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Russia has invaded Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin told the nation just before 6am on Thursday in Moscow – saying he was launching a ‘special military operation’ but was not intending on occupying the country.

As he was speaking, the United Nations Security Council was holding an emergency session, and urging Putin to pull back.

But it was too late. 

Explosions were reported in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol in the early hours of Thursday, and unverified footage on social media showed flashpoints across the south of Ukraine. 

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, urged Vladimir Putin to stop his tanks. 

‘If indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart,’ said Guterres. 

‘President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.’ 

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that she had spoken to President Joe Biden minutes earlier, and he conveyed his firm support for Ukraine’s government.

‘A full scale invasion into Ukraine by Russia is imminent,’ said Thomas-Greenfield.

‘Tonight we are seeing Russia close airspace, move troops into Donbas.

‘We ask Russia to stop. Send your troops back to their barracks and your planes back to their ports. Send your diplomats.’  

Footage shared on social media showed housing estates in Mariupol – 50 miles from the Russian border – booming with the sound of what some reports said was shelling.

In Mykolaiv, 400 miles to the east of Mariupol, residents reported sounds of fierce exchanges of gunfire.

Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, said on Wednesday night he expected Putin to invade overnight. 

Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday night reported widespread cyber attacks on government institutions.  

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, is seen on Wednesday night addressing the Security Council

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, is seen on Wednesday night addressing the Security Council

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, is seen on Wednesday night addressing the Security Council

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, urged Vladimir Putin to 'give peace a chance'

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, urged Vladimir Putin to 'give peace a chance'

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, urged Vladimir Putin to ‘give peace a chance’

The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday night

The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday night

The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday night 

Putin is thought to be planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, having recognised two areas in the east of the country as independent earlier this week. Rebels already hold part of that territory (in dark red) but Putin has recognised a much-wider region (shaded red) amid fears he will now try to seize it

Putin is thought to be planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, having recognised two areas in the east of the country as independent earlier this week. Rebels already hold part of that territory (in dark red) but Putin has recognised a much-wider region (shaded red) amid fears he will now try to seize it

Putin is thought to be planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, having recognised two areas in the east of the country as independent earlier this week. Rebels already hold part of that territory (in dark red) but Putin has recognised a much-wider region (shaded red) amid fears he will now try to seize it 

Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, was asked on Wednesday night whether he expected Putin to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight, and replied: 'I do'

Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, was asked on Wednesday night whether he expected Putin to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight, and replied: 'I do'

Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, was asked on Wednesday night whether he expected Putin to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight, and replied: ‘I do’

Blinken was asked earlier on Wednesday by Lester Holt on NBC News on whether he thought there would be a full-scale invasion from Russia ‘before this night is over’.

Blinken replied: ‘I do. Unfortunately Russia has positioned its forces at the final point of readiness across Ukraine’s borders – to the north, the east, the south.

‘Everything seems to be in place for Russia to engage in a major aggression against Ukraine.’ 

Blinken added: ‘I can’t put a date or an exact time on it, but everything is in place for Russia to move forward.’  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday night addressed the nation, saying that he had tried to contact Putin to discuss the situation, but Putin refused to take his call.

‘I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian federation. Result: silence,’ Zelensky said.

Zelensky said he wanted to address the Russian people – admitting that he knew the speech would not be shown in the country – but warning that the ‘spark’ for invasion could come at any time.

‘You are told that this flame will liberate the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free.

‘You are told we are Nazis, but how can a people support Nazis that gave more than eight million lives for the victory over Nazism?’ 

Zelensky also rejected Moscow’s claim that Ukraine was a threat to Russia.

‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,’ Zelensky said, adding that a Russian invasion would cost tens of thousands of lives.

Zelensky added that there were now 200,000 Russian troops amassed near Ukraine’s borders.

Zelensky said that the people of Russia were being lied to about Ukraine and urged them to help stop a possible war.

‘Who can stop (the war)? People. These people are among you, I am sure,’ he said.

Source: dailymail

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