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Large explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

The Russian military says it has targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets, but hasn’t targeted populated areas, AP reported.

An explosion is seen in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Thursday, February 24.
An explosion is seen in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Thursday, February 24. (CNN/Ukrainian President’s Office)

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has advised residents to stay home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Kharkiv also warned citizens not to leave their homes.

“Please do not leave your homes today. Due to the complicated situation, schools, kindergartens and other institutions do not work today — until the situation becomes clearer,” Mayor Igor Terekhov said in a Facebook post.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has urged Australians in Ukraine to “shelter in place until it’s safe to depart”.

Explosions are continuing to be heard while air raid sirens have sounded in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

“We heard pretty consistent ones [explosions] maybe an hour ago but they have certainly died off,” Greenbank said.

“We’ve got a siren that just started.

“We’ve also just heard the bells tolling at St Michael’s Golden Dome Orthdox Church and that was going to be done when Russia invaded Ukraine.”

Greenbank said they hadn’t been told about sirens and what they mean.

“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about what to do if you hear a siren like this,” she said.

CNN reporters said the mood is “remarkably calm” despite the explosions and air raid sirens.

After the initial explosions in Kyiv, people could be heard shouting in the streets, AP reported.

Then a sense of normality returned, with cars circulating and people walking in the streets as a pre-dawn commute appeared to start in relative calm.

People queue to use an ATM machine outside in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukrainians have woken to the news of Russia’s military operation. (AP)
People queue to use an ATM machine outside in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences you have never seen." (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
People queue to use an ATM machine outside in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP)

Martial law declared in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has introduced martial law across the country.

In a video address posted on his Facebook, Mr Zelenskyy urged people to stay calm.

“Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were blasts heard in many cities of Ukraine,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

“We’re introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country.

“Stay at home if you can. We are working. The army is working.

“The whole sector of defense and security is working.

“No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything.

“We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.”

Mr Zelenskyy also added the US had already begun coalescing international support.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies is showing parts of a military convoy moving south in and around Golovchino in Russia, which is 16 kilometres north of the border with Ukraine.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies is showing parts of a military convoy moving south in and around Golovchino in Russia, which is 16 kilometres north of the border with Ukraine. (AP)

‘Consequences they have never seen’

In a televised address today, Mr Putin said the invasion comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine.

He warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.

Mr Putin said Russia doesn’t have a goal to occupy Ukraine, and that the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.

He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees.

He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarisation” of Ukraine.

Mr Putin said that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the media during a news conference following his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Sergey Guneev / Sputnik via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the media during a news conference following his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. (Sputnik via AP)

US President Joe Biden condemned an “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces”.

Ukrainian president vows to ‘fight back’

Mr Zelenskyy vowed earlier today his country would “fight back” against a Russian invasion.

In an emotional address to the nation, Mr Zelenskyy said he had pleaded for peace adding that he tried to contact Mr Putin but the Russian leader would would not accept the call.

Mr Zelenskyy rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and lamented that a Russian invasion would cost tens of thousands of lives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for peace. (AP)

Mr Zelenskyy said “nearly 200,000 soldiers” were stationed on the Ukrainian border, along with “thousands of combat vehicles”.

“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” he said in Russian, hours after declaring a nationwide state of emergency.

But if the nation comes under an attack, “we will fight back.”

“Today I initiated a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. Silence. Although there should be silence in the Donbas,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

New satellite imagery has shown a number of new deployments among Russian forces, especially in and around the Belgorod region, which is adjacent to the Ukrainian border.

This satellite image shows a Russian battle group deployed near Krasnaya Yaruga, approximately 20km east of the border with Ukraine. (Maxar Technologies) (CNN)

Earlier, the Ukrainian parliament approved Mr Zelenskyy’s decree that imposes a nationwide state of emergency as pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east have formally appealed to Moscow for military support.

The decree allows Ukrainian authorities to impose restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organisations “in the interests of national security and public order”.

Mr Zelenskyy has called up some military reservists as the threat of a Russian invasion grew.

He acknowledged that his country faces huge odds without membership in a powerful security alliance like NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the 'Defender of the Fatherland Day' in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the ‘Defender of the Fatherland Day’ in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

“We are self-defending ourselves with the support of our partners. But it’s Ukrainians who are dying,” he said.

Kyiv reported shelling on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have held territory since 2014.

The Ukrainian military said one of its soldiers was killed and six more were injured.

Separatist officials reported several explosions on their territory overnight and three civilian deaths.

Ukraine’s forces are no match for Moscow’s military might, so Kyiv is counting on other countries to hit Russia hard — with sanctions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that the West should target Russian President Vladimir Putin where it hurts without delay.

“Hit his economy and cronies. Hit more. Hit hard. Hit now,” Mr Kuleba wrote.

The Ukrainian Government has extended private gun owner rights as part of its emergency measures, enabling them to buy firearms from gun stores with less restrictions. (Getty)

European Union condemns Russian attack

The European Union (EU) has condemned the Russian attack and has called upon the country to “immediately cease the hostilities”.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s unprecedented military aggression against Ukraine,” President Charles Michel of the European Council and President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission said in a joint statement.

“By its unprovoked and unjustified military actions, Russia is grossly violating international law and undermining European and global security and stability.

“We deplore the loss of life and the human suffering.”

EU leaders are expected to meet later tonight to discuss “further restrictive measures”.

‘Russia alone responsible for the death and destruction’

US President Joe Biden condemned an “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” in a statement Wednesday evening following explosions in Ukraine.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Mr Biden said.

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way.”

“The world will hold Russia accountable.”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on Russia and Ukraine in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Biden is addressing the situation in Ukraine, with the U.S. expected to announce new sanctions after the European Union and the U.K. set out an initial set of penalties targeting Moscow. Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg
US President Joe Biden has condemned Russia’s military attack on Ukraine in a statement. (Bloomberg)

Mr Biden said that he planned to speak to the American people on Thursday and would announce “further consequences” that the US and its allies planned to impose on Russia over “this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security.”

“We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance,” Mr Biden said.

Leaders of separatists appeal to Russia

The heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), two separatist regions in Ukraine, recently recognised by Russia as independent, formally asked Mr Putin for help repelling the aggression of Ukrainian Armed Forces, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti.

“The president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin received letters of appeal from the head of the Luhansk People’s Republic Leonid Pasechnik and the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin,” Mr Peskov said, according to RIA.

Russian armoured vehicles are loaded onto railway platforms near the Russia-Ukraine border. (AP)

But the White House said the request by Ukrainian separatists for Russian military assistance in the face of supposed “aggression” by Ukraine’s government is an example of the “false flag” operations the West has consistently warned against.

The US and allies have alleged for weeks that Russia would try to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine through the use of such operations.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Kremlin’s announcement on Wednesday that the separatists are seeking help “is an example” of such an operation.

Ms Psaki adds that “we’ll continue to call out what we see as false flag operations or efforts to spread misinformation about what the actual status is on the ground.”

‘Moment of peril’ for world

The UN’s Secretary General warned, “our world is facing a moment of peril” after Russia began evacuating its embassy in Kyiv and Ukraine urged its citizens to leave Russia while declaring a state of emergency in the nation.

Hopes for a diplomatic way out of a new, potentially devastating war in Europe appeared all but sunk as the US and key European allies accused Moscow on Tuesday of crossing a red line in rolling over Ukraine’s border into separatist regions — with some calling it an invasion.
A Ukrainian army officer looks at his phone in a local train in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian army officer looks at his phone in a local train in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

“We meet in the face of the most serious global peace and security crisis in recent years, and certainly in my time as secretary general,” Antonio Guterres said.

“Our world is facing a moment of peril. I truly hoped it would not come.

“The latest developments regarding Ukraine are a cause of great concern, and they include reports of increased ceasefire violations across the contact line and the real risk of further escalation on the ground.”

People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a protest outside the Russian Embassy earlier this week.
People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a protest outside the Russian Embassy earlier this week. (Getty)
Vladimir Putin throughout the years

Vladimir Putin through the years: Who really is Russia’s President?

With Associated Press and CNN

Source: 9News

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