Scott Morrison has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as ‘brutal’ and urged President Vladimir Putin to withdraw immediately as he announced further sanctions.
‘About 2pm this afternoon, the Russian government declared that they had commenced a so-called ”special military operation” in Ukraine. And they said this after months of aggression and intimidation,’ the Prime Minister said in a press conference.
‘But I’ll call it what it is. The Russian government launched a brutal invasion, unprovoked, on Ukraine, and should be condemned for doing so.
‘Together with the international community, we are banding together in strong terms to condemn these outrageous acts in the strongest possible terms.
‘The footage that is emerging of missile strikes, air-raid sirens, and reports of hundreds of casualties – as yet unconfirmed – are, sadly, not surprising given the events we’ve been witnessing for some time now, and have been warning about.
‘But, even as these events continue to take place, we do call on the Russian government to withdraw and return Ukraine to a peaceful situation.’
Early morning in Europe Putin announced his invasion, describing it as a ‘special military operation’ and said he wants to ‘demilitarize’, not occupy, the country.
Within hours, Ukraine’s interior ministry said there had been hundreds of casualties, CNN reported – despite Russia insisting early Thursday morning that they were only attacking military installations, and were avoiding populated areas.
Ukraine’s military said their air defenses shot down five Russian planes and a helicopter in the early hours of Thursday in the east of the country, near Kharkiv.
Explosions are seen in the early hours of Thursday in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine
Putin has recognized two areas in eastern Ukraine as independent and authorized Russian troops to go in on ‘peacekeeping’ missions. Rebels already hold part of that territory (in red) but Putin has recognized a much-wider region (yellow)
Ukraine’s border force said that their posts in the north have come under attack from both Russian and Belorussian forces – a hugely significant development, meaning Russia is not acting alone, and is attacking from all sides.
The livestream video of the invasion from Belarus was taken at the Senkivka, Ukraine crossing with Veselovka, Belarus. The column was seen entering Ukraine around 6:48am local time, CNN reported.
A Ukrainian government spokesman confirmed that Russia had invaded over the Belarus border as well, only 120 miles from Kiev.
He said: ‘The state border of Ukraine was attacked by troops from Russia and Belarus.
‘At about 5am, the state border of Ukraine, in the area with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, was attacked by Russian troops supported by Belarus.
‘Attacks on border units, border patrols and checkpoints are carried out with the use of artillery, heavy equipment and small arms.
‘This is happening within Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr regions.’
The government spokesman also said that Ukraine was attacked from Crimea.
‘The work of enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups is also recorded,’ the spokesman continued.
‘Depending on the situation on the border, border guards together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Guard of Ukraine are firing at the enemy.
‘Information on injuries among border guards is being clarified.’
The Russian president early on Thursday told Ukrainian service members to ‘lay down their arms and go home’ as he declared war on Ukraine in an early morning address to the nation.
Putin said Russia could not exist with a ‘constant threat emanating from the territory of Ukraine’ and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian solders was ‘inevitable’.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, declared martial law in the early hours of Thursday, in a video message to the people urging people to remain at home and stay strong. He said he had just spoken to Joe Biden.
‘We are working. The army is working,’ he said.
‘Don’t panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine.’
An explosion is seen in the early hours of Thursday in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv
Kharkiv, with a population of 1.4 million, appeared to be under attack in the early hours of Thursday
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, posted a video message early on Thursday and urged Ukrainians to stay at home, and remain calm, telling them to have faith in their country
Tanks can be seen, to the right of the image, rolling past a border post between Ukraine and Belarus in the early hours of Thursday
Unconfirmed reports said that Russian forces had destroyed or rendered unusable the Ukrainian navy, and taken control of Boryspil Airport in Kiev.
Access to the Black Sea and Azov Sea was cut off.
More unconfirmed reports on Twitter appeared to show a huge seaborne landing by Russian forces in the Black Sea port of Odessa, involving large landing craft and helicopters shortly before 6am local time.
President Joe Biden will address the nation at noon on Thursday, and on Wednesday night he condemned Russia’s ‘unprovoked and unjustified attack.’ He was speaking to Ukraine’s president.
Biden said in a statement: ‘President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.
‘Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.’
Biden said he will be monitoring the situation from Washington, DC, and will continue to get regular updates from his national security team.
The developments came as:
- Explosions were heard across Ukraine, with the capital Kiev coming under attack and the city’s main airport appearing to be a target, as well as a nearby military base.
- Reports said the port city of Odessa was coming under amphibious assault, while another Black Sea port city, Mariupol, was under fierce attack.
- Military assaults appeared underway on Kharkiv in the far east of Ukraine.
- Ukraine’s government declared martial law and urged people to stay at home as the onslaught continues.
- Russia insisted in the early hours of Thursday that it was targeting military installations and avoiding populated areas, but Ukraine said there had been hundreds of casualties.
- Joe Biden was speaking to Ukraine’s president in the early hours of Thursday, having earlier through his UN ambassador voiced his strong continued support for the country.
Vladimir Putin is pictured in the early hours of Thursday morning declaring war on Ukraine, in what he termed a ‘special military operation’
President Joe Biden, pictured on Wednesday, condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
Footage shared on social media from Odessa appeared to show an amphibious assault
Biden announced he will join G7 counterparts on Thursday morning, and will address the country later on Thursday to ‘announce the further consequences the United States and its Allies and partners will impose on Russia.’
‘We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance. Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine,’ the statement added.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, tweeted early on Thursday: ‘I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps. 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.’
Metadata of Putin’s declaration of war video shows it was recorded on Monday evening, but only broadcast early Thursday.
At the time, some Russian officials were denying any intention to invade.
The Russian armed forces are not inflicting any missile, air or artillery strikes on the cities of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow told RIA Novosti.
Military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and aviation of the Ukrainian army were being disabled by high-precision weapons, they said.
Nothing threatens the civilian population of Ukraine, they claimed.
All flights cancelled at Russian airports in Krasnodar, Sochi, and Anapa, close to the Black Sea.
Rostov also reported cancelled flights.
Within minutes of Putin’s public address, explosions could be heard in the capital city of Kiev as well as the city of Kramatorsk in central Ukraine, and Odessa in the south.
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.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev reporting hearing blasts in the early hours of Thursday morning
Chance, located on a balcony in the Ukrainian capital quickly put on his protective headgear
A CNN reporter in Kiev reported hearing blasts live on air in the early hours of Thursday morning.
‘I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I’ve never heard anything like it,’ said Matthew Chance, senior international correspondent for the network.
Chance said that he heard between seven and eight explosions and quickly put on his flak jacket and headgear while he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.
‘There are big explosions taking place.
‘I can’t see them or explain what they are.
‘But I will tell you the U.S has warned the Ukrainian authorities there could be air strikes and ground attacks as well around the country, including the capital.
‘I don’t know if that’s what’s occurring now but it’s a remarkable coincidence that the explosions come just minutes after Putin gave his speech,’ Chance explained.
‘This is the first time we’ve heard anything. It has been absolutely silent.
‘This is the first time. It has to be more than just a coincidence.
‘I think it’s safe where I am. I have a flak jacket,’ Chance remarked, before ducking down to put on his protective gear.
He suggested that the blasts he heard in the Ukrainian capital were still some distance away from the center.
‘It was so quiet in Ukraine tonight up until those explosions,’ Chance explained.
The blasts came within minutes of Putin saying Russia would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Explosions could also be heard from Ukraine in the Russian city of Belgorod.
Putin told Russians: ‘I have decided to conduct a special military operation.
‘Russia cannot exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of Ukraine.
‘You and I have been left with no opportunity to protect our people other than the one we use today.’
It comes after explosions were also heard near the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, as fears mounted that shelling is underway.
Residents in the city, which is located in south eastern Ukraine, have been woken up at 3.30am by blasts 30 miles from the Russian border.
Video footage appeared to show clouds of smoke rising up into the night sky near Mariupol, but it was unconfirmed whether it was as a result of shelling.
Putin earlier this week said he wanted to take the major Azov Sea Port of Mariupol, which handles 50 per cent Ukraine’s steel and mineral exports.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s actions were a ‘grave breach of international law’ and that allies would meet to address the ‘renewed aggression’.
He said on Twitter: ‘I strongly condemn #Russia’s reckless attack on #Ukraine, which puts at risk countless civilian lives. This is a grave breach of international law & a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. #NATO Allies will meet to address Russia’s renewed aggression.’
The British foreign secretary Liz Truss tweeted her condemnation of the attack just after 4am local time.
‘I strongly condemn the appalling, unprovoked attack President Putin has launched on the people of Ukraine,’ she said.
‘We stand with Ukraine and we will work with our international partners to respond to this terrible act of aggression.’
The explosions come just hours after the U.S. warned the Ukrainian government that Putin’s troops are ‘ready to go now’ with an invasion of Ukraine, with 80 per cent of Russian soldiers now assembled around the country in attack positions.
Chance, who had been to the Ukrainian capital many times in recent years said he had ‘never heard anything like it’