Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a military operation in eastern Ukraine on Thursday (February 24) in what could be the beginning of battle in Europe over Russia's demands for an end to NATO's eastward expansion.
US President Joe Biden condemning the assault said the "world will hold Russia accountable" over its attack on Ukraine that he warned will cause "catastrophic loss of life."
Putin said he had authorised a special military operation in breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces were only a matter of time.
Explosions shook the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and regular civilian airplanes were cautioned as the United States said a significant assault by Russia on its neighbour was inevitable.
Putin also vowed retaliation against those who interfere with Russian Ukraine operation. "I have made the decision of a military operation," he said in a surprise statement on television shortly before 6 am.
Full-scale invasion launched, says Ukraine Foreign Minister
Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, announced the country's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday and added that Ukrainian cities are under strikes.
"Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now," Kuleba tweeted.
Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 24, 2022
The tweet comes less than an hour after Putin announced a special "military operation" to protect Donbas in eastern Ukraine.
Defending Russia's decision to take military action in the Donbas region, the Russian envoy to the UN Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya, told UN Security Council "the root of today's crisis around Ukraine is the actions of Ukraine itself."
"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.
US tells UN invasion of Ukraine is imminent
At the U.N. Security Council, the United States said quickly before Putin's declaration that an intrusion by Russia was imminent.
"We are here tonight because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a full-scale, further invasion into Ukraine by Russia is imminent," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an emergency meeting.
Earlier, Pro-Russia separatist leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk issued a plea to Moscow for help to stop alleged Ukrainian aggression, and speaking over this Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to protect the people and demanded Ukrainian forces lay down their arms. The claims of Putin were dismissed by the United States dismissed as Russian propaganda.