Putin Declares War On Ukraine Under Guise Of 'Special Military Operation'

Explosions heard across Ukraine, as government calls out a "full-scale invasion", soon after Russian president's announcement.
Sputnik Photo Agency via Reuters

Explosions were heard across Ukraine minutes after a speech by Russian president Vladimir Putin announcing a “special military operation” was broadcast. Commentators interpreted the move as a declaration of war on Ukraine.

In a televised address, Putin said the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine – a claim that has been dismissed as a fabrication – as he warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.

Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, called the attack a “full-scale invasion” and said “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,” he said.

Boris Johnson has promised the West will respond “decisively” in the aftermath of Russia’s “unprovoked attack”.

US president Joe Biden called Russia’s “premeditated war” an “unprovoked and unjustified attack.

Putin’s address referred to a “special operation in Donbas” – the region of eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists have won his favour. But bombs were being dropped in at least seven locations, reports suggested.

Explosions were witnessed in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The sound of distant blasts were picked up in a live broadcast from US outlet CNN, causing reporter Matthew Chance to don a flak jacket. Air raid sirens were heard from the east to the west of Ukraine. Reports of casualties were unconfirmed.

Putin accused the US and its Western allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining the Atlantic military alliance NATO, and offer Moscow security guarantees.

He had previously said that regions of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists should be treated as independent and approved a military deployment into the country in what Western officials called an invasion.

It relates to a conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, which began in 2014 and has claimed at least 14,000 lives.

More than 150,000 Russian troops have amassed along Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks.

Reporters in Ukrainian cities began reporting explosions shortly after the conclusion of Putin’s broadcast.

Putin – who has been long expected to make up the pretext to invade – said Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.

He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarisation” of Ukraine, adding that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.

Hours earlier, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an astonishing address to an embattled nation, and attempted to speak directly to Russian citizens in a plea for peace.

“The Ukrainian people want peace,” Zelensky said. “The government in Ukraine wants peace and is doing everything it can to build it.”

The Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Ukraine would defend itself against the Russian aggression “and will win”.

“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.”

PA Graphics via PA Graphics/Press Association Images

Biden said in a statement: “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 he would use a G7 meeting on Thursday morning to draw up “further consequences” for Russia’s action.

He said: “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.”

UK prime minister Johnson said Putin has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction”.

Johnson said he is “appalled by the horrific events” in Ukraine and that he had spoken to its president Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss “next steps”.

“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to president Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” the prime minister tweeted.

“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

“The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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