Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo by Kremlin.ru
Weeks of diplomatic stalemate have come to an end as Russia launched missile strikes throughout the entire country of Ukraine. Russia has launched “in total more than 160 missiles for airstrikes,” a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday.
Russian forces have seized control of Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine. Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia would attempt to do so. “Russian occupation forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl (nuclear power plant). Our defenders are sacrificing their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” Zelensky tweeted.” This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”
Russian troops have also taken control of Antonov Airport, which is less than 10 miles from Kyiv. Ukrainian military is reportedly staging a counteroffensive to take the airport back.
Ukraine’s Minister of Healthcare Viktor Lyashko said there have been at least 57 people killed and 169 people injured, including both combat and non-combat injuries.
World leaders immediately responded with a deluge of sanctions.
Putin appeared on television just before 6:00am local time, after which the shelling began almost immediately. Despite claiming he did not intend to occupy Ukraine, he stated:
“Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action. The People’s Republics of Donbas turned to Russia with a request for help. In this regard, in accordance with Article 51, part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council and in pursuance of the friendship treaties ratified by the Federal Assembly and mutual assistance with the DPR and LPR, I have decided to conduct a special military operation.”
The UN Security Council immediately called an emergency meeting. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya, put the blame solely on Ukraine while defending Russia’s actions.
“The root of today’s crisis around Ukraine is the actions of Ukraine itself, who for many years were sabotaging its obligations under the (Minsk agreement),” said Nebenzya. He claimed that Russia would protect residents in the separatist pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine, “who for eight years have been cowering from Ukraine’s shelling.”
He also said, “Ukrainian provocation against those in Donbas not only has not stopped but has intensified,” which prompted separatist leaders in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to request Russian assistance.