In an unprecedented global move that might further blow up the world order, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised ‘a special military operation' in Donbas, and Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were under attack.
According to the latest Russian Defence Ministry reports, a total of 11 airfields, three command posts, a Ukrainian naval base, and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 air defence missile systems were among the facilities destroyed.
While the situation in Ukraine remains on the edge with Russian fighter planes breaching Ukrainian airspace with explosions across important military installations, alarm sirens were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, where citizens were standing in long lines hoping to draw money and stock up on supplies.
In the centre of Kiev, the local bus system, subway, banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and hotels were still operating normally. However, many private shops and bookstores have closed.
Meanwhile, the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have both denied the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine. In a televised speech to the country earlier on Thursday, Putin said, “Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force,” noting that Russia's move is in response to “fundamental threats” by NATO, which has expanded to eastern Europe and brought its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders.
The Russian President called on all people living on the territory of Ukraine to “independently determine the future of their own and children.”
In Kiev, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places across the city, according to local media reports. The country's airspace was closed for civilian aircraft, and local authorities were evacuating passengers and staff from the airport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has meanwhile, declared martial law in the country following Russia's military operation. In a video address, Zelensky said his country is under attack. According to the Interior Ministry, military depots and airfields in the capital were hit by missiles.
Further NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a press briefing said that “we have made it clear that we do not have any plans and intentional deploying NATO troops to Ukraine.”
The White House on Wednesday said the US would not be in a war with Russia or put troops on the ground in Ukraine. “What I will tell you is President Joe Biden has been crystal clear and consistent: He is not sending US troops to fight in Ukraine. That has not changed,” said White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki during a daily briefing.
Putin on Monday signed two decrees recognising “the Luhansk People's Republic” and “the Donetsk People's Republic” as independent and sovereign states and deployed “peacekeeping” forces in the two regions.
Seeing it as “a matter of time” for NATO to expand eastward, Putin took military action against Ukraine after recent negotiations with the US and NATO failed. Russia will not allow Ukraine to have nuclear weapons, he said on Thursday, adding that Russia took action to protect itself from “those who take Ukraine hostage.”
In a late-night address on Wednesday, Zelensky said he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Putin. “I initiated a telephone call with the President of the Russian Federation. Result: silence.”
While mobilising troops, Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, the aviation authorities said on Thursday. Additionally, the Russian Aviation Authority Rosaviatsiya announced that Russia has temporarily closed more than 10 airports in the south and Crimea.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the Russian Armed Forces are destroying “military infrastructure, air defence facilities, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” with high-precision weapons, not targeting Ukrainian cities.
A 37-year-old citizen named Anna said that sales in her cosmetics stores in Kiev dropped by 40% this January due to heightened tensions. Having not planned to leave the city because her children are still in school, she expressed the hope that the war would not interrupt school for her children.
As per reports the Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport and its fuel and lubricants depots in western Ukraine were also destroyed by Russia's missile systems, reported Ukrinform, citing the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
Ukraine's border guard service said Russia's ground forces crossed into Ukraine from several directions on Thursday. Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions and Crimea in the south. The border guard also said separately that Russian troops had crossed the Ukrainian border into the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.
Following Russia's operation,Ukrainian President announced that Kiev had severed diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia launched military operations in Donbas, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported. In a televised address, Zelensky said more than 40 people were killed and dozens wounded in the conflict.
Shortly after Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on Wednesday evening called on Russia to withdraw its troops.
China meanwhile maintains that the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned and a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should be finally established through dialogue and negotiation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.