Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has imposed martial law and urged his people to stay home after warmonger Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Russia’s neighbour, plunging mainland Europe into its worst military crisis in decades.
In a video message published shortly after the Kremlin began its attacks across the north, south and east of Ukraine, Zelenskyy said Russia had carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions had been heard in many cities.
The Ukrainian President also said he had spoken by telephone to US President Joe Biden following reports of a Russian invasion of the country.
He pleaded: ‘Dear Ukrainian citizens, this morning President Putin announced a special military operation in Donbas. Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were blasts heard in many cities of Ukraine. We’re introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country.
‘A minute ago I had a conversation with President Biden. The US have already started uniting international support. Today each of you should keep calm. Stay at home if you can. We are working. The Army is working. The whole sector of defence and security is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.’
Zelenskyy had previously vowed that the country would ‘fight back’ in the event of a Russian assault after Moscow-backed separatists in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk yesterday asked for military assistance from the Kremlin.
He said in an emotional television address: ‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace. 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 insisted that he had tried to call Putin last night before the Russian invasion, but there was ‘no answer, only silence’. 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.
He challenged the Russian propaganda claims, saying that ‘you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free’.
Russian forces fired missiles at several cities in Ukraine and landed troops on its coast on Thursday, after Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east.
Shortly after Putin spoke in a televised address on Russian state TV, explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn quiet of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Gunfire rattled near the capital’s main airport, the Interfax news agency said, and sirens were heard over the city.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter: ‘Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.’
Biden condemned Russia’s aggression and promised ‘severe sanctions’, saying his prayers were with the people of Ukraine ‘as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack’. The US President added he will be meeting with the leaders of the G7.
Russia has demanded an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and Putin repeated his position that Ukrainian membership of the Western alliance was unacceptable. He said he had authorised military action after Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from Ukraine, a democratic state of 44million people.
‘Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,’ the Russian strongman said. ‘All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.’