Kyiv: Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, killing dozens and forcing hundreds to flee for their lives in the pro-Western neighbour.
Russia said that its military had destroyed more than 70 military targets including 11 airfields in Ukraine. “As a result of strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces, 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities were destroyed,” said Igor Konashenkov, a defence ministry spokesman, specifying that destroyed facilities included 11 airfields. He said a Ukrainian military helicopter and four drones had also been shot down.
The air strikes hit military facilities across Ukraine and ground forces moved in from the north, south and east, triggering condemnation from Western leaders and warnings of massive sanctions.
Weeks of intense diplomacy failed to deter Putin, who massed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in what the West said was the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Second World War.
“I have decided to proceed with a special military operation,” Putin said in a television announcement in the early hours of Thursday.
Shortly afterwards, the first bombardments were heard in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and several other cities, according to AFP correspondents.
At least 68 people were killed, including both soldiers and civilians, according to an AFP tally from various Ukrainian official sources.
In the deadliest single strike reported by the authorities, 18 people were killed at a military base near Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa.
Ukraine’s border guards said Russian forces had reached the region around the capital, Kyiv.
An AFP reporter in the northern part of the city saw several low-flying helicopters overhead amid reports that an airfield was under attack.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said a “full-scale invasion” was underway.
President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law and said Russia was attacking his country’s “military infrastructure” but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.
(This story has been published from a syndicated feed.)