CONCLUSION 12-Russia invades Ukraine in Europe’s “darkest hour” since WWII

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday in a massive land, sea and air assault, the largest state-on-state attack in Europe since World War II.

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine reported columns of troops crossing its borders from Russia and Belarus and landing on the coast from the Black and Azov seas. Ukrainian troops fought Russian forces along virtually the entire border, and heavy fighting was taking place in Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa regions and at a military airport near Kiev, an adviser to the presidential office said.

Explosions were heard before dawn and throughout the morning in the capital Kiev, a city of 3 million people. Gunshots rang out, sirens sounded and the highway out of town was choked with traffic as residents fled. The assault brought a calamitous end to weeks of failed diplomatic efforts by Western leaders to avert war, with their worst fears about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions coming true.

“Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, like Nazi Germany did during the years of World War II,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted. “Russia has gone down the wrong path, but Ukraine is standing up for itself and will not give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.”

Calling on Ukrainians to defend their country, he said arms would be given to anyone willing to fight. He also urged Russians to take to the streets to protest their government’s actions. US President Joe Biden called the Russian action an “unprovoked and unwarranted attack”. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would impose a new round of sanctions that would severely hit the Russian economy.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: “These are among Europe’s darkest hours since World War II.” RUSSIAN BOMBING

A resident of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and close to the Russian border, said windows in buildings rattled from the constant blasts. Explosions could be heard in the southern port of Mariupol, near a front line held by Russian-backed separatists. On a highway leading to the exit, a Ukrainian armored column thundered along the road, with soldiers atop turrets smiling and flashing victory signs at cars honking their horns in support.

Civilians in Mariupol packed their bags: “We are going to hide”, said a woman. Ukrainian officials said Russian helicopters attacked Gostomel, a military airport near Kiev, and Ukraine shot down three of them. Ukrainian border officials said the Russians were trying to enter the Kiev region and the Zhytomyr region on the Belarusian border, and they were using Grad rockets.

Early unconfirmed reports of casualties included Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian shelling and border guards defending the border. Regional authorities in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine said 18 people were killed in a missile attack. At least six people were killed in Brovary, a town near Kiev, authorities said. Ukraine reported five people killed when a plane was shot down. The Ukrainian army said it destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near Kharkiv, killed 50 soldiers near a town in the Lugansk region and shot down six Russian warplanes in the east.

Russia has denied reports that its planes or armored vehicles were destroyed. Russian-backed separatists claimed to have shot down two Ukrainian planes. “ONLY RUSSIA IS RESPONSIBLE”

In an early morning declaration of war, Putin said he had ordered ‘a special military operation’ to protect people, including Russian citizens, victims of ‘genocide’ in Ukraine – a charge the West qualifies as absurd propaganda. “And for that we will fight for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” Putin said. “Russia cannot feel safe, develop and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine… Any responsibility for the bloodshed will lie with the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.”

Biden has ruled out sending US troops to defend Ukraine, but he and other Western leaders have promised tough financial sanctions. “Russia bears sole responsibility for the death and destruction this attack will cause, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive manner,” Biden said.

Russia is one of the largest energy producers in the world, and both Russia and Ukraine are among the top grain exporters. The prospect of war and sanctions threatens economies around the world already facing supply disruptions as they emerge from the pandemic. Stocks and bond yields plunged; the dollar and gold soared. Brent oil rose above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

At least three major buyers of Russian oil have said they have been denied letters of credit from Western banks, needed for shipments to continue. A democratic country of 44 million inhabitants, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia itself. He voted overwhelmingly for independence when the Soviet Union fell, and aims to join NATO and the European Union, aspirations that infuriate Moscow.

Putin, who for months denied he was planning an invasion, called Ukraine an artificial construct carved out of Russia by its enemies, a characterization Ukrainians see as an attempt to erase their more than 1 year-old history. 000 years. While many Ukrainians, especially in the East, speak Russian as their first language, virtually all identify as a separate nationality. ‘WERE AFRAID’

Lines of people waited to withdraw cash and buy food and water in Kyiv. Cars stretched for tens of kilometers (miles) on the highway leading from the capital west into Poland, where Western countries braced for the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of refugees. “We’re scared of the shelling,” Oxana said, trying to flee and stuck in her car with her three-year-old daughter in the backseat. “It’s so scary.”

Three hours after Putin gave his order, the Russian Defense Ministry said he had destroyed military infrastructure at Ukrainian airbases and degraded its air defenses. Earlier, Ukrainian media reported that military command centers in Kiev and Kharkiv were hit by missiles, while Russian troops landed in Odessa and Mariupol.

Russia has announced that it is closing all shipping in the Sea of ​​Azov. Russia controls the strait leading to the sea where Ukraine has ports, including Mariupol. Ukraine has called on Turkey to ban Russian ships from entering the strait connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. In Russia, where state media have for weeks broadcast footage of alleged Ukrainian attacks that Western countries say are grossly staged fakes, the broadcast regulator said all news outlets should only quote official Russian sources on Ukraine. An activist who called for protests against the war has been arrested.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)