Moscow/Kiev, February 25: Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorized “a special military operation” in the Donbass, and Ukraine has confirmed that military targets across the country are being attacked.
A total of 11 airfields, three command posts, a Ukrainian naval base and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 air defense missile systems were among the facilities destroyed, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
Signs of nervousness grew as planes flew overhead, explosions sounded and an alarm siren sounded in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, where citizens lined up in hopes of withdrawing cash and getting stock up on supplies, Xinhua news agency reported.
In central Kiev, the local bus system, metro, banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and hotels were still operating normally. However, many private stores and bookstores have closed.
The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have both denied the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine.
In a televised address 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 responds to “fundamental threats” from NATO, which has expanded into Eastern Europe and brought closer its military infrastructure from the Russian borders.
The Russian president called on all people living on Ukrainian territory to “independently determine their future and that of their children”.
In Kyiv, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places in the city, according to local media. The country’s airspace was closed to civilian aircraft and local authorities were evacuating passengers and staff from the airport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law in the country on Thursday following the Russian military operation.
In a video address, Zelensky said his country was under attack. According to the Interior Ministry, military depots and airfields in the capital were hit by missiles.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press briefing on Thursday that “we have made it clear that we have no plans and intention to deploy NATO troops to Ukraine.”
The White House said Wednesday that the United States would not go to war with Russia or put troops on the ground in Ukraine.
“What I’m going to tell you is that President Joe Biden has been clear and consistent: he’s not sending US troops to fight in Ukraine. That hasn’t changed,” the press secretary said. the White House, Jen Psaki, during a daily briefing.
Putin on Monday signed two decrees recognizing “the People’s Republic of Luhansk” and “the People’s Republic of Donetsk” as independent and sovereign states and deployed “peacekeeping” forces in both regions.
Considering NATO’s eastward expansion “a matter of time”, Putin launched military action against Ukraine after recent negotiations with the United States and NATO failed.
Russia will not allow Ukraine to have nuclear weapons, he said Thursday, adding that Russia had taken steps to protect itself from “those who hold Ukraine hostage”.
In a late-night address Wednesday, Zelensky said he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Putin.
“I made a phone call with the President of the Russian Federation. Result: silence.
As it mobilized troops, Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, aviation authorities said Thursday.
In addition, the Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia announced that Russia has temporarily closed more than 10 airports in the south and in Crimea.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian Armed Forces are destroying “military infrastructure, air defense installations, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” with high-precision weapons, not targeting Ukrainian cities.
A 37-year-old citizen named Anna said sales at her cosmetics stores in Kyiv fell 40% in January due to heightened tensions.
Not planning to leave town as her children are still in school, she expressed hope that the war would not interrupt her children’s schooling.
Besides Kyiv, several military targets in eastern and southern Ukraine were attacked early Thursday, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport and its fuel and lubricant depots in western Ukraine were also destroyed by Russian missile systems, Ukrinform reported, citing the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
The Ukrainian Border Guard Service said Russian ground forces entered Ukraine from several directions on Thursday. Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the border into several northern regions and Crimea in the south.
The border guard also said separately that Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Lugansk regions.
Following the Russian operation, the Ukrainian president announced that Kyiv had severed diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia launched military operations in the Donbass, state news agency Ukrinform reported.
In a televised address, Zelensky said more than 40 people had been killed and dozens injured in the conflict.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said severing bilateral diplomatic ties was “not our choice”, Sputnik reported.
Shortly after Putin’s announcement of the military operation in Ukraine, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday evening called on Russia to withdraw its troops.
If military action leads to all-out war, “it is difficult to predict how dramatic it will be in the number of people who will die, in the number of people who will be displaced, in the number of people who will lose hope”. about the future,” António Guterres told reporters after an emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told a meeting with senior military brass that the purpose of the Russian military operation in Donbass was to prevent local destruction and civilian casualties in Donetsk and Lugansk, noting that although the conflict has already begun, the parties must find ways to prevent bloodshed and full-scale war.
To rally support from his Western allies, Zelensky contacted US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron by phone.
During the call, Biden briefed his Ukrainian counterpart on the steps Washington is taking “to rally international condemnation,” adding that the United States will “continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.” , according to a statement from the White House.
Biden also said he would meet with leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries on Thursday.
The United States announced what it called “the first tranche” of punitive measures against Russia – sanctions against two major Russian banks and the country’s sovereign debt, preventing Moscow from raising funds from the West and to exchange new debt on the American or European markets. He also sanctioned Russian elites and their family members.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said on Thursday that “everything must now be done to avoid further escalation and protect lives.”
Emphasizing that “peace comes first,” Van der Bellen said the path to the negotiating table must be open to all parties.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian tweeted on Thursday that “the #Ukraine crisis is rooted in NATO provocations. We do not believe that resorting to war is a solution.
It is “imperative to establish a ceasefire and find a political and democratic solution”, he added.
António Guterres called on Putin on Wednesday evening to send his troops back to Russia and “give peace a chance” after the end of the Security Council’s emergency meeting on Ukraine.
China maintains that the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned and a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should finally be established through dialogue and negotiation, said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Thusday.