Early on Thursday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale military attack on Ukraine.
Here’s what we know from the first few hours of the conflict.
Putin launches invasion
During a televised address at 5:55 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday (9:55 p.m. E.T. on Wednesday), Putin announced the launch of a “specialized military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region, part of which has been occupied by Russian-backed rebels since the last invasion in 2014.
BREAKING: Putin says he has authorised a "specialised military operation" in Ukraine's Donbas region.
Boris Johnson says he has spoken to the Ukrainian president about the "next steps"
Follow the latest from Ukraine: https://t.co/S2ctlOZJxG
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— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 24, 2022
Putin pledged to demilitarize and “de-Nazify” Ukraine, in reference to the Kremlin’s claim that both Ukraine’s military and desire to join NATO represents a security threat, and that it is run by neo-Nazis.
“I have taken the decision to carry out a special military operation,” Putin said. “Its goal will be to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime. For this we will aim for demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as taking to court those who carried out multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”
Putin then threatened anyone who may try and intervene.
“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history,” Putin said. “We are ready for any turn of events.”
Explosions heard across Ukraine
Immediately after this announcement, multiple journalists on the ground across Ukraine reported hearing explosions. Reporters in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, and in the southern port city of Odessa all related news of explosions.
Explosions heard in the distance before sunrise in Kyiv, Ukraine.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 24, 2022
SOUNDS OF WAR: Explosions heard in the background as Fox News' Foreign Correspondent @TreyYingst reports from the ground in Kyiv after Putin orders 'special military operation' in Ukraine. @IngrahamAngle pic.twitter.com/0MZNDD7IU6
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 24, 2022
Numerous Ukrainian government officials said that Russian “cruise and ballistic missile strikes” were being launched against Ukrainian military targets.
Biden releases statement on Ukraine crisis
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. 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 in a statement. “I will be monitoring the situation from the White House this evening and will continue to get regular updates from my national security team. 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.”
NATO Secretary General condemns the “unprovoked attack on Ukraine”
“I strongly condemn Russia’s reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives. Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. I call on Russia to cease its military action immediately and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. NATO Allies will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions. We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all Allies.”
Biden holds call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky
“President Zelensky reached out to me tonight and we just finished speaking,” the White House readout of the call stated. “I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the United Nations Security Council. He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Leaders of the G7, and the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia. We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
Zelensky announces martial law
In response to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky announced that martial law would be imposed.
“This morning Russia launched a new military operation against our state. This is an unjustified deceitful and cynical invasion,” Zelensky said. “There are strikes on military and other important defense facilities, border units are under attack, the situation in the Donbas has degraded. The Armed Forces of Ukraine, all special and law enforcement agencies of the state are on alert. The National Security and Defense Council is working in an emergency mode. Martial law will be imposed.”
“Civilians of Ukraine should stay at home. Warn your loved ones about what is happening. Take care of those who need help. All thoughts and prayers are with our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine!” he added.
U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tells U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “shelter in place”
“There are reports of Russian attacks on targets in a number of major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Mariupol,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced on Twitter.
The embassy then advised U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “shelter in place” and take the following actions:
- If you hear a loud explosion or if sirens are activated, immediately seek cover.
- If in a home or a building, go to the lowest level of the structure with the fewest exterior walls, windows, and openings; close any doors and sit near an interior wall, away from any windows or openings.
- If you are outdoors, immediately seek cover in a hardened structure; if that is not possible, lie down and cover your head with your hands.
- Be aware that even if the incoming missile or drone is intercepted, falling debris represents a significant risk. After the attack, stay away from any debris, and monitor major news outlets for official guidance.
- Further Russian military action can occur at any time without warning. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine are strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. Know the location of your closest shelter or protected space.
- In the event of mortar and/or rocket fire, follow the instructions from local authorities and seek shelter immediately.
- If you feel that your current location is no longer safe, you should carefully assess the potential risks involved in moving to a different location.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations confronts Russian representative at emergency meeting
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine ongoing, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya spoke at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“It’s too late, my dear colleagues, to speak about de-escalation,” Kyslytsya said. “I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war.”
JUST IN: "It's too late my dear colleagues to speak about de-escalation."
"The Russian President declared the war on the record, should I play the video?" Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya presses Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya at the United Nations. pic.twitter.com/CYCXkPd4Xt
— Newsmax (@newsmax) February 24, 2022
“You have a smartphone. You can call,” he said, directly to Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.
“There is no purgatory for war criminals,” he added. “They go straight to hell, Ambassador.”
Nebenzia responded, saying that Russia’s actions were a “special military operation,” not a war.
Ukraine reports first deaths
According to an Associated Press report, Ukraine’s leadership claimed that more than 40 Ukrainian troops and at least 10 civilians have been killed since the invasion began.
The Ukrainian government also claims to have shot down 6 Russian planes and taken 2 soldiers prisoner.
Zelensky claims Russian forces are looking to seize Chernobyl site
“Russian occupation forces are trying to seize the [Chernobyl nuclear waste site],” Zelensky said. “Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated. Reported this to [the Swedish Prime Minister]. This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”
“A Ukraine advisor to Interior Ministry Anton Gerashchenko said in a Facebook post that the Russian forces entered the exclusion zone from Belarus and that Ukrainian national guardsmen were ‘fighting hard’ to defend the area,” Fox News reported.
“If the invaders’ artillery hits and ruins / damages the collectors of nuclear waste, radioactive nuclear dust can be spread over the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and the country of the EU!” the advisor claimed.
Biden convenes National Security Council meeting in Situation Room
As of Thursday morning, the latest news from D.C. is that President Biden held a National Security Council meeting in the Situation Room, according to a White House official.
Russian forces take control of Chernobyl nuclear site
According to the Associated Press, a presidential advisor in the White House said that Ukraine has lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site after a “fierce battle” with Russian forces.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A presidential adviser says Ukraine has lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site after a fierce battle.
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 24, 2022
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.