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Russia launched a full scale attack on Ukraine late Wednesday, Ukrainian and American officials said, with President Joe Biden accusing Russian leader Vladimir Putin of personally choosing to carry out “a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.” Russian shelling began moments after Putin said he had “decided to conduct a special military operation” aimed at the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. He called on Ukraine’s forces to lay down their arms and surrender their country to Russian control. 

CBS News teams in the capital city of Kyiv and in Kharkiv, close to the Russian border in the country’s east, heard shelling into the early hours of the morning. A Ukrainian government spokesperson said early Thursday that “cruise and ballistic missile strikes are underway at the [military] control centers” in Kyiv.

After a period of calm, CBS News’ Haley Ott said a second wave of Russian strikes was hitting targets in Kyiv, with smoke seen billowing above the city. One strike was believed to have hit near a railway bridge in central Kyiv, and a witness told the Reuters news agency that black smoke was seen rising from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Intelligence building in the middle of the capital.

Ukraine Tensions
A flame is seen from an area near the Dnieper river in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022, after Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Mary Ostrovska / AP

In his speech on Russian state TV, Putin said his plans did not include an occupation of Ukraine, and his government insisted it was not shelling population centers. The Russian leader portrayed his attack on Ukraine as a defense of ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, whom he has repeatedly claimed are suffering “genocide” at the hands of the government in Kyiv. 

Ukraine’s government, and the U.S. and Europe, flatly reject accusations that any aggression was being directed at residents of Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have fought government forces for almost eight years, since Russia last invaded and annexed the southern Crimean Peninsula.  

Ukraine map

The attack came just two days after Putin recognized the self-declared “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region as independent, sending shockwaves across the globe and sparking a round of sanctions from the West.  

Russia had massed roughly 190,000 forces near the Ukrainian border, and Mr. Biden on Friday said he was “convinced” Putin had decided to invade.

Special Report: NATO officials say Russian attack on Ukraine has begun 13:45

Source: CBS Chicago

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