Chris Lange, FISM News
Russian troops launched a wide-ranging military assault on Ukraine by land, air, and sea. Reports coming in from Reuters and AP News indicate that pre-dawn explosions could be heard in the capital Kyiv and other cities throughout the night, marking the largest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II. With the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that he is willing to endure sanctions and global condemnation in order to achieve his objective of taking Ukraine, threatening any countries who attempt to get in his way that they will experience “consequences you have never seen.”
“[W]hoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history,” Putin warned. He further issued a chilling reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, warning that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”
Ukraine has reported that at least 40 people have been killed so far in what it called a “full-scale war,” with the Kremlin attacking the country from the east, north and south. Officials have not said if any civilians were among the casualties.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency told air operators of a high risk to civilian aircraft over Ukraine, reminding air operators that “this is now an active conflict zone.”
President Joe Biden penned a written statement condemning the “unprovoked and unjustified attack,” and promised that the U.S. and its allies would “hold Russia accountable.”
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
Biden also said he assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the U.S. “will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people” during a phone call between the two leaders last night. Global powers have repeatedly said they will not intervene militarily to defend Ukraine.
The President further said he will speak to Americans today following a meeting with the Group of Seven leaders including Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan. More sanctions against Russia are expected to be announced following the meeting.
Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine marks the largest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II. Ukraine border guards have released footage of Russian tanks rolling in under a dark sky peppered with sporadic bursts of light from explosions as air raid sirens wailed ominously. Ukrainian authorities reported artillery barrages and airstrikes on multiple targets around the country. The Russian military claims to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours and Ukraine’s military says they shot down several Russian aircraft.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko cautioned residents to remain at home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare emergency bags with necessities and documents should they need to evacuate. The streets of Kyiv soon became congested with cars packed with citizens attempting to flee the capital as pedestrians waited in line at ATM machines to withdraw money. As the dim glow of sunlight broke on the horizon, shouts could be heard in the streets and the morning commute suddenly seemed to return to relative calm.
In response to the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky officially cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, stating that Russia has targeted Ukraine’s military structure.
“The Ukrainian military is waging hard battles, repelling attacks in Donbas and other regions in the east, north and south,” Zelensky said at a briefing, telling his people that the government will provide weapons to anyone willing to defend the country. Zelensky urged global leaders to provide defense assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the “aggressor.”
Zelensky also delivered an emotional appeal directly to the Russian people, many of whom have friends and relatives living in Ukraine.
“Today I initiated a phone conversation with the president of the Russian Federation. The result was silence. Although it’s the Donbas where there should be silence,” he began. “If the leadership of Russia does not want to sit at the table with us to make peace, perhaps it will sit at the table with you. Does Russia want a war? I would very much like an answer to this question. But that answer depends only on you, citizens of the Russian Federation,” he said.
“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace. But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and [the] lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”
Following weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin justified Russia’s actions in an overnight televised address, claiming that the attack was a necessary measure to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, fulfilling a prediction by the West that he would make such a false claim as a pretext for an invasion. Putin also accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands for security guarantees, including preventing Ukraine from joining NATO. Putin further claimed Moscow has no intention of occupying Ukraine but will take steps to “demilitarize” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.
During his address, Zelensky issued a dire warning that Russia’s actions “could mark the start of a big war on the European continent.”
“Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything,” he said.
Zelensky defiantly challenged Moscow’s propaganda claims that its maneuvers are an effort to maintain peace, saying that “you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free.”
News of the attack on Ukraine prompted a surge in global oil prices and plunging stock markets as fears of massive casualties and energy shortages gripped Europe.