Updated Feb 24, 2022 - World

Putin launches attacks across Ukraine

Photo: Sergei Guneyev\TASS via Getty

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn swift condemnation from President Biden and other world leaders after announcing a "special military operation" in Ukraine, in a speech that appeared to serve as a declaration of war.

State of play: Russian troops moved into eastern Ukraine and large explosions were reported immediately after Putin's speech, including near Kyiv. The attacks have killed at least 40 people, officials said Thursday.

  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that a "full-scale invasion" had begun.
  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said military installations around the country were under attack and declared martial law. He said he'd spoken to Biden and urged Ukrainians: "Stay calm, stay at home, the army is doing its work."
  • Russia's Defense Ministry claimed to be attacking military targets and air bases, not population centers.
Data: Mapbox/OSCE as of Feb. 14, 2022; Map: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Mapbox/OSCE as of Feb. 14, 2022; Map: Will Chase/Axios

What he's saying: Putin said the military operation would be intended to "demilitarize" Ukraine, but not to occupy it. That message appeared to be aimed not at the separatist republics where Putin had already deployed troops, but to the country as a whole and its leaders in Kyiv.

  • "To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me," Putin said.
  • Putin called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms, and claimed "all responsibility for possible bloodshed" would fall on the government in Kyiv.
  • He claimed Ukrainian forces provoked the conflict, despite the fact that Russia has built up a force of over 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders over several months. He argued on Monday that Ukraine has no right to exist as an independent country.

What they're saying: Biden issued a statement saying, "The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces."

  • Biden promised Zelensky additional U.S. support in their call, per a White House readout. He said he'd meet with other G7 leaders Thursday and vowed "our allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia."
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the alliance's response to the attacks, the State Department said.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the U.K. and its allies "will respond decisively" and that he's "calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible."

Worth noting: As Putin was speaking, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield was addressing an emergency session of the UN Security Council. In a bizarre split-screen, several countries then made urgent appeals to prevent a war that Putin had already declared. China's representative did not criticize Russia.

  • Zelensky made an address of his own on Wednesday night, speaking to the Russian people directly to plead for peace but warn that if Russia attacks, "you will see our faces, not our backs."

Go deeper: The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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