Russia has begun attacking Ukraine, NATO officials confirmed.
The late-night attack began moments after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he had “decided to conduct a special military operation” to protect eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Livestream video shows tanks and other armored vehicles entering Ukraine through a border crossing with Belarus.
The video was taken at the Senkivka, Urkaine crossing with Veselovka, Belarus, shot around 6:48 a.m. local time. News later reported hearing loud blasts in the capital city, Kyiv, and in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
The first bangs came at just after 5 a.m. on Thursday, putting a definite end to any speculation about what Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to do.
Just minutes before, Putin announced he was ordering military operation in Ukraine. Now, the residents of Kyiv could hear the consequences first hand.
The explosions were coming from some distance away from the city center, but were clearly audible across the Ukrainian capital, the deep noise piercing through the quiet early morning.
In his speech on Russian state TV, Putin said his plans did not include an occupation of Ukraine.
Kyiv residents have been told stay at home and pack a bag with necessities, in case they need to leave abruptly.
The US Department of Defense is tracking the reported incursion of troops from Belarus into Ukraine, a US defense official said Thursday.
It was not clear if the troops were only Russian or also Belarusian, the source said.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Russia’s military action Thursday as an “act of war” in a statement posted to Facebook.
“This is an act of war, an attack on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a gross violation of the UN Statute and the fundamental norms and principles of international law,” spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in the statement.
Nikolenko said Russian troops had carried out strikes on “peaceful” Ukrainian cities, in an offensive that aimed to “destroy the state of Ukraine, seize Ukrainian territory by force, and establish occupation control.”
“Ukraine is claiming its right to self-defence in accordance with international law,” the statement said, adding the Ukrainian military was ready to “repel the aggressor and defend the Ukrainian land with all their might.”
UN, EU responds calling for de-escalation
The United Nations’ secretary-general issued an urgent plea for Russian President Vladimir Putin to draw back his invasion of Ukraine, warning that failure to do so could result in “the worst war since the beginning of the century.”
The President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission issued a joint statement Thursday condemning Russian military action in Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms.”
“Russia is grossly violating international law and undermining European and global security and stability,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement.