could be heard in the capital city of Kiev as well as the city of Kramatorsk in central Ukraine, and Odessa in the south.

Across Ukraine, cruise and ballistic missiles were destroying military infrastructure and strategically important facilities, according to unofficial Russian sources.

Mariupol, on the Black Sea 50 miles from the Russian border, appeared to be under fierce attack. Taking this strategic location would give the Donbas republics access to the sea.

The moment Ukraine and the rest of Europe had dreaded for months finally came shortly after 4.35am local time when huge explosions were heard in Kiev and other cities across the country.

Terrified citizens rushed to bomb shelters, though no air raid warnings sounded in the capital – only the frequent muffled crump of missile or air strikes breaking through the pre-dawn stillness.

In Kiev, people were sheltering in basements as the sounds of distant explosions became a constant backdrop.

Within an hour Russians special force and airborne troops were reported to be on the ground at Kiev's Boryspil Airport, amid fierce fighting.

A woman in the Ukrainian capital said: 'I was woken by a friend.

'I am in the centre of Kyiv.

'I hear the sound of distant explosions and ambulance sirens.'

A CNN reporter in Kiev reported hearing blasts live on air in the early hours of Thursday morning.

'I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I've never heard anything like it,' said Matthew Chance, senior international correspondent for the network.

Chance said that he heard between seven and eight explosions and quickly put on his flak jacket and headgear while he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.

'There are big explosions taking place. I can't see them or explain what they are.

'But I will tell you the U.S has warned the Ukrainian authorities there could be air strikes and ground attacks as well around the country, including the capital.

'I don't know if that's what's occurring now but it's a remarkable coincidence that the explosions come just minutes after Putin gave his speech,' Chance explained.

'This is the first time we've heard anything. It has been absolutely silent. This is the first time. It has to be more than just a coincidence.

'I think it's safe where I am. I have a flak jacket,' Chance remarked before ducking down to put on his protective gear.

He suggested that the blasts he heard in the Ukrainian capital but still some distance away from the center.

'It was so quiet in Ukraine tonight up until those explosions,' Chance explained.

The blasts came within minutes of Putin saying Russia would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.

Explosions could also be heard from Ukraine in the Russian city of Belgorod.

Putin told Russians: 'I have decided to conduct a special military operation. Russia cannot exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of Ukraine.

'You and I have been left with no opportunity to protect our people other than the one we use today.'

It comes after explosions were also heard near the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, as fears mounted that shelling is underway.

Residents in the city, which is located in south eastern Ukraine, have been woken up at 3.30am this morning by blasts 30 miles from the Russian border.

Video footage appeared to show clouds of smoke rising up into the night sky near Mariupol, but it was unconfirmed whether it was as a result of shelling.

Putin earlier this week said he wanted to take the major Azov Sea Port of Mariupol, which handles 50 per cent Ukraine's steel and mineral exports.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia's actions were a 'grave breach of international law' and that allies would meet to address the 'renewed aggression'.

He said on Twitter: 'I strongly condemn #Russia's reckless attack on #Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives. This is a grave breach of international law & a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. #NATO Allies will meet to address Russia's renewed aggression.'

The British foreign secretary Liz Truss tweeted her condemnation of the attack just after 4am local time.

'I strongly condemn the appalling, unprovoked attack President Putin has launched on the people of Ukraine,' she said.

'We stand with Ukraine and we will work with our international partners to respond to this terrible act of aggression.'

The explosions come just hours after the U.S. warned the Ukrainian government that Putin's troops are 'ready to go now' with an invasion of Ukraine, with 80 per cent of Russian soldiers now assembled around the country in attack positions.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a further stark warning and said, hours before the invasion, that he believed Russia would invade before the night is over.

Russia on Wednesday afternoon issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) which closed the airspace along its northeastern border with Ukraine to all civilian air traffic.

Ukraine later said early on Thursday it had restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to 'potential hazard'.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed that the Ukrainian people will 'fight back' if Putin threatens their freedom and lives by launching a full-scale invasion.

President Zelenskyy made an emotional address to his nation after Moscow-backed rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine asked Putin for military assistance in fending off Ukrainian 'aggression'.

In an emotional televised address on Wednesday night, President Zelenskyy said: 'The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace.

'But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.'

The Ukrainian President said he had tried to call Putin this evening, but there was 'no answer, only silence', adding that Moscow now has around 200,000 soldiers by Ukraine's borders.

The United Nations Security Council quickly scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday night - the second in three days - at Ukraine's request.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the separatists' request 'a further escalation of the security situation.'

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine was placed on a war footing: A state of emergency was declared and approved by parliament, 200,000 military reservists called up, border zones were restricted and three million Ukrainians told to leave Russia, with Kiev acknowledging for the first time that an attack could now take place anywhere, at any time.

Biden on Wednesday warned President Zelenskyy of an 'imminent' attack by Putin's troops in the next 48 hours - , just hours after Ukraine was hit by a 'massive' cyberattack targeting its government and banks.

But Blinken cut that time frame of a Russian invasion drastically and said on Wednesday night he expected Russia to invade Ukraine before the night was over.

U.S. intelligence chiefs knew Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, was at particular risk of being targeted in a Russian invasion as it is close to the Ukrainian-Russian border.

On Wednesday night, a huge military convoy of more than 100 trucks with soldiers were heading in the direction of the city.

In a significant move ahead of the invasion, the Kremlin said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance on Wednesday to help fend off Ukrainian 'aggression'.

Many observers have suggested baseless and unfounded claims of Ukrainian military aggression to Moscow-backed separatist forces would form the pretext to a full-scale invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the rebel chiefs in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk wrote to Putin, pleading with him to intervene after Ukrainian shelling caused civilian deaths and crippled vital infrastructure.

But the White House said the separatists' request for Russian help was another example of the sort of 'false-flag' operations the West has consistently warned Moscow would use to create a justification for war.

'We'll continue to call out what we see as false flag operations or efforts to spread misinformation about what the actual status is on the ground,' White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

In an apparent reference to Putin's move to sanction the deployment of the Russian military to 'maintain peace' in eastern Ukraine, President Zelenskyy warned that 'this step could mark the start of a big war on the European continent.'

'Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything,' he said.

He challenged the Russian propaganda claims, saying that 'you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free.'

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby warned that any attack by Putin 'won't be bloodless'.

'There will be suffering,' Kirby said. 'There will be sacrifice. And all of that must and should be laid at his feet. Because he's doing this by choice.

Two separate convoys with no identifiable insignia were seen moving towards the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine along different roads from the direction of the Russian border, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday.

One convoy included nine tanks and an infantry fighting vehicle, while the other was made up of trucks and fuel tankers, said the reporter, who was in the territory of two Russia-backed rebel regions recognized as independent by Moscow on Monday.

And on Wednesday night, the crack troops of Russia's advanced units were banned from using all mobile phones in what was believed to be a key sign that they would invade Kiev-controlled Ukraine.

The 1st and 2nd Army Corps in Donbas received an order to turn off mobile phones, according to the volunteer project Informnapalm on its Facebook page.

'Attention! ….(we) received information from insiders from ORDLO that at 20:40 (Moscow time) all advanced units of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps were ordered to completely turn off phones and walkie-talkies.

'They were strictly forbidden to go on the air for this time, they were even ordered to remove the batteries from their phones. As an option, the Russians will probably scan the space and all available phones on the line of contact in order to make target designations by coordinates,' the statement said.

Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted on Wednesday that a night shift of the Titan chemicals plant in annexed Crimea had been evacuated from the facility.

He said it was a possible preparation for another staged provocation by Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014.

'Moscow seems to have no limits in attempts to falsify pretexts for further aggression,' he wrote.

Meanwhile, the websites of Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, and Cabinet of Ministers were all out of action Wednesday afternoon after a cyberattack.

Bomb threats were also phoned in to several government buildings, thought to be part of a psychological pressure campaign by Moscow.

Deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov said banks were also targeted in a 'massive' distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack - which uses computer networks to bombard websites with information until they crash - in what analysts have warned would likely be the first stage of a Russian attack.

As the noose tightened, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged on Wednesday to send more weapons to help Ukraine defend itself against what the US has warned will be an all-out Russian assault.

Johnson also promised more and tougher sanctions against Russia if Putin escalates further.

Earlier in the day, Putin had given a sabre-rattling address to his troops to mark Defender of the Fatherland Day, praising their 'battle readiness' while saying he is assured that they will fight to defend Russian security interests - which he called 'non-negotiable'. Russia also evacuated staff from its Kiev embassy.

Ukraine's security agency claimed 45,000 plastic body bags have now been ordered to the Russian frontlines, giving the first hint of the amount lives Putin is willing to sacrifice to get what he wants - after Joe Biden said supplies of blood for transfusions have also been brought in.

Blinken announced that he has called off a high-level summit with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov scheduled for Thursday, saying it 'does not make sense' to go ahead with peace negotiations when an invasion is already underway.

Russia today began evacuating diplomatic staff from Ukraine, with the flag lowered over the embassy in Kiev.

Moscow's foreign ministry announced on Tuesday that it would evacuate diplomats from the country soon, saying this was in order to 'protect their lives'.

Asked if the evacuation had begun, the embassy's spokesperson Denis Golenko told AFP by phone today: 'Yes.'

Golenko said the evacuation was 'linked to the fact that Western embassies announced evacuations of some of their staff, and that our ministry also took this decision.'

Some Western embassies, including the United States and Britain, moved their staff to the city of Lviv near the Polish border.

They did so fearing a Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the capital could come under attack.

Fighting also escalated along the frontlines between separatist forces and Ukraine's men overnight, with one Ukrainian soldier killed and six injured in shelling. A house was also hit in the village of Muratovo.

The Russian-backed leader of the breakaway Donetsk region said on Wednesday that he wanted to peacefully settle its borders with Ukraine but reserved the right to ask 'big Russia' for help.

Denis Pushilin, who heads the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic that was recognized by Russia this week, said he favored dialogue with Ukraine in the first instance.

But he told a news conference the situation in their long-running conflict had become critical and the separatists had accelerated a mobilization of forces, in which healthy men between 18 and 55 have been called up to fight.

'We will win. With people like this, we will win. With such a country, with big Russia, which we respect and value,' he said.

'We have no right to lose, or even to doubt in our victory.'

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