The Russians launched a total war against Ukraine today with rockets falling from the sky, tanks rolling across the Belarusian border and masses of paratroopers descending to the eastern regions after Vladimir Putin personally ordered an attack.
“Hundreds” of Ukrainian soldiers have already been killed in early clashes, Kiev said, as the battle came to them on all fronts at one time. Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD missiles are destroying targets from east to west – aimed at airports, military bases, ammunition depots and command posts, including in the capital.
The first sign that an invasion was imminent came shortly before 12 noon Ukrainian time (10 pm in Britain), when Russian-backed rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine demanded military assistance from Moscow in what is widely seen as a “fake” flag “operation to justify Putin’s decision to attack.
A moment later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a provocative message to the nation, promising that his compatriots would “retaliate” in the event of an invasion, telling Moscow: “When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”
A fierce series of diplomatic maneuvers, including an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, were not enough to dissuade Putin from announcing a “special military operation” around 3 a.m. Ukrainian time.
Around 6 a.m., Zelensky declared martial law in a video message recorded on his phone, urging his people “not to panic” and promising, “We will all win because we are Ukraine.”
As Europe faces its worst military crisis in decades, this is how dramatic events unfolded this morning, minute by minute. All times are displayed first in Ukrainian time, with the GMT equivalent in parentheses.
“We will retaliate”: Ukrainian president delivers emotional televised address
Vladimir Zelensky has promised that the Ukrainian people will “strike back” if Putin launches a full-scale invasion.
His comments follow a request from Moscow-backed rebel leaders in the east for military aid to repel Ukrainian “aggression” – considered by the West a “false flag” – to justify the invasion.
Solemn President Zelensky says: “The people of Ukraine and the Government of Ukraine want peace.
“But if we are attacked, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the 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 earlier in the evening, but there was no answer, only silence, adding that Moscow had about 200,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
At the request of Ukraine, the UN Security Council quickly scheduled an extraordinary meeting – the second in three days.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the separatists’ demand a “further escalation of the security situation”.
Ukraine is preparing for conflict and enters a one-month state of emergency, which takes effect at midnight.
3:30 in the morning (1:30 GMT)
Explosions were heard in the strategically important port city of Mariupol
Residents of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol were awakened at 3.30 am by the sounds of explosions.
The videos appear to show clouds of smoke rising in the nearby night sky, but it has not been confirmed whether this was the result of shelling.
Mariupol, located on the Black Sea 50 miles from the Russian border, handles 50 percent of Ukraine’s steel and mineral exports.
Occupying the strategic location will give the people’s republics of Donbass access to the sea and will stifle a vital economic artery for the legitimate government of Ukraine.
4:30 AM (02:30 GMT)
A UN meeting at which the Ukrainian ambassador tells his Russian counterpart: “war criminals go straight to hell”
The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting in New York to try to dissuade Russia from sending troops to Ukraine.
During the accused session, Ukrainian Ambassador Serhiy Kislitsya begged the council, chaired by Russia, to “do everything possible to stop the war.”
He urges the Russian ambassador to step down as chairman.
“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go to hell, Ambassador, “says the emotional Kislitsa.
At a meeting of the UN Security Council, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergei Kislitsa accused his Russian counterpart: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They’re going to hell, Ambassador
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Putin to stop his tanks.
“If surgery is really being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.
Mr Guterres says he is witnessing “the saddest moment of my term as UN Secretary-General” and that Europe is at risk, “the worst war of the century”.
He then warned that Russia’s actions would be “not only” devastating for Ukraine “and” tragic “for Russia,” but also with an impact we cannot even foresee in terms of their consequences for the global economy. “
“At a time when we are leaving Covid and so many developing countries, there must be room for recovery, which would be very, very difficult with high oil prices, wheat exports from Ukraine and rising interest rates caused by instability. international markets, “he added.
5 am (3 am GMT)
Putin declares a “special military operation” and threatens the West
Putin has declared a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, claiming it aims to protect civilians.
In a televised address, Putin said the action came in response to threats coming from Ukraine.
He claims that Russia wants to “denazify, not occupy” Ukraine. Putin says the Ukrainian regime is responsible for the bloodshed.
Putin warns the countries that any attempt to interfere in Russia’s actions will lead to “consequences they have never seen.”
The strong man could be seen wearing the same suit and red tie he wore on Monday to expose his de facto inaccurate version of Ukraine’s history, essentially saying it had always been part of Russia.
Looking back, Putin’s attempts to rewrite history when it suits him can be interpreted as proof that he has already decided to invade Ukraine and that he has deceived Western leaders who are asking him for diplomacy.
5:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Explosions were heard in Kiev just minutes after Putin’s speech ended
After Putin’s speech, explosions were reported in Kiev, Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city, and the city of Kramatorsk in the eastern Donetsk region.
A CNN reporter in Kiev said: “I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I’ve never heard anything like it.
Matthew Chance, a senior international correspondent for the network, said he heard between seven and eight explosions.
Chance quickly put on his bulletproof vest and hat as he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev wears a bulletproof vest when he hears explosions shortly after 5.30 am
“There are big explosions. I can’t see them or explain what they are. but I will tell you that the United States has warned the Ukrainian authorities that there may be air and ground attacks throughout the country, including in the capital.
“I don’t know if this is happening now, but it is a remarkable coincidence that the explosions came just minutes after Putin delivered his speech,” Chance said.
“It simply came to our notice then. It was absolutely quiet. This is the first time. It must be more than just a coincidence.
“I think it’s safe where I am. I have a bulletproof vest, ”Chance said before bending down to put on his protective gear.
He suggested that the explosions he heard were still some distance from the center.
6 a.m. (4 a.m. GMT)
The Ukrainian president declared martial law
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is imposing martial law and urging his people to stay at home and not panic as Russian troops enter the country.
In a video message released shortly after the Kremlin launched its attacks in Ukraine, Zelensky said Russia had launched missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards and that explosions had been heard in many cities.
The Ukrainian president also said that he had talked on the phone with US President Joe Biden.
He pleaded: “Dear Ukrainian citizens, this morning President Putin announced a special military operation in Donbass. Russia has struck at our military infrastructure and our border guards. Explosions were heard in many cities of Ukraine. We are imposing martial law on the entire territory of our country.
“I had a conversation with President Biden a minute ago. The United States has already begun to unite international support. Today, each of you must remain calm. Stay home if you can. We work. The army is working.
“The whole defense and security sector is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for anything. We will all win because we are Ukraine.
Paratroopers are descending on Ukraine’s second-largest city as Russians carry out multiple attacks
From about 6 in the morning onwards
The footage appears to show masses of paratroopers landing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s largest city.
The United States seems to have known there was an invasion, according to ABC’s Martha Radac.
She said she had received a message from a senior Pentagon official three hours before the invasion, saying: “You are probably in the last few hours of peace on the European continent for a long time to come. Be careful.’
As the violence spread, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, wrote on Facebook that the Russian military had launched missile strikes on Ukrainian military command posts, air bases and military depots in Kiev, Kharkiv and the Dnieper.
Later in the morning, five Russian planes were reportedly shot down from the skies over Donbass before Moscow boasted that it was removing all air defenses, giving them control of the skies.
Ukrainian border guards say they have been attacked by heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus – while Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko throws his forces into battle.
Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernihiv were reportedly under attack in eastern Ukraine, but explosions were also reported in the west, in Zhytomyr and Lviv, near the Polish border.
Extraordinary videos show what appears to be a cruise missile crashing into Ivano-Frankivsk airport, also in the west.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian rebel forces have been pushed out of the occupied Donbass region, capturing two villages and claiming to have shot down two Ukrainian planes from the sky. The port city of Odessa, home to Ukraine’s main naval base, is also under attack.