(Moscow) Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere in Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
In a televised address, President Putin said the attack was necessary to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a claim the United States had predicted to justify an invasion.
Vladimir Putin has accused the United States and its allies of ignoring Russia’s request to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and to offer security guarantees to Moscow. He said Russia’s goal was not to occupy Ukraine. As President Putin spoke these words, large explosions were heard in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Kharkiv and other parts of the country.
US President Joe Biden has denounced the attack on Ukraine, calling it “unwarranted”. He said the world will “hold Russia accountable”.
The consequences of this conflict
A massive Russian invasion could cause massive casualties and overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government.
The consequences of the conflict and the sanctions imposed on Russia could reverberate around the world, affecting energy supplies in Europe, shaking global financial markets and threatening the post-Cold War balance on the continent.
The Kremlin alleges that separatists in eastern Ukraine have asked Russia for military aid to help repel Ukrainian aggression. The announcement immediately stoked fears that Moscow was offering a pretext for war, as the West had warned.
Ukraine’s president has dismissed Moscow’s allegations. “The Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government want peace,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a moving speech, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens.
“But if we are attacked, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. We will not turn our backs,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
State of emergency declared in Ukraine
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s parliament had approved a national state of emergency, amid fears of an all-out Russian invasion.
Parliament approved Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decree which imposes the exceptional measure for 30 days, starting on Thursday.
The state of emergency allows authorities to impose restrictions on movement, or ban demonstrations, political parties and organizations “in the interests of national security and public order”.
The state of emergency decree also prohibits “information that could destabilize the situation in the country” and grants the government the right to impose curfews and carry out checks.
Hopes are dwindling for a diplomatic exit from this new war on European soil, as the United States and key European allies accused Moscow of crossing a “red line” on Tuesday by crossing the Ukrainian border in the separatist regions of Donbass in eastern Ukraine.
After weeks of trying to project calm, Ukrainian authorities expressed growing concern on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov also said on Wednesday that a wave of cyberattacks targeted official websites and some banks, knocking parliament, cabinet and foreign ministry websites offline, and causing interruptions or delays at the sites of the Ministries of Defense and Interior, which controls the police.
US President Joe Biden has authorized sanctions against the company that built the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and against the company’s CEO, the White House has said.
Mr Biden had waived these sanctions against ‘Nord Stream 2’ last year, when the project was almost complete, in exchange for an agreement with Berlin for Germany to take action against Russia if it used the natural gas as a diplomatic weapon or attacked Ukraine.