World leaders condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine; EU promises ‘harshest’ sanctions – live updates – USA TODAY

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With the world watching, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a wide-scale, pre-dawn attack Thursday against Ukraine, unleashing an invasion that the United States and its allies had warned was coming for days.

It was not immediately clear how extensive the damage or casualties were in the initial stages of the assault, but Ukrainian authorities said Russian forces had struck military assets and other important defense facilities and were attacking border units. Explosions were heard thudding across cities throughout Ukraine, including in the capital, Kyiv.

President Joe Biden condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified attack” shortly after it began and vowed that the world would hold Russia and Putin accountable for the aggression, which threatened to create global upheaval and escalate into the largest military conflict on European soil since the end of World War II.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement after Putin announced military action against Ukraine.

Biden said he will address the nation later today to announce additional steps the U.S. will take beyond sanctions already imposed.

Just minutes earlier, President Vladimir Putin had said in a televised address to his country that Russia will conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian president said the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion. And he claimed that Russia doesn’t intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to “demilitarize” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.

More: As Russian forces advance on Ukraine, US, allies escalate diplomatic efforts

Zelenskyy calls on veterans to help fight Russia

Zelenskyy said Thursday that Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with Russia, adding that “Ukraine is defending itself and shall not cede its freedom.”

“Dear citizens, this morning has gone down in history,” he said, according to a translation by CNN as he spoke. “But it is a different history for us and for Russia.”

Zelenskyy also called on veterans to help fight against Russian troops. He said Ukraine is issuing defensive weapons to those with military experience. He said they are able to join Ukraine defense by reporting to call up stations.

“We are issuing arms, defensive weapons, to all those capable of defending our sovereignty,” he said. “Each citizen of Ukraine will decide the future of our people.”

In a tweet shortly after, Zelenskyy wrote: “We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”

In a second tweet, he added: “We have severed diplomatic relations with Russia. For all those who have not yet lost their conscience in Russia, it is time to go out and protest against the war with Ukraine.”

— Rebecca Morin

Official says Ukraine attacked from 3 sides

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”

Podolyak said Thursday that “our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details.

He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.

Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure.

Oleksii Arestovich said the Russian strike hasn’t achieved its goal to rout the country’s military. He said that “we suffered casualties, but they aren’t significant,” adding that the Russian strikes “haven’t eroded the combat capability of the Ukrainian military.”

He said that the Russian troops moved up to 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) deep into the Ukrainian territory in the Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, and, possibly in other areas.

— Associated Press

‘An unmistakable message’: Biden unveils US sanctions on Russia after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

NATO in emergency session as Russia attacks Ukraine

NATO envoys met in emergency session Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale attack on Ukraine as the 30-nation military organization prepares to bolster its defenses in allies neighboring both countries. Preparations are also underway for a NATO summit.

“This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in statement. The allies are meeting, he said, “to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions.”

While some member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization is not, and it will not launch any military action in support of Ukraine, which is a close partner but has no prospect of joining.

“We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all allies,” Stoltenberg said.

— Associated Press

China calls for talks over Ukraine, criticizes US

China repeated calls for talks to resolve the crisis in Ukraine on Thursday while refusing to criticize Russia’s attack and accusing the U.S. and its allies of worsening the situation.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing that “the Ukraine issue is complex in its historical background … what we are seeing today is the interplay of complex factors.”

“China is closely following the latest developments,” Hua said. “We still hope that the parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalating,”

Although China has not endorsed President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist areas or Putin’s decision to send Russian forces there, Hua said China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”

— Associated Press

Oil prices jump as stock markets slump

World stock markets plunged and oil prices surged by nearly $6 per barrel Thursday after President Vladimir Putin launched Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and U.S. futures were sharply lower. Brent crude oil jumped to over $100 per barrel on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies. The price of U.S. benchmark crude briefly surpassed $98 per barrel.

The ruble sank 7.5% to more than $87 to the U.S. dollar.

— Associated Press

More: Will gas prices keep rising after Russia invasion of Ukraine? Here’s what we know

Security video: Russian military vehicles cross into Ukraine

Security camera footage shows a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea.

Russian troops launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday. President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

Ukrainians started fleeing some cities, and the Russian military claimed to have incapacitated all of Ukraine’s air defenses and air bases within hours.

— Associated Press

Baltic states condemn attack

The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are condemning the Russian operation in Ukraine as a “crime against Ukrainian people.”

In a joint statement, the three countries’ foreign ministers condemned strongly “the open large scale Russian aggression against the independent, peaceful and democratic Ukraine.”

They called it “a blatant violation of the international law, of all international norms and a crime against Ukrainian people that we condemn.”

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said the Russian move is “an attack on the security order throughout Europe.”

— Associated Press

EU planning new sanctions for Russia

The European Union says it is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency summit Thursday, as the Russian military attacked Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in remarks Thursday that Russia should withdraw their troops, adding Putin will not be allowed to “tear down the security architecture that has given Europe peace and stability over many decades.”

“It is President Putin who is bringing war back to Europe,” she said.

She added that Putin’s goal isn’t to just invade Ukraine, but to create instability in Europe.

“We are facing an unprecedented act of aggression by the Russian leadership against a sovereign, independent country,” she said. “Russia’s target is not only Donbas, the target is not only Ukraine, the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the International Peace order.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the “strongest, the harshest package” ever considered.

— Rebecca Morin, Associated Press

Japanese PM: ‘We strongly condemn Russia’

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned Russia’s military actions in the Ukraine and said his country will respond in a speedy fashion in concert with the United States and other allies.

“This Russian invasion stands to put at risk the basic principle of international order that forbids one-sided action of force in an attempt to change the status quo. We strongly condemn Russia, and we will respond speedily in cooperation with the U.S. and other Western nations,” he said at his official residence in Tokyo.

Spain, France, Australia and Italy were among others condemning the attack. Germany and Turkey also warned their citizens in Ukraine to stay in a safe place.

— Associated Press

German chancellor: ‘Dark day’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a blatant violation of international law.”

“There is no justification for it,” he said. “Germany condemns this reckless act by President Putin in the strongest possible terms.”

Scholz called on Russia to stop military action immediately, and said the G7, NATO and the EU will “coordinate closely today.”

“This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe,” he said.

— Rebecca Morin

‘A tragedy’: World reacts to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

NATO ambassadors to meet on Ukraine attack

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has convened a meeting of NATO ambassadors to assess the invasion of Ukraine, which borders several NATO members.

The meeting Thursday morning will “address the situation in Ukraine and the consequences of Russia’s unprovoked attack.”

Earlier, Stoltenberg had already condemned Russia’s invasion. “Despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression,” Stoltenberg said.

He also warned Moscow that the alliance will will “do all it takes to protect and defend” NATO members.

He called the invasion a “grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. I call on Russia to cease its military action immediately.”

— Associated Press

Zelenskyy speaks with world leaders

Hours after Putin announced military action against Ukraine, Zelenskyy spoke to several world leaders to garner support for his nation.

In addition to Biden, Zelenskyy in a tweet said he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, Poland President Andrzej Duda and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Building an anti-Putin coalition,” Zelenskyy said. “Immediate sanctions, defense & financial support to (Ukraine)! Close the airspace! The world must force (Russia) into peace.”

— Rebecca Morin

More: Chaotic scenes in Donetsk and Luhansk as Russian troops enter the regions

Australian PM: ‘We must ensure there is a cost’

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said there must be a cost for Russia’s “egregious behavior” against Ukraine.

“We must ensure there is a cost for this violent and unacceptable and egregious behavior,” he said. “There always must be a cost for such reprehensible violence and the way this is being done in Ukraine as we speak.”

Morrison added that Australia will stand with “like minded” countries against Russia’s attacks, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

— Rebecca Morin

‘Murkiness and doubt’: Putin playbook meant to throw White House, allies off balance on Ukraine invasion

In Russia, a different view

Russian state media are portraying Moscow as coming to the rescue of war-torn areas of eastern Ukraine that are tormented by Ukraine’s aggression.

TV presenters are professing the end of suffering for the residents of the breakaway regions.

“You paid with your blood for these eight years of torment and anticipation,” anchor Olga Skabeyeva said during a popular political talk show Tuesday morning. “Russia will now be defending Donbas.”

Channel One struck a more festive tone, with its correspondent in Donetsk asserting that local residents “say it is the best news over the past years of war.”

“Now they have confidence in the future and that the years-long war will finally come to an end,” she said.

Whether ordinary Russians are buying it is another question.

— Associated Press

The enigma of Vladimir Putin: What do we really know about Russia’s leader?

Zelenskyy imposes martial law, condemns ‘cynical invasion’

Zelenskyy called Russia’s attack an “unjustified deceitful and cynical invasion” in a statement early on Thursday.

“Only we, all citizens of Ukraine, have been determining our future since 1991,” Zelenskyy said. “But now the fate of not only our state is being decided, but also what life in Europe will be like.”

Zelenskyy said Ukrainian diplomats are informing the world about what is happening in their country. He added: “Whether at least something of the force of international law remains will depend on the world’s fair and just response to this aggression.”

Martial law has also been imposed, Zelenskyy also said, urging civilians to stay home.

“Warn your loved ones about what is happening. Take care of those who need help,” he said.

— Rebecca Morin

‘War is my biggest horror’: Russians brace for deadly conflict, economic hardship as Putin orders invasion

US Department of State tells Americans in Ukraine to shelter in place

The U.S. Department of State early on Thursday warned Americans still in Ukraine about the current danger.

In a statement online, the department noted: “There are reports of Russian attacks on targets in a number of major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Mariupol, and others. U.S. citizens in Ukraine are advised to shelter in place…”

The statement added that: “Further Russian military action can occur at any time without warning.”

— Luciana Lopez

More: Biden levels sanctions on Russia for beginning an invasion of Ukraine

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