Thursday, February 24, 2022
UN: Some 100,000 displaced in Ukraine, thousands flee abroad
The UN refugee agency has said around 100,000 people had fled their homes within Ukraine and several thousand more had left the country since neighbouring Russia attacked early on Thursday.
“We believe that some 100,000 people must have already left their homes and may be displaced inside the country, and several thousand have crossed international borders,” UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told the AFP news agency.
Refugee High Commissioner Filippo Grandi had voiced serious concern at the rapid deterioration of the situation as military operations unfolded across Ukraine and urged neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for those seeking safety and shelter.
“We are continuing to closely follow the situation and are reinforcing our operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries,” the agency said.
Kiev: Russian attacks kill 57 Ukrainians
Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko has said 57 Ukrainians have been killed as a result of the Russian attack on the eastern European country, and 169 more were wounded.
Lyashko also said that Ukraine’s authorities are repurposing the country’s health care facilities to make room for those who need medical assistance because of the hostilities.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military said that Russian forces aimed to block the Ukrainian capital Kiev while creating a land corridor on the southern coast towards the annexed Crimea peninsula and Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova.
It said Russia has carried out at least 203 attacks since early morning.
Chernobyl power plant captured by Russian forces
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by Russian forces, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak, has said.
“It is impossible to say the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe after a totally pointless attack by the Russians,” he said.
“This is one of the most serious threats in Europe today,” Podolyak said.
Some Russian military massed in the Chernobyl “exclusion zone” before crossing into Ukraine, a Russian security source said.
Russia wants to control the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to signal NATO not to interfere militarily, the same source said.
US to deploy 7,000 more troops to Germany: Pentagon
The United States will deploy 7,000 more troops to Europe, to be based in Germany, in response to Russia’s attack of Ukraine, the Pentagon has announced.
“They will deploy to Germany to reassure NATO Allies, deter Russian aggression and be prepared to support a range of requirements in the region,” a Pentagon official said, adding that they are expected to depart “in the coming days.”
Russia detains nearly 1,400 at Ukraine anti-war protests
Russian police have detained almost 1,400 people at anti-war protests across Russia after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, an independent monitor has said.
“More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities,” said OVD-Info, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies.
More than 700 people have been detained in Moscow and over 340 people in the second-largest city Saint Petersburg, the monitor said.
US announces sanctions and export controls against Russia
US President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions on Russia in response to the Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, including freezing assets of major banks and cutting off high-tech exports to the country.
“This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time,” Biden said.
He said the steps imposed in coordination with Europe will block top Russian banks from the US financial system and “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”
Russia unblocks water flow for canal to annexed Crimea
Russian forces have restored water flow to a canal linking the Dnieper River in Ukraine to Moscow-annexed Crimea, a Russian defence ministry spokesperson has said, as Russia pressed ahead with a vast military operation against Ukraine.
Ukraine cut off fresh water supply along the canal that had supplied 85 percent of the peninsula’s needs after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
The Soviet-era waterway was built to channel water from the Dnieper to arid areas of Ukraine’s Kherson region and Crimea.
NATO’s expansion is serious threat, Raisi tells Putin
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that NATO’s expansion was a “serious threat” to the region’s security and stability, the semi-official Nour News reported.
“NATO’s expansion eastward creates tension and is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent states in various areas,” Raisi was quoted saying following Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.
“I hope what is happening will benefit peoples and the entire region,” he said.
‘No other way to defend Russia other than attacking Ukraine’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow had no other choice but to attack Ukraine to ensure Russia’s security, speaking hours after his army crossed his ex-Soviet neighbour’s borders.
“What was happening left us with no choice,” the Russian leader said during a televised meeting with business representatives, adding that “we had no other way of proceeding”.
G7 agreed on ‘devastating’ sanctions against Russia: Biden
US President Joe Biden has said that the G7 group has agreed to impose “devastating” economic sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine.
“This morning, I met with my G7 counterparts to discuss President Putin’s unjustified attack on Ukraine and we agreed to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine,” Biden tweeted.
First day of Ukraine operation successful: Russian military
Russia’s defence ministry has said that its military had destroyed 83 Ukrainian land-based targets, the Interfax news agency quoted it as saying.
Russia’s defence ministry achieved all its goals in Ukraine for the first day, Interfax reported, citing the ministry.
“All of the tasks assigned to the groups of troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the day were successfully completed,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.
Red Cross fears ‘massive’ casualties in Ukraine
The Red Cross chief has warned that Russia’s attack on Ukraine risked death and destruction at a scale “frightening to contemplate”.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement that Moscow’s operation “has sent an ominous chill down my spine.”
“We already see the immediate consequences for civilians, with the latest intensification triggering new displacement,” he said.
13 civilians, 9 troops killed in south Ukraine region
Russian armoured columns from Crimea pushed deep into the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the first day of their operation, triggering fighting that left at least 13 civilians dead.
Nine Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, the Kherson regional administration said, as the Russian force seized crossing points from Crimea to the mainland and a crossing over the Dnipro river.
British leader orders asset freeze for all Russian banks
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will aim to cut Russia off from the UK’s financial markets as he announced a new set of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
The sanctions include freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank, Johnson said. Britain also plans to bar Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money on UK markets.
Britain will also ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and to prohibit the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at UK airports.
Ukraine leader says Russia captures airfield near Kiev
Russian airborne troops have seized control of the Gostomel airfield, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.
He vowed to retake an airfield close to the capital Kiev captured by Russian forces.
“Enemy paratroopers have been blocked in Gostomel – our troops have been given the order to destroy them,” Zelenskyy said in a video address.
The Gostomel airfield, which is alongside the Antonov airport, is immediately on the northern edge of Kiev, and the fighting there is the closest that Russian forces had got to the Ukrainian capital on the first day of their operation.
This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.
Ukraine capital Kiev declares curfew: mayor
Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has announced an overnight curfew in Ukraine’s capital as the country battled to repel a Russian attack.
The former world heavyweight boxing champion said the curfew would last from 2000 GMT to 0500 GMT (10:00PM to 7:00AM local time) and that public transport would stop working during that period.
Metro stations would remain open throughout to serve as bomb shelters, he said.
Turkish-owned ship hit by bomb off coast of Odessa
A Turkish-owned ship has been hit by a bomb off the coast of Ukraine’s port city Odessa, Türkiye’s Maritime General Directorate said, adding there were no casualties and the ship was safely en route to Romanian waters.
“Upon information that the Marshall Islands-flagged Turkish-owned Yasa Jupiter ship was struck by a bomb off the coast of Odessa, it was learned that the ship has no request for help, is en route to Romanian waters, has no casualties and is safe,” the authority said on Twitter.
Dozens detained at anti-war rallies in Russia
Dozens of people gathering in Moscow and Saint Petersburg to protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine have been detained, according to AFP journalists at the demonstrations.
Riot police at Pushkin Square in central Moscow arrested dozens of people, while around 20 people have been detained in Russia’s former imperial capital Saint Petersburg.
US believes Russia planning to ‘decapitate’ Ukraine’s govt
The United States believes that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is designed to decapitate Ukraine’s government and one of the three main axes of assault is directed at the capital Kiev, a senior US defence official has said.
“It is our assessment that they have every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
74 military facilities in Ukraine destroyed: Russia
Russia has said that its military had destroyed more than 70 military targets including 11 airfields in Ukraine.
“As a result of strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces, 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities were destroyed,” said Igor Konashenkov, a defence ministry spokesman.
Destroyed facilities included 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems, he said.
He said a Ukrainian military helicopter and four drones had also been shot down.
Battle underway for airbase on Kiev outskirts
Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling for control of an airbase on the northern outskirts of Kiev, a senior Ukrainian officer has said, as dozens of attack helicopters swooped on the area.
“Fighting is underway for Gostomel airfield,” armed forces chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said in a message posted on Facebook.
Ukraine military plane with 14 aboard crashes near Kiev
A Ukrainian military plane with 14 people aboard crashed south of Kiev, the emergencies service has said.
The service said it was “still determining how many people died.” The incident occurred about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Kiev, amid reports of several locations around the city coming under attack.
Moscow warns Russians against joining anti-war protests
Russian authorities have warned anti-war sympathisers from gathering for protests, after President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military operation in Ukraine.
The Investigative Committee in a statement warned Russians of legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to “the tense foreign political situation”.
Ukraine requests closing Turkish Straits for Russian forces
Ukraine’s ambassador in Ankara has requested Türkiye to close the Canakkale (Dardanelles) and Istanbul (Bosphorus) Straits to Russian forces.
Vasyl Bodnar said at a news conference that they have made an official request to Ankara to close their airspace and straits to Russia.
Russian forces break into Kiev region
Russian forces have broken through into the north of the Kiev region, Ukraine’s border guards have said, staging an attack with Grad missiles on government positions.
An AFP reporter in the northern part of Ukraine’s capital also saw several low-flying helicopters flying toward the city, amid reports that an airfield was under attack.
South Korea says will join sanctions against Russia
South Korea will join international economic sanctions against Russia over its “armed invasion” of Ukraine, President Moon Jae-in has said.
“The sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine must be guaranteed,” Moon said, in a statement issued by Seoul’s presidential Blue House.
South Korea will “support and participate in the efforts of the international community, including economic sanctions”, he added, calling Moscow’s military attack on Ukraine an “armed invasion”.
China ‘understands’ Russia’s concerns on security
Beijing has told Russia’s foreign minister it understands Moscow’s “reasonable concerns on security issues” over Ukraine, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with his Russian counterpart on the phone, telling him that although Beijing “has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries… we have also seen that the Ukrainian issue has its own complicated and unique history”.
Russia’s brazen attack will not go unpunished: Canada
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned Russia’s “egregious” and “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine, calling on Moscow to immediately withdraw from the country and saying its aggression “will not go unpunished.”
“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine,” Trudeau said in a statement.
The Canadian leader called on Russia to “immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country.”
Romania: Putin threatens peace of whole planet
The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”
NATO working on deterrence plan: Stoltenberg
NATO has no “plans” to send alliance troops to Ukraine, its chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.
The alliance would take new deterrence and defence steps after Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg said at a media conference.
The plan would include putting over 100 warplanes on high alert and further increase the presence of troops on the alliance’s eastern flank.
NATO will hold a video summit on Friday to discuss the Russian operation, Stoltenberg said.
“Russia is using force to try to rewrite history, and deny Ukraine its free and independent path.”
Over 40 Ukraine soldiers, nearly 10 civilians killed
More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around 10 civilians have died in the first hours of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters.
“I know that more than 40 have been killed and several dozen wounded. I am aware of nearly 10 civilian losses,” presidential administration aide Oleksiy Arestovych told reporters.
Casualties in attack near Ukraine’s Odessa
Eighteen people have died in an air strike on a military base near Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa.
“Eighteen died — eight men and 10 women. At the moment, we are still digging through the rubble,” the Odessa regional administration said in a statement.
Ukraine forces say ’50 Russian occupiers’ killed
Ukraine’s military command has said government forces killed “around 50 Russian occupiers” while repulsing an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.
“Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth,” the armed forces general staff said on Twitter.
Ukraine breaks diplomatic ties with Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has severed Kiev’s diplomatic relations with Moscow.
It marked the first rupture in ties since Russia and Ukraine became independent countries after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
Later, Zelenskyy compared Russia’s attack on his country to military campaigns carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II.
“Russia has attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way, like Nazi Germany did during World War II,” he said in an online briefing, during which he called on Ukrainians to “go out” and “protest against this war”.
China calls for restraint, rejects the term ‘invasion’
China has rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and said it is closely monitoring the latest situation.
“We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control,” said Hua Chunying, spokesperson at China’s Foreign Ministry.
At a daily media briefing in Beijing, Hua bridled at journalists’ characterisation of Russia’s actions. “This is perhaps a difference between China and you Westerners. We won’t go rushing to a conclusion,” she said.
“Regarding the definition of an invasion, I think we should go back to how to view the current situation in Ukraine.”
“The Ukrainian issue has other very complicated historical background that have continued to today. It may not be what everyone wants to see.”
Five Russian planes, one chopper downed: Kiev military
The Ukrainian military has claimed to have downed five Russian planes and a helicopter in the east of the country near a rebel-held enclave.
“According to the Joint Forces Command, today, February 24, in the area of the Joint Forces operation, five planes and a helicopter of the aggressors were shot down,” the army general staff said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced “special military operation” in Ukraine, in a dramatic escalation that drew scathing condemnation by the West.
Ukraine’s air defence systems ‘eliminated’: Russia
Russia’s Defence Ministry has said it had neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems.
“Military infrastructure at Ukrainian army air bases has been rendered out of action,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies.
Russian ground forces cross into Ukraine
Russia’s ground forces have crossed into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine’s border guard service has said.
Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south, the agency said.
It said one of its servicemen died in a shelling attack along the Crimean border, the first officially confirmed military death of the Russian invasion.
Moscow-backed Ukraine rebels advancing: Russian army
The Russian army has said Moscow-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine were advancing and had gained territory.
Military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told state television that forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic gained “up to three kilometres” (1.8 miles) in territory and those of the Luhansk People’s Republic “advanced one and a half kilometres”.
He added that Russia had “high precision weapons” and that Ukrainian civilians had “nothing to fear.”
Konashenkov said the Russia-backed rebel troops are “now fighting and inflicting…damage on the enemy”.
Ukraine asks Türkiye to close Black Sea waterways to Russia
Ukraine has asked Türkiye to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships.
Under a 1936 pact, Ankara has control over the straits and can limit warship passages during wartime or if threatened.
“We are calling for the air space, Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to be closed. We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar told a news conference in Ankara.
“At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side.”
Belarus says its army not taking part in Russian operation
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has said his military is not taking part in the Russian operation in Ukraine, as Kiev said Moscow’s troops were entering from Belarusian territory.
Minsk said Putin called Lukashenko in the early hours of Thursday — at around 5:00 am (0200 GMT) — to inform him that Moscow was launching a military operation on Ukraine.
Lukashenko, an ally of Vladimir Ukraine, said the Russian leader told him the “aim” of the operation was to “stop the genocide of the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.”
Germany: EU, NATO, G7 to launch ‘massive sanctions’
Germany has said the EU, NATO and the G7 would work to hit Russia with severe sanctions.
“We will launch the full package with the most massive sanctions against Russia and we will strengthen our security and our allies,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.
“We have not chosen this situation,” she added, but “if we don’t stand up to it now, we will pay an even higher price”.
Lithuania to impose emergency
EU and NATO member Lithuania has said it will impose a state of emergency after the Russian army’s air and ground attack on Ukraine.
“Today I will sign a decree imposing a state of emergency,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after a meeting of the national defence council.
Nauseda added that Lithuania would request the activation of NATO’s Article 4, which provides for emergency consultations if a member of the alliance is threatened.
World must compel Russia to peace: Zelenskyy
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the country’s allies were building a “coalition” against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and urged the world to take measures to force Moscow to stop its attack.
“We are building an anti-Putin coalition,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter on Thursday, after talks with the leaders of the US, EU, Britain, Germany and Poland.
“The world must compel Russia to peace,” he wrote.
Johnson condemns ‘horrific’ attack by Russia
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned Russia’s “unprovoked” and “horrific” attack on Ukraine, as he prepared to chair an emergency meeting of top ministers and officials.
Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and vowed “the West would not stand by as (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin waged his campaign…,” his office said.
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“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.”
Türkiye urges its citizens in Ukraine to stay home
Türkiye has asked its citizens in Ukraine to stay home. “Ukrainian airspace is still closed. At the current stage, we ask that you stay at home or in a safe place and avoid travel,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that necessary support and guidance will be provided to those who want to leave the country.
Australia targets Russia with “second phase” of sanctions
Australia has hit Russia with a “second phase” of sanctions over its assault on Ukraine, the first salvo in an expected battery of new international measures to punish Moscow.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned Russia’s “illegal invasion” as he announced sanctions against 25 individuals, four entities involved in developing and selling military gear, and restrictions on four financial institutions.
He flagged further waves of sanctions would be imposed “as we identify those responsible for these egregious acts”, including against 300 members of the Russian parliament.
France working with allies to “end the war”: Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly condemned Russia’s military action against Ukraine and vowed that Paris would work with allies to try to end the conflict.
“Russia must immediately put an end to its military operations,” Macron wrote on Twitter, saying Russia had made the decision to “wage war” on Ukraine.
“France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands by Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war,” he added.
Macron had repeatedly spoken to President Vladimir Putin seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff but to no avail.
EU to hold Russia ‘accountable’, readies new sanctions
The European Union has said it will hold Russia “accountable” for its attack on Ukraine and was preparing fresh sanctions that will deal “massive and severe consequences” to Moscow.
“We strongly condemn Russia’s unjustified attack on Ukraine,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel each wrote on Twitter.
“In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,” they said.
“We will hold the Kremlin accountable.”
EU leaders are to hold a snap summit later on Thursday.
Russia suspends movement of commercial vessels in Azov sea
Russia has suspended movement of commercial vessels in the Azov sea until further notice, five grain industry sources have told Reuters.
The Azov sea is home to shallow water ports of smaller capacity. “All ships are on ‘stop’ (in the Azov sea),” one of the sources said.
Russia’s state agency for maritime and river transport did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
‘Unjustifiable’: Italy condemns Russia’s Ukraine move
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has lashed Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “unjustified and unjustifiable,” saying Europe and NATO were working on an immediate response.
“The Italian Government condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It is unjustified and unjustifiable. Italy is close to the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment. We are working with European and NATO allies to respond immediately, with unity and determination,” Draghi said in a statement.
Germany lashes out at Russia, warns of cost
Germany has blasted Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as “a day of shame”, and warned that the political and economic consequences for Moscow would be severe.
“Germany condemns in the strongest possible terms this unscrupulous act by President (Vladimir) Putin. Our solidarity goes out to Ukraine and its people,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement.
Scholz, whose country currently holds the presidency of the G7 forum, urged Moscow to stop its military operation “immediately”.
He also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to express Germany’s “full solidarity”, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a tweet.
Ukraine says military infrastructure under attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia is attacking his country’s “military infrastructure” and border guards, but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.
In a video message posted on Facebook on Thursday, Zelenskyy also introduced martial law across the country, adding that he had spoken by phone with US President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the Russian defence ministry confirmed it was targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons.
“Military infrastructure, air defence facilities, military airfields, and aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being disabled with high-precision weapons,” it said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Ukraine will defend itself and will win: Minister
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of launching a “full-scale invasion”.
“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Kuleba tweeted.
“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.”
Weeks of diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions failed to deter Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders.
“I have made the decision of a military operation,” Putin said in a surprise television announcement that sent global tensions soaring.
Explosions heard in Ukraine capital, other cities
Explosions rang out before dawn on Thursday in Ukraine’s capital Kiev and several cities near the frontline and along the country’s coasts.
There were blasts in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, close to the frontline of a Russian-backed rebel enclave and just across the sea from Russian-occupied Crimea.
Explosions also rang out in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which lies 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Russian border and outside the eastern zone where Kiev.
Closer to the eastern war zone, four loud blasts were heard in Kramatorsk, which serves as the Ukrainian government’s effective capital for the eastern war zone.
More blasts rang out in Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov which provide a land bridge between Russia and the Kremlin-annexed Crimea peninsula.
‘Reckless and unprovoked attack’: NATO chief slams Russia
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has denounced Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack” on Ukraine, warning it put “countless” lives in jeopardy.
He said NATO allies “will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions”.
“This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. I call on Russia to cease its military action immediately and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Ukraine is not a member of the 30-nation Western military alliance but its attempt to join have angered the Kremlin leader.
Putin has demanded guarantees from NATO and the US that Ukraine would never be granted membership.
Give peace a chance: UN chief to Putin
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a direct plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin late on Wednesday, urging him not to attack Ukraine.
“So, if indeed, an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine,” Guterres said at a UN Security Council meeting requested by Ukraine.
“Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died,” he added.
Russia begins ‘military operation’ in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a “military operation” in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”
He said the attack that began on Thursday was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a claim the US had predicted he would falsely make to justify an “invasion”.
In a televised address, Putin accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. He said Russia’s goal was not to occupy Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden denounced the “unprovoked and unjustified” attack on Ukraine and said the world will “hold Russia accountable.”
As Putin spoke, big explosions were heard in Kiev, Kharkiv, and other areas of Ukraine.