In the early hours of Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on television to declare he would initiate a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.

Weeks of diplomatic stalemate have come to an end as Russia launched missile strikes on at least three major cities in Ukraine: Kharkiv, Odessa, and Mariupol. A news team near Kharkiv also reported hearing heavy artillery fire. CNN reporters and local residents in Kyiv reported hearing several explosions to the east where an international airport exists. There is no confirmation as of yet that the airport has been targeted.

An adviser for the Interior Minister of Ukraine, Anton Gerashchenko, declared the “invasion has begun” with “missile strikes on Kyiv”. He also reports that airfields and military headquarters are being hit by the shelling in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and that there is artillery fire along the border.

Russia’s Declaration

Putin appeared on television just before 6:00am local time, after which the shelling began almost immediately. Despite claiming he did not intend to occupy Ukraine, he stated:

“Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action. The People’s Republics of Donbas turned to Russia with a request for help. In this regard, in accordance with Article 51, part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council and in pursuance of the friendship treaties ratified by the Federal Assembly and mutual assistance with the DPR and LPR, I have decided to conduct a special military operation.” 

The UN Security Council immediately called an emergency meeting. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya, put the blame solely on Ukraine while defending Russia’s actions.

“The root of today’s crisis around Ukraine is the actions of Ukraine itself, who for many years were sabotaging its obligations under the (Minsk agreement),” said Nebenzya. He claimed that Russia would protect residents in the separatist pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine, “who for eight years have been cowering from Ukraine’s shelling.”

He also said, “Ukrainian provocation against those in Donbas not only has not stopped but has intensified,” which prompted separatist leaders in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to request Russian assistance.

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