Fighting raging in Donbass – militia chief
Fierce fighting has broken out between Ukrainian forces and troops loyal to the breakaway republic of Donetsk, the spokesman for the separatist region’s militia announced on Thursday morning.
In a statement, Eduard Basurin said that "the armed forces of the Donetsk People's Republic are attacking the positions of the Ukrainian Army along the entire line of contact, using every means of destruction available to them," he said.
Earlier the same morning, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it had begun strikes against military targets across Ukraine, with explosions heard in major cities.
The news came after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order authorizing the immediate use of force as part of a "special operation" in the Donbass. Citing requests from local leaders for support, Putin said he would "take decisive and immediate action" to "demilitarize" and "de-Nazify" Ukraine.
Kiev's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, issued a statement in which he declared that Moscow "has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine." According to him, "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."
On Monday night, the Russian president announced that he would recognize the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. Both declared their autonomy from Kiev in the wake of the 2014 Maidan, and have been locked in a standoff with government forces since then. According to Putin, diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute have failed.