Russia attacks Ukraine; peace in Europe “broken”

A woman holds her baby on a bus as they leave Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday. Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting towns and bases with airstrikes or shelling as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee. (Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press)

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from multiple directions in a move that could rewrite the global geopolitical landscape. . The Ukrainian government called for help as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

President Vladimir Putin shrugged off global condemnation and cascading new sanctions as he unleashed Europe’s biggest ground war in decades, and coldly referenced his country’s nuclear arsenal. He threatened any foreign country trying to interfere with “consequences you’ve never seen”.

Members of the Utah congressional delegation condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said their forces were fighting the Russians on multiple fronts and had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

“Russia has gone down the wrong path, but Ukraine is standing up for itself and will not give up its freedom,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted.

Later he proposed to Russia to end hostilities.

“It is not Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine proposes to return to the path of peace,” he said.

Zelenskyy, who had previously severed diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, described Russian forces advancing on a range of fronts, including a “difficult situation” developing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, just over 20 kilometers from the eastern border with Russia and Russian troops slowly advancing from the north on the town of Chernihiv. He said a Russian airborne unit at an airport just outside Kiev, the capital, was being destroyed.

He appealed to world leaders, saying that “if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer strong help to Ukraine, tomorrow war will be knocking at your door.”

Both sides claimed to have destroyed some of the other’s aircraft and military equipment, although little could be confirmed.

Hours into the invasion, Russian forces took control of the area around the now unused Chernobyl power plant after a fierce battle, Zelenskyy adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press.

A Ukrainian official said Russian shelling hit a radioactive waste repository and increased radiation levels were reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

A nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, exploded in 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was covered with a protective shelter several years ago to prevent radioactive leaks.

“This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today,” Podolyak said.

The NATO alliance chief said the ‘brutal act of war’ had shattered peace in Europe, joining a chorus of world leaders who denounced the attack, which could cause mass casualties, overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine and disrupt the post-Cold War security order. . The conflict was already rocking global financial markets: stocks plunged and oil prices soared on fears that heating bills and food prices could soar.

To this day, our countries stand on different sides of world history. Russia has gone down the wrong path, but Ukraine is defending itself and will not give up its freedom.

–Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine

Condemnations have rained not only from the United States and Europe, but also from South Korea, Australia and elsewhere – and many governments have prepared new sanctions. Even friendly leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban have sought to distance themselves from Putin. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he aimed to cut Russia off from British financial markets by announcing sanctions in response to the invasion.

A senior US official said the UN Security Council was due to vote on Friday on a resolution condemning Russia for the attack and demanding the immediate withdrawal of its forces. The vote will continue even though the legally binding measure will almost certainly be vetoed by Russia, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke under covered with anonymity.

While some nervous Europeans speculated about a possible new world war, the United States and its NATO partners have so far shown no indication that they will join in a war against Russia. They instead mobilized troops and equipment around Ukraine’s western flank – as Ukraine pleaded for defense aid and help to protect its airspace.

In Washington, President Joe Biden called a National Security Council meeting on Ukraine as the United States prepares new sanctions. Biden administration officials have signaled that two of the measures they are most considering include hitting Russia’s biggest banks and implementing new export controls designed to starve Russian industries and the military of American semiconductors and other high-tech components.

The attacks came first from the air. Later, Ukrainian authorities described ground invasions in several regions and border guards released footage showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing Ukrainian government-controlled territory. European authorities have declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone.

It was only late Thursday afternoon that Russia confirmed that its ground forces had entered Ukraine, saying they had passed through Crimea, the southern region that Russia annexed in 2014.

After weeks of denying invasion plans, Putin launched the operation on a country the size of Texas that has increasingly leaned toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s grip. The autocratic leader made it clear earlier this week that he saw no reason for Ukraine to exist, raising fears of a possible wider conflict in the vast space the Soviet Union once ruled. Putin has denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain unclear.

Ukrainians who had long prepared for the prospect of an attack were told to shelter in place and not to panic.

“Until the very last moment I didn’t think this would happen. I just pushed those thoughts away,” a terrified Anna Dovnya said in Kiev, watching soldiers and police remove shrapnel from an exploded shell . “We have lost all faith.”

With social media amplifying a torrent of military claims and counter-claims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening on the ground.

Associated Press reporters saw or confirmed explosions in the capital, Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov, Kharkiv to the east and beyond. The AP has confirmed a video showing Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukrainian territory to the north from Belarus and from Russian-annexed Crimea to the south.

People walk at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Medyka, Poland on Thursday.
People walk at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Medyka, Poland on Thursday. (Photo: Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

Russian and Ukrainian authorities have made competing statements about the damage they have inflicted. The Russian Defense Ministry said it destroyed dozens of Ukrainian airbases, military installations and drones, and confirmed the loss of a Su-25 attack plane, accusing it of a “mistake of piloting”. He said he did not target towns, but used precision weapons and asserted that “there is no threat to the civilian population”.

Ukraine’s armed forces reported at least 40 dead soldiers and said a military plane carrying 14 people had crashed south of Kiev.

The Polish army has increased its level of readiness, and Lithuania and Moldova have pledged to do the same. Border crossings have increased from Ukraine to Poland, which has prepared centers for refugees.

Putin justified his actions in an overnight televised address, saying the attack was necessary to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – an unverified claim the US had predicted he would do as pretext for an invasion. He accused the United States and its allies of ignoring Russian demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and obtaining security guarantees.

He called the military action a “forced measure” stemming from growing Russian security risks.

Anticipating international condemnation and countermeasures, Putin issued a stern warning to other countries not to interfere.

In a reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, he warned that “no one should doubt that a direct attack on our country will bring destruction and horrific consequences for any potential aggressor.”

One of Putin’s promises was to “denazify” Ukraine. World War II is imminent in Russia, after the Soviet Union suffered more deaths than any other country fighting the forces of Adolf Hitler.

Kremlin propaganda portrays members of Ukrainian right-wing groups as neo-Nazis, exploiting their admiration for Ukrainian nationalist World War II leaders who sided with the Nazis. Ukraine is now led by a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust and angrily rejected Russian claims.

Putin’s announcement came just hours after Ukraine’s president dismissed claims from Moscow that his country posed a threat to Russia and launched an impassioned last-minute plea for peace.

contributor: Angela Charlton, Geir Moulson, Frank Jordans, Raf Casert, Lorne Cook, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Ellen Knickmeyer, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian, Darlene Superville


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