UKRAINE/RUSSIA: Despite Western outrage and international calls not to go to war, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “military action” in Ukraine on Thursday and ordered soldiers to lay down their weapons. On the other hand, Ukraine military has claimed to have shot down five Russian planes and a Russian helicopter in the breakaway Luhansk region shortly after Moscow launched military operation against the country.
He announced soon before 6:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) in Moscow, “I have made the decision of a military action,” and pledged punishment against anyone who interfered. He also demanded that the Ukrainian military lay down its weapons.
Minutes after Putin’s announcement, explosions were heard in a number of major Ukrainian towns, including Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Russia invades Ukraine
According to reports, Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk have initiated large-scale attacks along the line of contact against Ukrainian forces.
The airspace above the Ukraine-Russia border has been restricted, effectively making it a no-fly zone for commercial aircraft. Several Ukrainian airports in the east, including Kharkiv, have halted all operations tonight.
The enemy began shelling Ukrainian forces in the east, as well as military control centres and airfields, according to Ukraine’s Defense Minister.
The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting for the second time this week at the request of Ukraine, which stated it was facing an imminent threat of Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba requested the meeting in a letter to Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who holds the council president in February. The meeting will begin at 9:30 p.m. EST.
The meeting comes two days after the 15-member council convened an emergency open meeting, which was also requested by Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of independence for two separatist territories in Ukraine’s east, as well as his statement that Russian forces will deploy there to protect the peace, received little backing at the conference.
Diplomats in the United Nations Security Council are drafting a resolution that would make it clear that Russia is violating the UN Charter, international law, and a 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the Minsk agreements aimed at restoring peace in eastern Ukraine.
After separatists begged for Russian support to oppose “aggression” on Wednesday and explosions rocked the breakaway eastern city of Donetsk, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he fears Russia would attack Ukraine within hours.
Blinken predicted that Russian armies would assault Ukraine overnight, but he remained hopeful that diplomacy might bring Europe back from the brink of war.
“Everything appears to be in position for Russia to launch a big offensive against Ukraine,” Blinken said in an interview, adding that he couldn’t say when or where it would happen.
Meanwhile, China, a strong friend of Russia, has urged all parties involved in the Ukrainian conflict to exhibit caution and avoid actions that may exacerbate tensions.