Early Thursday, as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin announced on television that he had decided to “conduct a special military operation” in Ukraine, explosions were reported across the country.
Explosions were heard in Kyiv, the capital; in Kharkiv, the second largest city; and in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, one of two territories in eastern Ukraine claimed by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russian troops landed in the southern port city of Odessa and were crossing into Russia towards Kharkiv. Footage captured by security cameras showed Russian military vehicles driving through Ukraine from Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized in 2014.
Rocket attacks have targeted Ukrainian warplanes parked at an airport outside Kiev, and Ukraine has closed its airspace to commercial flights, citing “potential danger to military aviation”.
As air raid sirens sounded in Kiev, the western city of Lviv and other urban areas, residents rushed to take refuge in bus and metro stations. In Kyiv, people parked their cars and stood in long lines to refuel as they drove out of town. In eastern Ukraine, the first signs of panic appeared on the streets as lines formed at ATMs and gas stations.
With attacks across the country, it quickly became clear that Russia’s campaign, whatever Mr Putin means by a “special military operation”, was aimed at much more than rebel territories to the east. Within an hour, Ukraine’s state emergency service said attacks had been launched in 10 regions of Ukraine, mostly in the east and south, and reports of new bombings “were constantly happening”.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, called it a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine” and said his country would defend itself, while calling on the world to “stop Putin”.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it used “high-precision weapons” to disable military infrastructure, air defense installations, military airfields and Ukrainian army planes, the news agency reported. Russian RIA Novosti. But the ministry said it was not attacking towns and promised that “the civilian population is not in danger”.
Ukrainian authorities said invading naval forces were landing at several locations, including Kharkiv and the southern city of Kherson. Three rescue workers were injured when a command post was hit by shelling in Nizhyn, in the north, and six people were trapped under rubble when the city’s airport came under attack, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health reported. Interior.
Military depots, warehouses and the National Guard were hit by artillery fire, the ministry said.
At dawn in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had declared martial law. The country’s defense minister told citizens that the military is “pushing back enemy forces” and “doing everything it can to protect you”.
But the army was besieged. In the east, Russian-backed separatists — their ranks bolstered by the arrival of hundreds of Russian mercenaries in recent days, according to European officials — said they were hammering Ukrainian troops across the 250-mile frontline. miles which divided the rebels and the Ukrainians. armies since 2014.
Seeking to seize all of the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Mr Putin recognized as independent on Monday, the rebels were “using all the weapons at their disposal”, Russian media reported. Ukrainian officials said the attacks included artillery strikes.
The Ukrainian border service reported that Russian troops stationed in Belarus, northern Ukraine, launched an attack with the support of the Belarusian army. Russia has deployed up to 30,000 troops to Belarus for exercises this month which the United States says could provide cover for an attack on Kiev, which is 140 miles by car from a main outpost. frontier.
Mid-morning in Kyiv, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had disabled all air defenses and air bases in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russian forces had captured two villages in the Luhansk region.