Heartbreaking images from Ukraine show bloodied civilians staggering through the streets after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he declared war to ‘protect civilians’.
Russia today launched all-out war against Ukraine with simultaneous attacks coming from south, east and north, by land and by air.
And shelling in Kharkiv has killed a boy in an apartment block, Ukrainian authorities say.
Other civilians were also injured and some others are believed to have died.
Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, tanks rolled across the border, troops parachuted down on eastern regions and explosions were seen across the country after Vladimir Putin gave the order to attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons and claimed that ‘there is no threat to civilian population.’
Yet Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernihiv in the east of Ukraine all reported coming under attack, with blasts also reported in the west – in Zhytomyr and Lviv, close to the border with Poland.
And extraordinary video footage showed what appeared to be a cruise missile slamming into Ivano-Frankivsk airport, also in the west. An apartment block in Kharkiv was struck, causing civilian casualties.
Kiev’s main international airport was hit in the first bombing of the city since World War II and air raid sirens sounded over the capital at the break of dawn.
‘I woke up because of the sounds of bombing. I packed a bag and tried to escape,’ said resident Maria Kashkoska, as she sheltered inside the Kyiv metro station.
In the eastern Ukrainian town of Chuguiv, a son wept over the body of his father among the wreckage of a missile strike in a residential district.
‘I told him to leave,’ the man sobbed repeatedly, next to the twisted ruins of a car.’
In the eastern Ukrainian town of Chuguiv, a son wept over the body of his father among the wreckage of a missile strike in a residential district. ‘I told him to leave,’ the man sobbed repeatedly, next to the twisted ruins of a car’
Emergency unit staff treat an injured man after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24
Ukrainian security forces accompany a wounded man after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv, this morning
A wounded woman is seen on the streets of Kharkiv in Ukraine after airstrikes hit an apartment complex
A wounded man is helped by Ukrainian security forces after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Kharkiv
An injured man stands by an emergency vehicle after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24
Wreckage of an X-31 missile in Kiev in Ukraine after airstrikes hit Ukraine when Putin declared war
Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, tanks rolled across the border, troops parachuted down on eastern regions and explosions were seen across the country after Vladimir Putin gave the order to attack
Plumes of smoke and fire rises into the air after Russian airstrikes hit Kiev this morning
A tank of Ukrainian forces moves as following Russia’s military operation on February 24
Reports of explosions and air raid sirens came from as far west as Lviv and hundreds of casualties were reported by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry as the country was placed under martial law.
An appalling video shows the moment a shell hit a cyclist in Uman, Cherkassy region, central Ukraine.
Reports say one civilian was killed and five others wounded. The evacuation of the population within a 19 mile radius of a military unit was announced.
Another video shows Russian military vehicles marked ‘Z’ in Kherson .
In recent days military vehicles with these markings have been seen in western Russia.
In his speech last night Putin said: ‘In this regard, in accordance with Article 51 of Part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council of Russia and in pursuance of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance ratified by the Federal Assembly on February 22 this year with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, I decided to conduct a special military operation .
‘Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous, bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.’
Ukrainian firefighters arrive after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv Oblast
Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv
A wounded woman is seen after an airstrike damaged an apartment complex in city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv
A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base, in central Ukraine, as the country comes under all-out attack by Russia
A blast in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, strikes what appears to be an arms depot which exploded, lighting up the night sky
The attack has come to Ukraine on all fronts, with bombs and missiles striking targets across the country, ground forces rolling in from Belarus, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, and paratroopers dropping on Kharkiv
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Ukraine because of the imminent threat of a Russian invasion, members still unaware of Putin’s announcement appealed to him to stop an attack. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting, just before the announcement, telling Putin: ‘Stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.’
NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg issued a statement condemning ‘Russia’s reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives. Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.’
Putin justified it all in a televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion.
He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. He also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to ‘demilitarize’ it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.
Putin is also warning other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action will lead to ‘consequences they have never seen.’
CCTV cameras at Belarusian-Ukrainian checkpoint Senkovka-Veselovka capture at least four T-72B tanks, at least eight MT-LB tractors, and a Ural truck crossing the border
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv
Ukrainian troops are seen on the top of a tank heading into the city of Mariupol, near the occupied Donbass
Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine
A video showed more evidence of intense fighting in the suburbs of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
Oleksiy Arestovych, of the Tripartite Contact Group for the Peaceful Settlement of the Situation in Eastern Ukraine, told President Zelensky: ‘Russian troops have crossed the Crimean Isthmus and are developing an offensive in two directions – to Militopol and Kherson.
‘The military take up defensive positions in these areas and are preparing to stop the offensive.
‘The most successful situation is in the Joint Forces Operations zone. All attacks there were repulsed, the line of defence was not broken through.
‘Shchastie was repulsed, a lot of enemy equipment was hit. Near Kharkiv, fighting is going on 4-5 km north of the city.
‘They destroyed 4 enemy tanks. Shot down 6 Russian planes. In the Chernihiv region, they advanced 5-10 km, but Kiev is reliably protected, fierce battles will await them.
‘From the Ukrainian side – there are more than 40 dead. Mariupil is under the control of the Ukrainian army.’
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said as of 10.30am local time: ‘In the Chernihiv region, we managed to stop the enemy.
‘Difficult battles are being fought in the Kharkiv direction and in the area of the Joint Forces Operation, where the enemy has suffered losses in manpower and equipment.
‘With the help of our troops, the cities of MARIUPOL and SCHASTIA have been returned to full control.
‘At least 6 aircrafts, 2 helicopters and dozens of enemy armored vehicles were destroyed.
‘The difficult situation in the Kherson direction, however, the defence forces of Ukraine are rebuffing the aggressor.’
Russia has dismissed as a ‘complete lie’ claims that any of its warplanes were lost.
‘Hundreds’ of Ukrainian troops were killed in early clashes, sources said, as the fight came to them on all fronts at a moment’s notice. Official figures put the death toll at 7, with 19 unaccounted for.
Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD rockets took out targets from east to west – aimed at airfields, military bases, ammo dumps, and command posts including in the capital.
Six Russian jets were shot out of the sky over the eastern Donbass region with 50 Russian troops killed, Ukraine claimed, before Moscow boasted of taking full control of the skies.
Ukrainian border guards said they had come under attack by heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko threw his forces into the fight – though he denied taking part.
European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to hold the Kremlin accountable.
‘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 on Twitter.
Even before Putin’s announcement, dozens of nations imposed sanctions on Russia, further squeezing Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has shrugged off the sanctions, saying that ‘Russia has proven that, with all the costs of the sanctions, it is able to minimize the damage.’
The threat of war has already shredded Ukraine’s economy and raised the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across Europe and global economic chaos.
Across Ukraine, cruise and ballistic missiles were destroying military infrastructure and strategically important facilities, according to unofficial Russian sources.
Mariupol, on the Black Sea 50 miles from the Russian border, appeared to be under fierce attack. Taking this strategic location would give the Donbas republics access to the sea.
The moment Ukraine and the rest of Europe had dreaded for months finally came shortly after 4.35am local time when huge explosions were heard in Kiev and other cities across the country.
Terrified citizens rushed to bomb shelters, though no air raid warnings sounded in the capital – only the frequent muffled crump of missile or air strikes breaking through the pre-dawn stillness.
In Kiev, people were sheltering in basements as the sounds of distant explosions became a constant backdrop.
Within an hour Russians special force and airborne troops were reported to be on the ground at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport, amid fierce fighting.
A woman in the Ukrainian capital said: ‘I was woken by a friend.
‘I am in the centre of Kiev.
‘I hear the sound of distant explosions and ambulance sirens.’
At 7.05am the first air raid sirens were heard in central Kiev.