Russia launched a multipronged attack against Ukraine on Thursday, with governments from Asia to Europe applying new sanctions after weeks of failed efforts for a diplomatic solution — but global powers made it clear that they will not intervene militarily.
Ukraine’s president said Russia attacked his country on Thursday morning “just like fascist Germany did during the Second World War.”
The map above shows the places throughout Ukraine that were targeted in Russia’s initial rocket attacks, and an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters more than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and at least 10 civilians died in the first hours of the invasion.
The assault came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on state television that Russia was beginning a military operation for the “demilitarization and denazification” of eastern Ukraine.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a last-minute plea to Putin to stop the war “in the name of humanity,” but that did not deter the Russian military operation.
Putin said that Russia did not intend to occupy the country but explosions were occurring across a wide swath of Ukraine’s territory, not just near separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, suggesting that at least for now, Russia intended a far wider operation.
Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”
The Russian president in a televised speech early Thursday said he has ordered a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, and Ukraine’s government confirmed a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine” was underway.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement that he “condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” and would work with the G7 and allies to impose “severe sanctions.”
“With hope for advancing their domestic political standing by weakening Biden, Republicans are aggressively raising doubts about whether the U.S. and its allies can deter Putin’s aggression or even have the tools and strategy to effectively counter Moscow’s dark vision for the future,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive activist in New Jersey.
Republican politicians—from former President Donald Trump to right-wing Fox News host Tucker Carlson—have said praiseworthy things about Putin’s territorial aggression while the Republican Conference in the United States House of Representatives tweeted an image of Biden walking away that was captioned with the comment: “This is what weakness on the world stage looks like.”
“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,” said Biden. “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.”
As diplomats at the United Nations implored Putin to pull back from the brink of an invasion into Ukraine, the Russian President announced in a nationally televised address that his country would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian border guards released footage of what they said were Russian military vehicles moving in, and big explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east and Odesa in the west.
Explosions could also be heard in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, which lies just 12 miles from the border with Russia. A Ukrainian official also said the city of Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, was being shelled.
As the Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, Ukrainians fled some cities and European authorities declared Ukrainian air space an active conflict zone.
“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine’s defense minister called on anyone looking to take up arms against Russian forces to enlist with the country’s territorial defense units. All anyone needs to sign up is a Ukrainian passport, he said. “Ukraine is moving into all-out defense mode.”
Oil prices surged, reaching more than $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, in the wake of Russia’s attack in Ukraine, due to concerns that the war in Europe could disrupt global energy supplies.
Biden ordered U.S. troops already based in Europe to shore up the defenses of nations bordering Ukraine.
Putin ordered a full range of capabilities to the area from significant offensive missile capability to offensive ground power. There are more than two dozen warships in the Black Sea, and 10 of those vessels are amphibious.
There are between 160,000 to 190,000 Russian troops facing off against Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is much smaller, but it is no longer the force that Putin’s military pushed aside in the first invasion in 2014.
Ukraine’s armed forces currently consist of 250,000, including 215,000 military personnel, making it the second largest in the region after the Russian Armed Forces.
“This is not the same Ukrainian armed forces that Mr. Putin met in 2014,” a senior American defense official said yesterday. “They are more competent and they’re more capable than they were just eight years ago. They have benefited from not only the millions and millions of dollars of security assistance that the United States has provided, but the training that we have also provided on a rotational basis and that other nations have, as well.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law. Kyiv’s generals said the military was at full combat readiness and had repelled a Russian air attack, though few claims were immediately verifiable amid the uncertainty of armed conflict.
The Ukraine border guard service published a video of Russian military vehicles crossing its border from Crimea.
U.S.-Ukrainian security cooperation is a relatively new defense relationship, beginning in earnest only after popular protests ousted Ukraine’s former President, Victor Yanukovych, and Russia forcefully annexed Crimea in 2014.
With persistent Russian efforts to reclaim its area of influence in Ukraine through military and non-military means, the United States substantially expanded its security assistance to Kyiv, amounting to more than $2.7 billion since 2014.
U.S. military assistance has come, principally, from the Department of Defense’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative ($1.35 billion) and the Department of State’s Foreign Military Financing program ($721 million).
Those packages and several others, including from the International Military Education and Training program, made Ukraine among the most significant recipients of U.S. military aid, ranking 7th globally between FY2016-FY2020 and the largest such recipient in Europe, according to the Security Assistance Monitor.
The Trump administration reversed Obama administration policy limiting assistance to non-lethal equipment when it approved the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine’s government to help the country battle pro-Russian separatists in its eastern provinces.
Beyond the dollar amounts, the U.S. has provided foreign military training to at least 10,629 Ukrainian trainees between FY2015-FY2019.
U.S. Army soldiers from across the 7th Army Training Command oversee the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, the mission of training, equipping, training center development and doctrinal assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces.
Conventional arms have been a central, and at times a controversial, component of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship since 2014. Indeed, Trump’s second impeachment proceedings originated with an alleged quid-pro-quo related suspension of military aid to Ukraine.
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney labeled the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “murderous act of aggression” and called it “an attack on a Europe that we have built together collectively since World War II.”
“Ireland is a neutral country, we’re militarily non-aligned, but we are certainly not neutral on an issue like this, when there is blatant aggression happening on the continent of Europe,” Coveney said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, French President Emmanuel Macron and other international leaders condemned the attack.