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Today, Russia has launched an all-out war against Ukraine, with rockets raining down from the sky, tanks crossing the border from Belarus, and masses of paratroopers descending on the eastern regions after Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to attack.
According to Kiev, “hundreds” of Ukrainian troops had already been killed in early clashes as fighting broke out on all fronts at any moment. Cruise missiles, guided bombs and Grad missiles hit targets from east to west – at airfields, military bases, ammunition depots and command posts, including in the capital.
The first sign that an invasion was imminent came shortly before 12:00 pm Ukrainian time (10:00 pm in the UK), when Russian-backed rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine turned to Moscow for military assistance, in what many consider a “false flag.” an operation to justify Putin’s decision to attack.
Moments later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a defiant message to the nation, promising his compatriots to “fight back” if invaded, telling Moscow: “When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”
A frenzied string of diplomatic manoeuvres, including an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, was not enough to dissuade Putin, who announced a “special military operation” around 3 a.m. Ukrainian time.
Around 6 a.m., Zelensky declared martial law in a video message filmed on his phone, urging his people “not to panic” and promising: “We will defeat everyone because we are Ukraine.”
As Europe faces its worst military crisis in decades, here’s how, minute by minute, this morning’s dramatic events unfolded. All times are indicated first in Ukrainian time, and in brackets follows the equivalent in Greenwich Mean Time.
“We will fight back”: the President of Ukraine made an emotional televised address
Volodymyr Zelensky vows that the Ukrainian people will fight back if Putin launches a full-scale invasion.
His comments follow a request by Moscow-backed rebel leaders in the country’s east for military assistance to repel Ukrainian “aggression,” which the West sees as a “false flag” to justify an invasion.
Solemnly, President Zelensky says: “The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace.
“But if we are attacked, if we are faced with 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.
The Ukrainian president says he tried to call Putin earlier in the evening but “no answer, only silence,” adding that Moscow had about 200,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
At the request of Ukraine, the UN Security Council quickly appoints an emergency meeting – the second in three days.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calls the separatists’ request “a further escalation of the security situation.”
Ukraine is preparing for the conflict and declares a state of emergency for a month, which takes effect at midnight.
3:30 (1:30 GMT)
Explosions rocked the strategically important port city of Mariupol
Residents of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol woke up at 3:30 a.m. to the sound of explosions.
Video footage shows puffs of smoke rising into the night sky nearby, but it is not known if this is the result of shelling.
Mariupol, located on the Black Sea coast 50 miles from the border with Russia, provides 50% of Ukraine’s exports of steel and minerals.
The capture of a strategically important place will give the people’s republics of Donbass access to the sea and cut off a vital economic artery for the legitimate government of Ukraine.
4:30 (2:30 GMT)
A meeting at the UN where the Ukrainian ambassador tells his Russian colleague: “war criminals go straight to hell”
The UN Security Council is holding an emergency emergency meeting in New York to try to dissuade Russia from sending troops to Ukraine.
During the meeting, Ukrainian Ambassador Serhiy Kyslitsa pleads with the Russian-chaired council to “do everything possible to stop the war.”
He demands that the Russian ambassador step down as chairman.
“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They’re going straight to hell, Ambassador,” says a visibly agitated Kislitsa.
At a tense meeting of the UN Security Council, Ukrainian Ambassador Serhiy Kyslitsa told his Russian counterpart: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They’re going straight to hell, ambassador.
General Secretary António Guterres urges Putin to stop his tanks.
“If an operation is really being prepared, I can only say one thing from the bottom of my heart,” he says.
“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give the world a chance. Too many people have already died.
Mr Guterres says he is witnessing “the saddest moment of my tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations” and that Europe is facing “the worst war since the turn of the century”.
He subsequently warns that Russia’s actions will not only be “devastating for Ukraine” and “tragic” for Russia, “but also with consequences that we cannot even foresee regarding their consequences for the global economy.”
“At a time when we are coming out of Covid and so many developing countries absolutely need to have room to recover, which would be very, very difficult with high oil prices, wheat exports from Ukraine and rising interest rates. caused by instability in international markets,” he adds.
5:00 (3:00 GMT)
Putin announces “special operation” and threatens the West
Putin announces a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, claiming it is designed to protect civilians.
In a televised address, Putin said the action was a response to threats coming from Ukraine.
He argued that Russia wanted to “denazify, not occupy” Ukraine. Putin says the Ukrainian “regime” is responsible for the bloodshed.
Putin is warning countries that any attempt to thwart Russia’s actions will lead to “consequences they have never seen.”
The strong man could be seen wearing the same suit and red tie he wore on Monday as he recounted his factually incorrect version of Ukraine’s history, essentially saying that it has always been part of Russia.
In retrospect, Putin’s attempts to rewrite history to his advantage can be interpreted as evidence that he had already made up his mind to invade Ukraine and that he misled Western leaders who begged him for diplomacy.
5:30 (3:30 GMT)
Explosions are heard in Kiev a few minutes after the end of Putin’s speech
After Putin’s speech ended, explosions were reported in Kiev, Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city, and Kramatorsk in the east of the Donetsk region.
A CNN reporter in Kiev says: “I just heard a big explosion right here behind me. I’ve never heard anything like it.
Matthew Chance, the network’s senior international correspondent, says he heard between seven and eight explosions.
Chance quickly put on a bulletproof vest and headgear, continuing to report from the balcony of the Ukrainian capital.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev dons a body armor when he hears explosions just after 5:30 a.m.
“There are big explosions. I cannot see them or explain what they are. but I will tell you that the United States has warned the Ukrainian authorities that air and ground strikes are possible throughout the country, including the capital.
“I don’t know if this is happening now, but it’s an amazing coincidence that the explosions were heard just a few minutes after Putin made his speech,” Chance explained.
“This is the first time we hear something. It was absolutely quiet. This is the first time. This must be more than just a coincidence.
“I think where I am is safe. I have a bulletproof vest,” Chance remarked before ducking down to put on his protective gear.
He assumed that the explosions he heard were still some distance from the center.
6 am (4 am GMT)
President of Ukraine declared martial law
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is declaring martial law and urging his people to stay at home and not panic when Russian troops invade the country.
In a video message released shortly after the Kremlin launched its attacks on Ukraine, Zelenskiy says Russia has launched rocket attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions have been heard in many cities.
The President of Ukraine also said that he spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden.
He calls out: “Dear citizens of Ukraine, this morning President Putin announced a special operation in the Donbass. Russia has been attacking our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were explosions in many cities of Ukraine. We are introducing martial law throughout our country.
“A minute ago I had a conversation with President Biden. The US has already begun to pool international support. Today, each of you must remain calm. Stay at home if you can. We are working. The army is working.
“The entire defense and security sector is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine.”
Paratroopers land in Ukraine’s second largest city as Russians launch multiple attacks
Approximately 6 am onwards
The footage shows paratroopers landing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s largest city.
According to ABC’s Martha Raddatz, the US appeared to be aware of the impending invasion.
She said she received a message three hours before the invasion from a senior Pentagon official saying, “You are probably in the last few hours of peace on the European continent for a long time.” Be careful.’
As violence spreads, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, writes on Facebook that the Russian military has carried out missile strikes against Ukrainian command posts, airbases and military depots in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro.
Later in the morning, five Russian jets were reportedly shot down from the skies over Donbas before Moscow boasts that it has destroyed all air defenses, giving them control of the skies.
Ukrainian border guards say they have come under attack from heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko throws his forces into the fray.
Lugansk, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernihiv in eastern Ukraine were reportedly shelled, but explosions were also reported in the west, in Zhytomyr and Lvov, near the border with Poland.
Unusual video footage shows a cruise missile crashing into Ivano-Frankivsk Airport, also to the west.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian rebel forces are emerging from the occupied Donbas, capturing two villages and claiming to have shot down two Ukrainian planes from the sky. The port city of Odessa, where Ukraine’s main naval base is located, is also under attack.