Central European NATO members condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine


Moscow’s dreaded attack on Ukraine began early on February 24, with missiles fired at airports and military infrastructure in at least seven cities after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special” operation to ” demilitarize” his neighbor and rival.

Explosions, gunshots and sirens were reported in the capital, Kiev, and its Boryspil airport, with witnesses in Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Dnipro, Mariupol, Odessa and Zaporizhzhya also reporting explosions in the early morning hours.

CNN reported that Russian troops entered Ukraine through the port city of Odessa, but it was unclear if they were involved in the fighting. CNN also showed a video purporting to show Russian troops entering Ukraine from Belarus, where they had taken part in military exercises.

There were no immediate reports of possible deaths or injuries.

A fire is seen at a military installation near Mariupol airport on February 24.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it struck military infrastructure at Ukrainian airbases and “suppressed” its air defenses, but did not hit populated areas.

“The air defense assets of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been removed. The military infrastructure of the air bases of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been decommissioned,” Interfax quoted the ministry as saying.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that “Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are being hit.”

“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and win. The world can and must stop Putin. It’s time to act.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – who spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – said he was declaring martial law but urged citizens to remain calm.

Zelenskiy said Moscow launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, with missile attacks targeting “our military infrastructure” and border guards in several cities.

The Ukrainian General Staff said in a statement that Russia had “begun intensive shelling of our units in the east and also launched rocket strikes” at six airports.

There was immediate and widespread condemnation from the West, with wishes for new, tougher sanctions to be imposed on Moscow.

Biden called the action an “unprovoked and unwarranted” attack on Ukraine and said the world would “hold Russia accountable.”

He said Russia would be responsible for the “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering” to come.

“Prayers from around the world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they come under an unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Russian military forces,” Biden said in a statement.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will result in catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia bears sole responsibility for the death and destruction this attack will cause, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond. in a united and decisive manner. The world will hold Russia accountable,” he added.

The White House later said Biden spoke by phone with Zelenskiy and offered his support and briefed the Ukrainian leader on the next steps planned against Russia by Washington and its allies.

Biden has said he will address the nation on February 24.

A family takes refuge in a metro station in Kiev on February 24.

A family takes refuge in a metro station in Kiev on February 24.

He said Russia would be responsible for the “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering” to come.

“Prayers from around the world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they come under an unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Russian military forces,” Biden said in a statement.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will result in catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia bears sole responsibility for the death and destruction this attack will cause, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond united and decisively. The world will hold Russia accountable,” he added.

The White House later said Biden spoke by phone with Zelenskiy and offered his support and briefed the Ukrainian leader on the next steps planned against Russia by Washington and its allies.

Biden has said he will address the nation on February 24.

British Prime Minister Johnson condemned the “horrific events in Ukraine” and said Putin “chose the path of bloodshed and destruction in launching this unprovoked attack”.

“The UK and our allies will respond decisively,” he wrote on Twtiter, adding that he – like Biden – had spoken by phone with Zelenskiy.

The EU echoed the remarks, with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying that “by its unprovoked and unjustified military actions, Russia flagrantly violates international law and undermines European and global security and stability”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned what he called Russia’s “reckless” attack on Ukraine.

He said NATO allies will come together to confront “Russia’s renewed aggression”. Ukraine is not a member of NATO but is aligned with the West.

“I strongly condemn Russia’s reckless attack on Ukraine, which endangers countless civilian lives. This is a serious violation of international law and a grave threat to Euro-Atlantic security. “, wrote Stoltenberg on Twitter.

In a nationally televised speech early on February 24, Putin sought to justify the offensive operation by saying he had to prevent Ukraine from acquiring nuclear weapons. Ukraine has not indicated that it is seeking nuclear weapons.

“Circumstances compel us to take decisive and immediate action,” Putin told the nation, saying Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region had asked for help.

Putin also said the action was aimed at protecting civilians and responding to threats coming from Ukraine – claims Kiev and the West have long dismissed.

Putin called on the Ukrainian army to lay down their arms. He claimed that Russia had no intention of occupying Ukrainian territory.

Russia had massed more than 150,000 combat-ready armed forces with heavy equipment on the Ukrainian border, in what NATO described as the biggest military buildup on the European continent since the end of the Cold War.

Tensions rose further when Putin said this week he was recognizing demands for independence from two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and sending troops to the territories – moves condemned by most Western nations and the head of the UN.

Putin has for weeks denied any plans to invade Ukraine.

The Russian leader is seeking to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO – what he has called an existential threat – and to halt the Western alliance’s eastward expansion.

Ukraine has been aiming to join NATO since Russia seized its Crimean peninsula in 2014 and sparked a rebellion in its eastern provinces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reminded Western leaders this weekend that his country had agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for guarantees on its security and territorial integrity.

He said Russia – a signatory to that deal with the US and Britain – had breached it and questioned whether it still held.

Putin seized on this remark to peddle a conspiracy theory that Ukraine is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons to attack Russia.

Zelenskiy made a last-ditch effort to avoid a war by trying to call Putin late on February 23. Putin did not answer the call, Zelenskiy said.

With reporting from the AP, AFP, Reuters, CNN and BBC
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