Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights on Thursday after Russia launched a “military operation” after weeks of intense diplomacy and Western sanctions failed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Europe’s aviation regulator has warned of the dangers of flying in border areas. Moldova in southwestern Ukraine also closed its airspace, while Belarus in the north said civilian flights could no longer fly over part of its territory.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FO) has shared emergency contact information for its citizens in Ukraine to contact the country’s embassy for “timely assistance and guidance”.
“Our embassy is at your service 24/7 to provide assistance to Pakistanis in Ukraine,” the FO said after the Pakistani embassy announced on its account that it was in contact with students who were unable to leave according to a previous recommendation.
The embassy said students were asked to go to the city of Ternopil, where “arrangements will be made for their evacuation if the situation permits”.
Putin announced early Thursday that he was launching a military operation in Ukraine, and explosions were heard in the capital and other parts of the country soon after, prompting US President Joe Biden to warn of “a catastrophic loss of life”.
Prior to the announcement, Ukraine had deployed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along its borders.
“I have decided on a military operation,” he said in a surprise televised statement shortly before 06:00 in the morning.
Putin has warned other countries that attempts to interfere in Russian action will have consequences they have never seen before.
He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia. requests To stop Ukraine from joining NATO and to guarantee security to Moscow. He said he wanted the “demilitarization” of the former Soviet state, but not its occupation.
Putin said that all Ukrainian soldiers who have laid down arms can safely leave the battlefield.
“All responsibility for the bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine,” Putin said.
Russian military says Ukrainian airbases are ‘disabled’
The Russian military said it had knocked out Ukraine’s air defense assets and air bases.
The Russian Ministry of Defense added that Russian airstrikes suppressed the air defense vehicles of the Ukrainian army and that the infrastructure of Ukraine’s military bases remained inadequate. He denied the allegations that the Russian warplane was shot down over Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military claimed it shot down five Russian planes while fending off a “Russian attack on the country.”
He later said he destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 soldiers near a town in the Luhansk region, and shot down a sixth Russian plane, also in the east of the country.
However, Russia denied reports that its planes or armored vehicles were destroyed.
Ukraine’s border guard service said that three of its soldiers were killed and several wounded in the southern Kherson region.
Russia’s defense ministry previously said it targeted Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons after President Vladimir Putin announced military action against the country.
“The military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airports and aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are being disabled with high-precision weapons,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement from Russian news agencies.
Ukraine declared martial law
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law and said Russia attacked his country’s “military infrastructure”, but urged citizens not to panic and promised victory.
The foreign minister said the worst-case scenario has come true.
In a video message posted on Facebook after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was launching a military operation against Ukraine, Zelensky said he spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden and that “the United States has promised support and assistance.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russia has invaded Ukraine extensively and targeted cities with gun attacks.
“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and win. The world can and must stop Putin. Now is the time to act,” Kuleba said on Twitter.
Shortly after Putin’s speech, explosions were heard in the predawn silence of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Gunshots were heard near the capital’s main airport. interfax the news agency said.
Explosions also shook the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, with civil planes alerted.
AFP Reporters also heard explosions in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.
Explosions also occurred in Kharkov, a large city 35 kilometers south of the Russian border.
Four loud explosions were heard in Kramatorsk, a front-line city that served as the Ukrainian government’s effective capital for the eastern war zone, and more were heard in the eastern port city of Mariupol. AFP journalists said.
The extent of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear. Moscow has long denied that it has plans to invade, although it has amassed tens of thousands of troops near its neighbor.
US President Joe Biden said his prayers are with the people of Ukraine “for suffering an unjust and unjustified attack by Russian military forces”.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Only Russia 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 determined manner. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
He said he would announce more sanctions on Russia on Thursday, in addition to the financial measures. imposed This week.
The United States has not specified what measures it will take at this time, although administration officials have made it clear that all-out sanctions against Russia’s major banks are among possible options. So are the export limits that would deprive Russia of its high technology for US industries and military.
Another drastic measure under consideration could effectively shut Russia off from much of the global financial system.
The Russian operations began with the United Nations Security Council’s emergency meeting in New York on the Ukraine crisis.
A draft resolution calling on Moscow over its actions against its neighbor because of Russia’s veto power is doomed to fail, but a Security Council diplomat said it would inform Russia “not in accordance with international law”.
President of Ukraine addressed the Russians
Putin’s statement on Thursday came after the Kremlin said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military aid against Kiev.
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an emotional appeal late at night to the Russians not to support a “major war in Europe”.
Speaking in Russian, Zelensky said that the Russian people are being lied to about Ukraine and that the possibility of war is “up to you”.
“Who can stop (the war)? People. “These people are among you, I’m sure.”
Zelensky said he tried to call Putin but there was “no answer, just silence”, adding that Moscow now has around 200,000 troops near the Ukrainian borders.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the separatist leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk had previously sent separate letters to Putin asking him to “help them repel Ukraine’s aggression.”
Two letters were published by Russian state media, and both were dated February 22.
Their call came after Putin recognized their independence and signed friendship agreements with them, including defense agreements.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops are stationed near Ukraine’s borders, and the West has been saying for days that an attack is imminent.
living in fear
Western countries said before Thursday’s operation, Russia had recruited 150,000 troops in combat formations on Ukraine’s borders with Russia, Belarus and Russian-occupied Crimea, and on warships in the Black Sea.
Ukraine has about 200,000 military personnel and can increase this to 250,000 reservists.
Moscow’s total forces are much larger – about a million active-duty personnel – and have been modernized and rearmed in recent years.
However, Ukraine received advanced anti-tank weapons and some drones from NATO members.
More was promised as the Allies sought to deter a Russian attack, or at least make it costly.
Bombings between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have intensified in recent days – a Ukrainian soldier was killed on Wednesday, the sixth of four days – and civilians living near the front were in fear.
Dmitry Maksimenko, a 27-year-old coal miner from government-held Krasnogorivka, said: AFP He said he was shocked when his wife came to tell him that Putin recognized the two Russian-backed separatist enclaves.
“Did you hear the news?’ said. How could I know? No electricity, never mind the internet. “I don’t know what will happen next, but to be honest, I’m scared,” he said.
Russia has long demanded that Ukraine be banned from joining the NATO alliance and that US troops be withdrawn from Eastern Europe.
How is the Ukrainian economy holding up?
The country where the economy eroded the fastest under the threat of war was Ukraine, not Russia.
Embassies and international offices in Kiev were closed one by one. Flights were repeatedly canceled after insurance companies refused to allow them to cover planes landing in Ukraine. Hundreds of millions of dollars of investment dried up within weeks.
Squeezing Ukraine’s economy is a key destabilizing tactic in what the government describes as a “hybrid war” aimed at destroying the country from within.
Economic woes include restaurants that dare not have food for more than a few days, stalled plans for a hydrogen production plant that could help steer Europe away from Russian gas, and uncertain shipping conditions in the Black Sea, where container ships must dock with caution. They go around Russian military ships.