Dozens reported dead after Russia invades Ukraine as NATO slams 'brutal act of war'
Russiaattacked Ukraineearly Thursday in what Ukraine called a "full-scale invasion."
- Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian troops, and at least eight Ukrainian civilians, were reported dead.
Russian forces attacked Ukraine early Thursday morning, with Ukraine reporting dozens of deaths on both sides.
At least eight Ukrainian civilians were killed and nine were wounded by Russian shelling, a Ukrainian internal affairs ministry advisor said, according to Reuters.
Russia's offensive threatens to kill thousands of people, force millions more to flee, and destabilize much of Europe, with the consequences certain to reverberate across the world.
'Full-scale invasion of Ukraine'
Ukraine's foreign minister called Russia's actions "a full-scale invasion of Ukraine," with his ministry saying Russian forces were "launching attacks on peaceful Ukrainian cities from different directions."
Starting early Thursday, blasts were heard from Kyiv, the capital, to the eastern city of Kharkiv about 280 miles away, with reports of outgoing artillery fire from Russian forces across the border. Missile strikes and explosions were heard across Ukraine, the BBC reported.
Ukraine's interior ministry said early Thursday that Russian tanks were pouring over the border from Belarus as well as from occupied Crimea, with Russian troops attacking Ukrainian security forces with artillery and small arms.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared martial law and said the country would arm any citizen willing to defend it.
"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country," he said. "Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities."
Ukraine's border guard said early Thursday that Russian military columns had entered the Ukrainian regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Luhansk, according to Reuters.
Ukraine announced on Thursday that it was cutting diplomatic ties with Russia, and it called on allies to do the same. It also said it was evacuating its embassy staff from Moscow.
NATO was due to hold an emergency session Thursday, and the UK and the European Union promised to impose more sanctions against Russia.
Thursday's invasion was preceded by a formal request for military intervention from Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where rebels backed by Russia have been fighting Ukrainian troops for eight years.
On Wednesday evening, Zelensky took to the airwaves in a last-ditch appeal for peace — while pledging that Ukrainians would "fight back" against any further Russian incursion.
Hours later, in an early-morning address that coincided with an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin effectively declared war, insisting that Russian forces would strive for the "demilitarization" and "denazification" of Ukraine, whose president is Jewish.
The road to war
Tensions had been mounting for months as Russia amassed troops, tanks, and amphibious ships near Ukraine's borders.
Late last year, Russia began amassing tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's borders, with an estimated 190,000 deployed by the time of the
Russia in mid-February claimed to be withdrawing some of its troops from Ukraine's borders, but the US and NATO didn't buy it, citing intelligence that the Kremlin had actually deployed thousands more troops.
Biden warned last week that he believed Russian forces would ultimately besiege Ukraine's capital, which has a population of nearly 3 million people. Earlier this week, he unveiled a new round of sanctions against Russian officials in response to Moscow deploying troops to the eastern Donbas region, which he characterized "the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine."
Over the past few months, the US and its allies worked to find a diplomatic solution to prevent a broader confrontation, but Russia made demands for binding security guarantees to which they would never agree. This included permanently barring Ukraine and Georgia from NATO, a request the alliance and Washington repeatedly made clear was a nonstarter.
Ukraine has sought to join NATO for years, and it maintains robust ties with the alliance. The US since 2014 has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars' worth of military assistance, including lethal aid like Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Other NATO members have also provided Ukraine with weapons. That said, Ukraine is not on track to become a NATO member in the near future, despite suggestions from the Kremlin to the contrary.
For years, Putin offered hints of his ambitions when it comes to Ukraine. In 2008, he told President George W. Bush that Ukraine was "not even a country," and he's referred to Ukrainians and Russians as "one people."
In short, Putin has been clear he wants Ukraine under Russian sway and the US out of the region he perceives as being in Russia's sphere of influence.
Putin, a former KGB operative, during his 20 years in power has moved to reestablish Moscow's hegemony in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. The military operation he just ordered in Ukraine shows he's committed to this course, despite the risks that it will damage his economy or provoke a more robust NATO presence.
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