Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of military operations in Eastern Ukraine on Wednesday evening. Shortly thereafter, Russian forces launched an attack that appears to not be limited to the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has introduced martial law in Ukraine. He released a brief video on Thursday morning urging Ukrainian citizens to remain calm, citing support from the United States and its allies, the Ukrainian military, and the strength of the people.
“Dear Ukrainian citizens, this morning President Putin announced a special military operation in Donbas. Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were blasts heard in many cities of Ukraine. We’re introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country,” Zelensky said in the video.
“A minute ago I had a conversation with President Biden. The US have already started uniting international support. Today each of you should keep calm. Stay at home if you can. We are working. The army is working. The whole sector of defense and security is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.”
In a prepared statement, Putin attempted to place blame for the invasion on the United States, saying, “everything is clear, the U.S. doesn’t seek to negotiate with Russia… so what do we do next? Why wait?”
“This is a matter of live or death,” Putin said according to NBC News. “It’s a threat against the existence of the Russian people.”
Putin closed his address with a threat directed at the United States and NATO allies.
“I have a few words for those who could feel tempted to interfere with ongoing developments: whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history,” he said.
Related: Minute Summary: What’s going on in Ukraine?
Shortly after Putin’s address, explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and a number of other cities across Ukraine.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian state media began offering pretext for Putin’s order to invade, claiming Russian-backed separatists operating in the Donbas region of Ukraine had contacted Vladimir Putin to request military assistance. According to the Russian reports, the rebel leaders asked Russia to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe.” This pretense is in keeping with predictions offered by U.S. officials in recent weeks.
Shortly before the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a passionate speech calling for peace.
“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” he said.
“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 then addressed the Russian people directly, speaking in Russian.
“You are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free,” Zelensky told them.
Related: Russia threatens war in Ukraine as US forces prepare for the worst
The U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, addressed the Security Council in an emergency meeting held Wednesday night. She highlighted the ways the United States had actively called out each step in Russia’s strategy leading up to this invasion.
“In my remarks tonight, I said that we predicted Russia’s false flag attacks. The misinformation, the theatrical emergency meetings and cyber-attacks, CNN reports UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
“But one piece had not come to pass. Unfortunately while we’ve been meeting in the Security Council tonight, it appears that President Putin has ordered that last step.”
President Joe Biden issued a statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing situation as well, though White House officials are already scheduling a more formal delivery of remarks for Thursday afternoon.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” the president said. “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.”
“Tomorrow, I will meet with my G7 counterparts in the morning and then speak to the American people to announce the further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security. We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance. Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine.”
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