Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine's Lugansk region on February 24, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday a military operation in Ukraine to defend separatists in the east of the country. World leaders and the Ukrainian government have decried the 'full-scale attack' by Russia. Here are the latest updates.

Two explosions heard in Kyiv

Two explosions were heard in Kyiv in the early hours of Friday, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.

Similar sounds were heard a day earlier when, according to Ukrainian officials, a military base in Brovary, a town near Kyiv, was hit by Russian cruise missiles on Thursday, leaving six people dead.

Putin call 'frank, direct and quick': Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron held a "frank, direct and quick" phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to ask him to stop military operations because the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had asked him to.

"It was also to ask him to discuss with President Zelenskiy, who had requested that, because he could not reach him," Macron told reporters after an EU summit in Brussels.

Macron it was useful to keep alive the chance of dialogue with Putin.

He said after a summit of EU leaders that "while condemning, while sanctioning" it remained useful "to leave this path open so that the day when the conditions can be fulfilled, we can obtain a cessation of hostilities".

Macron says Putin was duplicitous on phone

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin had been duplicitous in his conversations with him, discussing the details of the Minks agreements over the phone while preparing to attack Ukraine.

"Yes, there was duplicity, yes there was a deliberate, conscious choice to launch war when we could still negotiate peace," Macron told reporters after an EU summit in which he said France would add its own sanctions to an EU package.

EU sanctions target 70% of Russian banking market

EU leaders have agreed sanctions on Moscow that target 70 per cent of the Russian banking market and key state owned companies, including in defence, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet early on Friday.

Australia strengthens sanctions

Australia imposed more sanctions on Friday against Russia targeting several of its elite citizens and lawmakers.

"We will work along with our partners for a rolling wave of sanctions and continuing to ratchet up that pressure on Russia," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a media conference.

China to charter flights for nationals to leave Ukraine

China's embassy in Ukraine on Friday said Chinese nationals could register for chartered flights to leave the eastern European country, after Russia unleashed the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

In a notice posted on the embassy's official WeChat account, China said travelling on the charter flights is up to the individual and registrations will be open until Feb. 27.

There are 6,000 Chinese nationals in the Ukraine, said a spokesperson from the embassy.

Japan to strengthen sanctions, release oil reserves

Japan will strengthen sanctions against Russia to three areas including financial institutions and military equipment exports, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday.

Japan will also do the utmost to limit the economic impact to Japan from the fall-out from the Ukraine crisis, he said.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said the country will freeze assets in some Russian banks as part of sanctions against its action in Ukraine.

Japan “strongly condemns” Russia’s action in Ukraine, Suzuki told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He added that Japan is also considering effective ways to counter spiking oil prices.

Japan said it will appropriately deal with oil release from national reserves in cooperation with the International Energy Agency and relevant countries, after Russia’s attack fuelled fears about disruption to global energy supply.

Japan also plans to quickly implement further steps to help curb rising prices of fuels such as gasoline and kerosene amid soaring oil prices, industry minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference.

Zelensky: Ukraine 'left alone' to fight as 137 die

President Volodymyr Zelensky said 137 Ukrainians died Thursday after his country came under a large-scale attack from Russian forces.

“Today we have lost 137 of our heroes, our citizens. Military and civilian,” Zelensky said in a video address, adding that another 316 people had been injured.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a briefing at the Office of the Head of State in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Zelensky said his country was “left alone” to fight Russia.

“We have been left alone to defend our state,” Zelensky said in a video address. “Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone.”

Ukraine orders general mobilisation

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed a decree ordering a general mobilisation as his country faces a large-scale attack by Russian troops.

Conscripts and reservists in all of Ukraine's regions will be called up, according to the decree published by the Ukrainian presidency, which is to be in effect for 90 days.

Blinken urges 'strong collective response' in call with India's foreign minister

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on Thursday and urged a “strong collective response” to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the State Department said.

“Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of a strong collective response,” the State Department said in a statement.

Russian banks play down impact of sanctions

Three Russian banks including the country's biggest, Sberbank, on Friday played down the impact of sanctions imposed on them by the United States after Russia's attack on Ukraine and said they were continuing to work normally.

The US Treasury on Thursday said US banks must sever their correspondent banking ties with Sberbank within 30 days, and Britain said it would impose asset freezes against all major Russian banks.

Russia's central bank said it would provide any support needed for sanctions-hit banks and was ready to use additional tools to maintain their stability and protect clients.

Sberbank said it was studying the implications of the sanctions but there were no restrictions on withdrawing or depositing roubles and foreign currencies.

Gazprombank issued a similar statement saying it was serving retail and corporate clients as normal and they would have continuous access to funds and services.

It said a US move to ban it from raising debt of more than 14 days maturity on the US capital market was "non-blocking" and did not affect current operations.

Alfa-Bank, the country's biggest private bank, said it was blocked from issuing new eurobonds or placing share issues, but the share restriction had no practical effect because it is not a public company.

Macron demands 'immediate halt' of Russian attack in Putin call

French President Emmanuel Macron called Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “to demand the immediate halt” to Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said on Thursday.

“After having spoken with the Ukrainian president, and in coordination with him, the president (Macron) called Vladimir Putin to demand the immediate halt of Russian military operations, noting that Russia risked massive sanctions,” the Elysee said as Macron attended an EU summit in Brussels.

The account by Macron’s aides contrasted with that given by the Kremlin, which said only that the two leaders had a “serious and frank exchange of views” about Ukraine.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin gave an “exhaustive” explanation to Macron of the reasons he ordered his forces into his pro-Western neighbour.

Macron has emerged as the West’s pointman in speaking with Putin, keeping open a channel of dialogue in the hope of bringing diplomacy to bear.

Russian forces advance on Kyiv: US

Russian forces are making advances on Ukraine's capital Kyiv and Moscow has continued to flow forces into the country, a senior US defence official said on Thursday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that so far Russia had fired more than 160 missiles at Ukrainian targets.

France warns Putin: NATO has nuclear weapons

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin, when making threats about using nuclear weapons, needs to understand that NATO, too, is a nuclear alliance.

Asked whether Putin's threat of "such consequences that you have never encountered in your history" was tantamount to threatening to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict, Le Drian said it was understood as such.

"Yes, I think that Vladimir Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance. That is all I will say about this," Le Drian said on French television TF1.

US sanctions Belarus over Russia support

The United States’ sanctions over Russia’s attack on Ukraine include 24 Belarusian individuals and entities over their support for Moscow, the US Treasury Department said on Thursday.

The US sanctions target two state-owned banks — Belinvestbank and Bank Dabrabyt — as well as Belarus’ defence and security industries and defence officials, Treasury said.

They target Aliaksandr Mikalaevich Zaitsau, a former Belarusian government official and a member of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenkos inner circle, the department said.

Ukraine requests urgent Human Rights Council debate

Ukraine has requested an urgent debate be held at the UN Human Rights Council on the situation stemming from the 'Russian aggression', the United Nations said on Thursday.

"This is (a) response to the extremely grave deterioration in the human rights situation in Ukraine as a result of Russia's hostilities on Ukrainian territory," Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said in a letter sent to the president's forum, posted in a tweet by its mission to the UN in Geneva.

The European Union (EU) said in a separate tweet that it supported the move.

The Council president will meet and discuss the request with the 47-member body for its consideration, a UN statement said. A simple majority is needed to hold an urgent debate during its main annual month-long session opening on Monday.

Ukraine says 57 people killed on Thursday

Ukraine's Health Minister Oleh Lyashko said 57 people had been killed and 169 wounded on Thursday after Russia launched a full scale attack on Ukraine.

Separately, the deputy defence minister reported heavy Russian shelling was still underway in the eastern Donetsk region.

US to send 7,000 troops already on alert to Germany

The United States is sending 7,000 troops to Germany to help reassure NATO allies who are part of a larger contingent that had already been put on alert earlier this year, a senior U.S. defence official said.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the troops would be made up of an armoured brigade combat team and would leave for Germany in the coming days.

President Joe Biden referred to these troops in a speech earlier on Thursday.

'Putin chose this war': Biden

President Joe Biden unveiled harsh new sanctions against Russia on Thursday after Moscow launched an all-out attack on Ukraine, imposing measures to impede Russia’s ability to do business in the world’s major currencies along with sanctions against banks and state-owned enterprises.

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Image Credit: Bloomberg

“This is a premeditated attack,” Biden told reporters at the White House, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected attempts by the West to engage in dialogue and had violated international law. “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

Ukraine no longer in control of Chernobyl site

Kyiv: A presidential adviser says Ukraine lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, where Ukranian forces had waged a fierce battle with Russian troops.

Adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press that Ukrainian authorities did not know the current condition of the facilities at Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

"After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe," he said.

A nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers north of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, exploded in April 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe.

A Ukrainian official said Russian shelling hit a radioactive waste repository and an increase in radiation levels was reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

It was not immediately possible for experts to access the repository to assess damage before Russian forces overtook the site.

Canada PM Trudeau announces more sanctions against Russia

Canada announced more sanctions against Russia on Thursday, targeting 62 individuals and entities, including members of the Russian elite and major Russian banks, and canceling all export permits, after Moscow launched an all-out attack of Ukraine.

"Today, in light of Russia's reckless and dangerous military strike, we are imposing further, severe sanctions," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference.

UK announces new set of sanctions on Russia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would aim to cut Russia off from the U.K.'s financial markets as he announced a new set of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin's attack of Ukraine.

The sanctions include freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation's second-biggest bank, Johnson said Thursday. Britain also plans to bar Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money on U.K. markets.

Britain will also ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and bar the nation's flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at U.K. airports.

The slate of sanctions comes days after Johnson was criticized for acting too cautiously in response to Russian aggression earlier this week.

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, earlier called on world leaders to ban trade in Russian oil and gas and block foreign investment in the country.

US official: UN to vote on Russia resolution

A senior U.S. official says the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces - knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure.

The United States believes it is very important to put the resolution to a vote to underscore Russia's international isolation, and emphasizes that the veto will be followed quickly by a resolution in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly where there are no vetoes, the official said Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

'This is a first step in how the U.N. responds to this premeditated war of choice that Russia has chosen to take, and we will see action in the General Assembly in the coming days,' he said, adding that it is part of a much broader, coordinated response that includes steps the Biden administration and its allies are taking.

The resolution is drafted under Article 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced militarily, according to the official.

Putin tells Russian business people he had no choice over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he was 'forced' to order a military action in Ukraine because of the Western refusal to heed Russian security demands.

Speaking at a Kremlin meeting with business people Thursday, Putin said the military action was a 'forced measure' that stemmed from rising security risks for Russia.

He said that he was surprised by the West's 'intransigence' regarding Moscow's security demands. 'I was surprised that didn't move a millimeter on any issue,' he said. 'They have left us no chance to act differently.'

Turning to Western sanctions, he said 'Russia remains part of the global economy and isn't going to hurt the system that it is part of as long as it remains there.'

'Our partners should realize that and not set a goal to push us out of the system' he said in an apparent warning to the West.

Ukraine leader: Russians checked outside Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Moscow to end hostilities, adding that Russian airborne troops have been checked outside Kyiv.

'It wasn't Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine is offering to go back to the path of peace,' he said Thursday.

He said a Russian airborne force in Hostomel airport outside Kyiv, which has a big runway, has been stopped and is being destroyed.

The Ukrainian leader said many Russian warplanes and armored vehicles were destroyed but didn't give numbers. He also said an unspecified number of Russian troops was captured.

He said a difficult situation is developing in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city just over 20 kilometers from the Russian border. In the north the Russians are slowly advancing toward Chernihiv, Zelensky said.

He appealed to global leaders, saying that 'if you don't help us now, if you fail to offer strong assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.'

Large-scale attack now likely: US official

A senior US defence official says Thursday's attack by Russia appears to be the first phase in what will likely be a multiple phased, large-scale attack.

The official said it began around 9:30 p.m. US eastern time, with land- and sea-based missile launches. The official said that roughly more than 100 missiles, primarily short-range ballistic missiles, but also medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and sea-launched missiles, were launched in the first few hours of the attack.

The official said the Russians are moving on three axes: From Crimea to Kherson, from Belarus toward Kyiv, and from the northeast to Kharkiv.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it's not clear how many Russian troops are in Ukraine now, and the main targets of the air assault have been barracks, ammunition warehouses, and 10 airfields. The official said Russian ground forces began to move in to Ukraine from Belarus around 5 a.m. Eastern time.

Biden, G7 allies meet

US President Joe Biden met with his counterparts from the Group of Seven allies on Thursday morning to map out more severe measures against Russia after President Vladimir Putin launched what Biden called "a premeditated war" against Ukraine.

Biden, who spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky late on Wednesday, convened his National Security Council earlier on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, according to a White House official.

He planned to make his first public remarks on the new conflict in Ukraine at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT), the White House said. Biden and his G7 colleagues are scrambling to respond to a worst-case scenario by imposing harsh sanctions on Russia that may cause gasoline prices in the West to go up.

The virtual meeting between the United States and its allies was underway, the White House said, as the group prepared to respond to what Biden in a statement late Wednesday called "an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces" on Ukraine.

Photos: Cities across Ukraine come under Russian attack

Ukraine's capital of Kyiv imposes curfew 

The mayor of Ukraine's capital of Kyiv ordered a curfew on Thursday in comments shown on television after Russia launched a 'full-scale attack' on Ukraine.

Russia attacks Ukraine
A view shows the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service site damaged by shelling in Kyiv region, Ukraine. Image Credit: Reuters

WHO expresses concern

The World Health Organization expressed concern on Thursday over an expected health emergency in Ukraine after Russian forces attacked the country.

"Amid the conflict rapidly unfolding in Ukraine, the WHO Regional Office for Europe reiterates its deepest concern for the safety, health and wellbeing of all civilians impacted by the crisis in the country and possibly beyond," its regional office for Europe said in a statement, adding any further escalation could result in a humanitarian catastrophe.

"WHO/Europe is working closely with all UN partners in rapidly scaling up readiness to respond to the expected health emergency triggered by the conflict, protecting our staff, and minimizing disruptions to the delivery of critical health care services," it said.

Battle underway for airbase on Kyiv outskirts

Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling for control of an airbase on the northern outskirts of Kyiv, a senior Ukrainian officer said Thursday, as dozens of attack helicopters swooped on the area.

"Fighting is underway for Gostomel airfield," armed forces chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said in a message posted on Facebook. Shortly earlier, AFP reporters had seen helicopters flying low over the city from the north.

A woman is seen through the broken window of her house, which locals said was damaged by recent shelling, in the separatist-controlled town of Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Ukraine.
A woman is seen through the broken window of her house, which locals said was damaged by recent shelling, in the separatist-controlled town of Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Image Credit: REUTERS

Ukraine says Trypilska power station operating

Ukraine's energy ministry said an explosion had occurred at the Trypilska power station not far from the capital city, Kyiv, but that it was continuing to operate.

The ministry said unidentified tanks and troops were standing by a dam at Kakhovka hydroelectric station in the south of the country.

Air India flight to Ukraine returns to Delhi

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Thursday said an Air India flight which took off from Delhi to bring back Indian citizens from Ukraine has returned mid-air after the "things escalated" there, adding that, flights from India to Ukraine will again fly, once the air-space of the concerned country opens up.

"Flights were flown for Ukraine earlier. Today also flights were flown to Ukraine but after 3 hours when things started escalating those flights came back. Whenever the air-space will open, we'll fly the flights again," said Scindia.

"We have been told that the airspace is complete as notice to airmen (NOTAM) has been issued," he added.

The Union Minister assured that the Indian government is committed to the safety and security of Indians in Ukraine.

Russia says it has destroyed 74 military facilities in Ukraine

Moscow warns Russians against joining anti-war protests

Russian authorities on Thursday warned anti-war sympathisers from gathering for protests, after President Vladimir Putin launched an attack of Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee in a statement warned Russians of legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to "the tense foreign political situation".

Biden meets with G7, addresses US on response to Russia

US President Joe Biden was meeting with G7 allies Thursday to hammer out a raft of new sanctions against Russia after it attacked ed Ukraine, and will later speak to the American people on a crisis that he warns will cause "catastrophic loss of life."

The virtual, closed-door meeting of G7 leaders -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- was set to start at 9:00 am (1400 GMT), with Biden's White House speech scheduled for early afternoon.

Ukraine police say Russia has carried out 203 attacks on Thursday

Ukrainian police on Thursday said Russia had carried out 203 attacks since the beginning of the day, with fighting going on almost everywhere throughout Ukraine's territory.

State border guards said the Ukrainian military was fighting Russian forces near the eastern city of Sumy. Ukraine's defence minister said some Russian forces had been taken prisoner in heavy fighting.

Ukraine begins evacuating Moscow embassy

Ukraine recalled its charge d'affaires in Russia for consultations and began evacuating its embassy in Moscow, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Thursday.

Russian forces attacked Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Russia faces 'massive' new sanctions from West: Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday Western allies were readying a "massive" package of sanctions against Russia, and told the people of Ukraine: "We cannot and will not just look away."

In a televised address to the nation, Johnson also referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "dictator" who would never "subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians".

Russian forces break into Kyiv region

Russian forces broke through on Thursday into the north of the Kyiv region, Ukraine's border guards said, staging an attack with Grad missiles on government positions.

An AFP reporter in the northern part of Ukraine's capital also saw several low-flying helicopters flying toward the city, amid reports that an airfield was under attack.

Imran Khan meets Putin

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday held a one-on-one meeting in Moscow with a wide-ranging agenda in focus relating to bilateral matters and regional developments.

The two leaders reviewed the entire array of bilateral relations including economic and energy cooperation, particularly Pakistan Stream gas pipeline.

18 killed in attack near Ukraine's Odessa

Regional authorities of Ukraine's southern Odessa region said on Thursday that 18 people were killed in a missile attack.

At least six people were killed in Ukraine's town of Brovary, located near the capital of Kyiv, authorities from the town said.

Photos: Dramatic scenes of chaos in Ukraine

Lithuania declares state of emergency

NATO member Lithuania, which has borders with Russian ally Belarus and Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, has declared a state of emergency effective early Thursday afternoon due to the situation in Ukraine.

The decree signed Thursday by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda steps up border protection. It gives authorities, among other things, the right to check and inspect vehicles, persons and luggage in the border area.

Lithuania also borders fellow NATO and European Union members Poland and Latvia.

NATO calls virtual summit

NATO will hold a virtual summit on Friday on Russia's attack of Ukraine, diplomats told AFP, as the alliance announced after an emergency meeting that "additional steps" were being taken to protect member countries.

"We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory," NATO said in a statement.

Macron calls for NATO summit 'as soon as possible'

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Thursday for a NATO summit "as soon as possible" after Russia launched an attack on its neighbour Ukraine, his office said.

"The President wishes for a NATO summit to be held as soon as possible, in coordination with our partners and allies," the presidency said, matching calls from Britain and Poland ahead of a press conference later in the day by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Ukraine hit by second wave of missile strikes

Ukraine is being hit by a second wave of missile strikes, an adviser to president Volodymyr Zelensky told a briefing on Thursday.

Authorities in Kyiv say the first wave, launched shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation on Thursday morning, hit military command centres and other buildings in several Ukrainian cities.

Moldova alarmed by attack

Moldova closing airspace citing Russian attack of Ukraine while Lithuania imposed a state of emergency following Ukraine attack. Moldova’s president said the country’s Supreme Security Council has decided to ask parliament to introduce a state of emergency following Russia’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine.

President Maia Sandu said Thursday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a “flagrant violation of international norms.”Sandu urged Moldovan citizens in Ukraine to return home. Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, has a population of around 3.5 million and is not a NATO member.

There are now concerns in Moldova that the neighboring conflict could trigger an influx of refugees. Sandu said that “at the border crossing points with Ukraine there is an increase in traffic flow.” She added that “we will help people who need our support. At this moment, we are ready to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”

More than 40 Ukraine soldiers, around 10 civilians killed

The Russian army said Thursday that Moscow-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine are advancing and have gained territory after the Kremlin launched an attack on the country.

Military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told state television that forces of the Donetsk People's Republic gained "up to three kilometres" (1.8 miles) in territory and those of the Lugansk People's Republic "advanced one and a half kilometres."

He added that Russia had "high precision weapons" and that Ukrainian civilians had "nothing to fear."

Germany is boosting its defence to ward off any possible surges in cyberattacks amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Thursday.

"The security authorities have ramped up protective measures to ward off any cyberattacks, as well as heightened the awareness of relevant agencies," she said in a statement.

UK calls for urgent meeting of NATO leaders

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday called for an urgent NATO summit in response to Russia's Ukraine attack, calling it a "catastrophe for our continent".

"I am calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible," Johnson tweeted, also confirming that he would address Britons later Thursday.

UK summons Russian ambassador, says 'severe sanctions' coming

Russian ground forces cross into Ukraine

Heavy Russian tanks and other equipment crossed the frontier in a string of northern regions as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south.

They were also advancing into the Western-backed government's territory along the eastern front, where a separatist insurgency has claimed more than 14,000 lives since 2014. Russian army said Moscow-backed Ukraine rebels advancing. Ukraine also announced that they would break diplomatic ties with Russia.

Official says Ukraine attacked from 3 sides

A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”

Podolyak said Thursday that “our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details. He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.

Flight Radar shared snapshots of air traffic UKRAINE
Flight Radar shared snapshots of air traffic 7 days ago [L] and today (Thursday) [R] Image Credit: Twitter/Flight Radar

Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure. Oleksii Arestovich said the Russian strike hasn’t achieved its goal to rout the country’s military. He said that “we suffered casualties, but they aren’t significant,” adding that the Russian strikes “haven’t eroded the combat capability of the Ukrainian military.”

Germany on Thursday said the EU, NATO and the G7 would work to hit Russia with severe sanctions after the Kremlin launched an air and ground assault on Ukraine.

"We will launch the full package with the most massive sanctions against Russia and we will strengthen our security and our allies," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

"We have not chosen this situation," she added, but "if we don't stand up to it now, we will pay an even higher price".

Ukraine's military command said Thursday that government forces had killed "around 50 Russian occupiers" while repulsing an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.

AFP could not immediately confirm the death toll.

"Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth," the armed forces general staff said on Twitter.

A son wept over the body of his father among the wreckage of a missile strike in a residential district in the eastern Ukrainian town of Chuguiv as the country woke up Thursday to Russian attack.

"I told him to leave," the man in his 30s sobbed, next to the twisted ruins of a car.

Nearby a woman screamed curses into the wintry sky.

A missile crater, some four to five metres wide, was scoured into the earth between two devastated five-storey apartment buildings. Firefighters battled to extinguish the remains of a blaze.

Several other buildings on the street were seriously damaged, their windows shattered and doorframe hanging in the frigid morning air.

The head of the Ukrainian military said Thursday he had received orders from President Volodymyr Zelensky to repel a Russian attack of his country.

"The supreme commander the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave orders to inflict maximum losses against the aggressor," Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Valeriy Zaluzhny said.

The Ukrainian military death toll from the Russian attack rose to three Thursday, the border guard service said, with confirmed losses suffered along the southern border with Kremlin-annexed Crimea.

The Russian armed forces were trying to attack Ukraine from several directions, using rocket systems and helicopters to attack Ukrainian position in the south, the border guard service said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is ending his two-day visit to Moscow hours after Russia began a military operation in Ukraine.

Pakistani government officials have offered few details on the substance of Khan’s visit, which was planned more than a month ago and was expected to focus on Pakistan’s energy needs. It was the first visit to Moscow by a Pakistani leader in more than 20 years.

Russia's attack on Ukraine, including shelling from Belarus and the movement of troops across that northern border, has been accompanied by separatists launching assaults in the eastern part of the country.

The government in Kyiv called it a "full-scale attack" as it declared martial law and called for international support including harsher sanctions on Russia. Moscow said it had taken out military facilities, including airbases, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin's military moves upended markets, with the ruble and Russian stocks sinking while oil and gold soared. European gas prices surged as the attacks put fuel supplies in Europe - already in the midst of an energy crunch - at further risk.

The European Union says it is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency summit, as the Russian military attacked Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order, and we will hold President (Vladimir) Putin accountable for that.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the “strongest, the harshest package” ever considered.

Russian ground forces cross into Ukraine

Russia's ground forces have crossed into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine's border guard service said, hours after President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a major offensive.

Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south, the agency said.

Russia on Thursday said it closed shipping in the Azov Sea, which lies between Russia and Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine, agencies reported.

"In connection with the conduct of anti-terrorist activities, shipping in the Azov Sea is suspended from 4.00 am (0100 GMT) on February 24 until further notice," a representative of the Federal Agency for Maritime Transport Rosmorrechflot told Russian agencies.

Gunfire was heard near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Ukraine said Russia was shelling across the country all the way to the western Lviv region.

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv, Ukraine. Ukraine border guards say Russia's ground forces have crossed into Ukraine from several directions

A view shows a building of a military base, which, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, was damaged by fire.

Ukraine says at least 8 people killed by Russian shelling, 9 wounded

At least eight people have been killed and nine were wounded by the Russian shelling, an advisor to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs said on Thursday as Russia has launched massive air and ground assault on the neighbouring country.

The border guard said separately Russian military columns have crossed Ukrainian border into Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.

Some forty US service members arrived in Latvia from Italy early on Thursday, the first group of what is expected to be a deployment of more than 300 troops, the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

The troops, which will be based at Adazi military base just outside the Latvian capital Riga, arrived around midnight local time, before hostilities began in Ukraine, it added.

Russia has suspended movement of commercial vessels in the Azov sea until further notice, the Interfax news agency quoted the state agency for maritime and river transport as saying on Thursday.

Ukraine and Russia both have ports on the Sea of Azov, including Ukraine's major port of Mariupol, while Russia controls the sea's mouth at the Kerch Strait.

Ukraine claims that the country has downed five Russian planes and a helicopter.

Russia's central bank said Thursday it was introducing measures to stabilise the ruble and markets after Moscow announced a military operation against Ukraine.

"To stabilise the situation on the financial market, the Bank of Russia has decided to start interventions in the foreign exchange market," the central bank said in a statement, adding that it and other financial institutions: "have clear action plans for any scenario."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Russia has launched a "full-scale attack of Ukraine." All you need to know

Russia launches full-scale invasion
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Russia's defence ministry said Thursday it had neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military offensive against his country's neighbour.

"Military infrastructure at Ukrainian army air bases has been rendered out of action," the defence ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies, which added that Kyiv's air defence systems were "eliminated".

Air raid sirens rang out Thursday in Ukraine's western city of Lviv, an AFP reporter said, adding that there were no immediate sounds of explosions or other signs of attack.

People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk in a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

The city has turned into the temporary base of several Western embassies, including the United States and Britain, which evacuated their diplomats from the capital Kyiv in the days preceding Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine is coming under artillery attack along its northern border with Russia and Belarus, the border guard service said on Thursday, adding that Ukrainian forces were returning fire.

The statement was issued as a Ukrainian interior ministry official reported the Ukrainian government-held town of Shchastya had fallen to Russian-backed eastern insurgents.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned on Thursday the "horrific events in Ukraine", saying Russia's President Vladimir Putin "has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack". "The UK and our allies will respond decisively," he tweeted, adding he had spoken to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a direct, impassioned plea Wednesday to Vladimir Putin to stop - "in the name of humanity" - the Russian military assault on Ukraine. Speaking after an emergency Security Council session, which coincided with the Russian president's announcement of military operations against Ukraine, a clearly emotional Guterres said it was "the saddest day" of his tenure as UN chief.

"President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia.

Russia will be held "accountable" for its attack on Ukraine, EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel said Thursday.

"We strongly condemn Russia's unjustified attack on Ukraine. 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 each wrote on Twitter.

"We will hold the Kremlin accountable."

Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv on Thursday as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery.

Citizens were headed for underground metro stations to take shelter, AFP correspondents saw, as authorities declared martial law in the face of what they fear is a full-scale attack.

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A local resident sits in a car as they pack to leave the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

A visibly emotional Ukrainian ambassador traded barbs with his Russian counterpart during a heated late-night emergency Security Council meeting on the Russia-Ukraine crisis Wednesday.

Sergiy Kyslytsya implored the council, chaired by Russia, to "do everything possible to stop the war" against his country.

"It is the responsibility of these bodies to stop the war," Kyslytsya told the meeting of the 15-member council, which began shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine.

Kyslytsya urged UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the council, to "call Putin, call (Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov to stop (the) aggression."

Ukraine leader said Russia is conducting strikes 'on our military infrastructure'. Russia, AFP reported, said they have been targeting Ukraine military facilities with 'precision' weapons.

Ukraine leader introduced martial law and the country's foreign ministry said military 'will do everything in its power to defend' Ukraine.

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A member of the Ukrainian military takes items from the back of a car in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 Image Credit: AP

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations told an emergency Security Council meeting late Wednesday that Moscow's military operation against Ukraine was targeting "the junta" in power in Kiyv.

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"I wanted to say in conclusion that we aren't being aggressive against the Ukrainian people but against the junta that is in power in Kiyv," said Vassily Nebenzia.

Flights from Russia's Rostov airport near Ukraine have been cancelled, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday.

Asian stock markets have plunged and oil prices surged after Putin announced Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul fell 2% and Hong Kong and Sydney lost more than 3% Thursday. Oil prices jumped nearly $3 per barrel on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies.

Earlier, Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance.

Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya
In this image from UNTV video, Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya, holds up a phone as he speaks an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at U.N. headquarters. Image Credit: AP

Investors already were uneasy about the possible impact of the Federal Reserve's plans to try to cool inflation by withdrawing ultra-low interest rates and other stimulus that boosted share prices.

Ukraine foreign minister: Russia 'launched a full-scale attack'.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the "world will hold Russia accountable" over its attack against Ukraine that he warned will cause "catastrophic loss of life."

In a statement issued shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of military operations in Ukraine, Biden said he would address the US public Thursday to outline the "consequences" for Russia, calling the attack "unprovoked and unjustified."

A map locating the separatist region in southeast Ukraine near the Sea of Azov. Image Credit: Washington Post

Explosions were heard before dawn Thursday in Ukraine's capital Kyiv and the eastern port city of Mariupol, shortly after Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced an operation to "demilitarise" the country.

AFP correspondents in both cities heard powerful blasts and in Mariupol, close to the frontline and the Russian border, residents reported hearing artillery in the city's eastern suburbs.

Explosions also rang out in Kharkiv, a large city 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Russian border.

Four loud blasts rang out in Kramatorsk, a frontline city that serves as the Ukrainian government's effective capital for the eastern war zone, and more were heard in the eastern port city of Mariupol, AFP reporters said.

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A Ukrainian serviceman walks to his position at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Airspace over all of Ukraine has been shut down to civilian air traffic, according to a notice posted to air crews early Thursday.

A commercial flight tracking website shows that an Israeli El Al Boeing 787 from Tel Aviv to Toronto turned abruptly out of Ukrainian airspace before detouring over Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

The only other aircraft tracked over Ukraine is a U.S. RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane that began flying westward out of Ukraine after Russia put in place flight restrictions over Ukrainian territory

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday a military operation in Ukraine to defend separatists in the east of the country.

"I have made the decision of a military operation," he said in a surprise statement on television shortly before 6am.

Putin also called on Ukraine military to 'lay down its arms'. He also vowed retaliation against those who interfere with Russian Ukraine operation.

The Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance Wednesday to help fend off Ukrainian "aggression", an announcement that immediately fueled fears that Moscow was offering up a pretext for war, just as the West had warned.

General view of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

A short time later, the Ukrainian president rejected Moscow's claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and said a Russian attack would cost tens of thousands of lives.

"The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,'' President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an emotional overnight address, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens. "But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.''

Zelenskyy said he asked to arrange a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.

In an apparent reference to Putin's move to authorize the deployment of the Russian military to "maintain peace'' in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky warned that "this step could mark the start of a big war on the European continent.''

"Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything,'' he said.