'Full-scale invasion of Ukraine underway' – Kiev
Russia has launched a "full scale invasion of Ukraine," Kiev’s foreign minister has declared, as Moscow confirmed it had hit military targets in the country moments after the Kremlin issued an order for a “special operation” in the breakaway Donbass region.
In a statement issued early on Thursday morning, Dmytro Kuleba accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attacking his country and called for international assistance.
"Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes," he added, with claims coming in of explosions near the capital, Kiev. "This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win," he insisted. "The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now."
His comments come after Putin signed a decree authorizing the use of military force following a request for support from the leaders of the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk regions. “Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action," the order read. In a televised address to the nation, the Russian president said he wanted to "demilitarize" and "de-Nazify" Ukraine.
A number of Ukrainian military installations are believed to have been targeted by missile strikes, and there have been reports of large-scale Russian troop movements. Airports and landing strips also appear to have been destroyed. The country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has convened the National Security and Defense Council, and Ukrainian airspace has been closed. "We are strong, we will win," he said in a video statement.
Blasts have been reported in cities close to the Donbass contact line, including Mariupol, a major port city in the Donetsk region, as well as further afield. A CNN crew in Kiev has reported hearing explosions, while others have been reported in Odessa and Kharkov.
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Moscow's Defense Ministry confirmed that high-precision weapons have been used to hit infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and planes belonging to the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia has also closed its airspace in much of the south to civilian planes.