Russia Ukraine live updates: Putin orders ‘military operation’ in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has ordered a “military operation” in the Donbas region, indicating that the invasion is now underway.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

The President called it a “military operation” in the Donbas region of Ukraine but pictures and first-hand reports from Ukraine suggest it is much more.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called it “full-scale war” and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said air strikes had hit “military infrastructure and border guards”.

Explosions have been heard in as many as five cities including Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, as well as the key Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Pictures show a large explosion at the country’s main international airport Boryspil and air raid sirens have also been blaring in Kyiv.

Ukraine says it is under attack from Crimea in the south, Russia in the east and Belarus in the north.

Ukraine’s interior ministry has already declared “hundreds of casualties as a result of Russian missile attacks” around the country, according to CNN.

Mr Putin sparked panic by recognising the breakaway territories of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine – known collectively as the Donbas region – earlier this week.

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Thousands of troops and vehicles have already crossed the border, with a string of Western nations, including Australia, imposing harsh sanctions in response.

Ukraine has also ordered an estimated three million citizens currently living in Russia to return home “immediately” over fears of looming violence.

Follow our live coverage for updates.

Ukraine military plane crashes near Kyiv

A Ukrainian military plane with 14 people aboard crashed south of Kyiv on Thursday, the emergencies service said.

The service said it was “still determining how many people died.”

The incident occurred about 20 kilometres south of Kyiv, amid reports of several locations around the city coming under attack.

Eighteen killed in attack near Ukraine’s Odessa

Eighteen people have reportedly been killed in an air strike on a military base near Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa, the local administration said.

“Eighteen died — eight men and 10 women. At the moment, we are still digging through the rubble,” the Odessa regional administration said in a statement.

It was the deadliest single strike so far of the day reported by Ukrainian officials, who had earlier put the death toll across the country at around 50, including about 10 civilians. The attack struck a military base about 100 kilometres north of Odessa, in a region near Ukraine’s border with Moldova.

‘Grave moment’: NATOs chief’s warning

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg revealed brutal elements of Vladimir Putin’s invasion campaign in a passionate speech overnight.

He confirmed NATO is activating its “defence plans” for allied countries as Russia attacks non-NATO member Ukraine.

He said Putin had engaged in a “long-planned” invasion that had led to a “grave moment for the security of Europe“

In a grim warning, he said that Russia’s “unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine puts countless innocent lives at risk”.

He said Russia is targeting military infrastructure and major urban centres, and it was all part of a deliberate cold blooded and long planned invasion.

“The Kremlin’s intentions are clear for the world to see,” he said. “Russia’s leaders bear full responsibility fore their reckless actions and the lives lost.

“It is a blatant violation of international law and a serious threat. We call on Russia to immediately cease military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine and choose diplomacy.”

Ukraine leader’s grim plea for blood

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on all citizens with military experience to “join the defence of Ukraine”, and put out a request for people to donate blood to aid “wounded soldiers in hospitals”.

“Anyone who has military training — who have a military experience has to come to the Interior Ministry and make itself available for that to protect our population,” he said.

“As of this morning, we have injured soldiers. Please give your blood to hospitals, give your blood to our defenders.”

Mr Zelenskyy called the invasion of Russia “cowardly” as he rallied his nation.

“Russia cowardly attacked our country early in the morning. Very much like Nazi Germany did during the Second World War.”

Ukraine military has killed ‘around 50 Russian occupiers’

Ukraine’s military command said Thursday that government forces had killed “around 50 Russian occupiers” while repelling an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.

It said it had destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country’s east.

AFP could not immediately confirm the death toll.

Russia has denied reports that its aircraft or armoured vehicles have been destroyed.

Ukraine’s border guard service said that three of its servicemen had been killed in the southern Kherson region and that several more were wounded.

At least eight Ukrainian residents are reported to have been killed in the violence so far, according to Ukrainian police.

Flights completely avoid Ukraine

Data collected from FlightRadar has shown thousands of flights completely avoiding Ukraine after Thursday’s developments.

Ukrainian state air traffic services have closed the country’s airspace as Russia carries out its invasion. Officials suspended all flights at 2:45am Kyiv time “due to the high risk of aviation safety for civil aviation”.

Pictures show aftermath in Ukraine

Images are coming through of the aftermath of bombings in Ukraine.

There are scenes of destruction in Kyiv where residents are taking to metro stations for shelter and lining up at ATMS to get cash.

Ukraine says Russia launched ‘full-scale war’ but ‘we will win’

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has responded to the news that Russia has invaded Ukraine.

On social media, he shared a pointed message to the world to ignore claims by Russia that the so-called “military operation” is anything other than a war.

“Putin has launched a full-scale war against Ukraine,” he wrote.

“Strikes continue on peaceful Ukrainian cities. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend and win. The world can and must stop Putin. It’s time to act – just now.”

Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Mr Putin as the crisis between their two countries entered its most dangerous phase so far.

“I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian Federation. Result: Silence,” Zelensky said in a late night address.

Zelensky issued a statement to the people of Ukraine shortly after 7am local time.

“Dear citizens, please do not leave your homes today,” he said.

“Russia conducted air strikes on military infrastructure and border guards. There were blasts heard in multiple cities.”

He said Ukraine was introducing “martial law on the whole territory of the country”.

“Stay calm, stay at home if you can. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.”

People evacuate Kyiv

Incredible photos show thousands of people evacuating Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military action many rushed to underground railway stations for shelter.

Photos show huge traffic jams as people leave the city.

Europe correspondent Sarah Rainsford said residents were “shocked and horrified to imagine what might be coming”.

“This is what people have been expecting, they have been waiting for, but no-one here can quite believe it’s actually happening.”

Troops moving in from Russia, Crimea and Belarus: Ukraine

Ukrainian officials claims troops in Belarus are joining the Russian attack, multiple reports state.

Ukrainian border guards said they were under attack along the Russian and Belarusian frontiers, AFP reports.

That means the offensive is also coming from Ukraine’s north.

There are also reports that troops entered from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an early morning call to his Belarusian counterpart, informing him that Moscow was launching a military operation on Ukraine, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s office said.

The US Department of Defence is tracking the reported incursion of troops from Belarus into Ukraine, an official told CNN. It’s unclear if the troops were Russian or also Belarusian.

Russia amassed a significant number of soldiers and military vehicles in Belarus in recent weeks.

Reports Ukraine has ‘shot down five Russian aircraft’

Ukraine claims to have shot down five Russian aircraft and a helicopter, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“According to the United Forces Command, today, February 24, 5 planes and an aggressor helicopter were shot down in the OS area,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement.

Russia has denied those claims, state news agency TASS reported.

Ukraine wakes to explosions in at least five cities

Ukrainians are waking to horror as explosions ring out before dawn in at least five cities including the capital Kyiv, Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv and the key Black Sea port city of Odessa.

AFP correspondents are reporting they heard explosions in Kharkiv, a large city 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Russian border.

Four loud blasts rang out in Kramatorsk, a frontline city that serves as the Ukrainian government’s effective capital for the eastern war zone, and more were heard in the eastern port city of Mariupol, AFP reporters said.

There are reports that Boryspil Airport in Kyiv, the country’s main international airport, has been hit by bomb blasts.

It comes as the first images emerge of bomb blasts in Ukraine.

CNN is reporting that Ukraine’s interior ministry is declaring “hundreds of casualties as a result of Russian missile attacks” around the country.

Ukraine slams Russia: ‘War criminals go straight to hell’

A furious Ukrainian ambassador to the UN has told his Russian counterpart that “there is no purgatory for war criminals.

Speaking at the a UN Security Council meeting shortly after the military operation was announced by Mr Putin, the Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said: “You declare war and it is the responsibility of this body to stop the war.

“I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war or should I play the video of your president declaring the war?”

But Russia’s ambassador hit back saying: “This is not called a war; it is called a special military operation in Donbas.”

Mr Kyslytsya told him: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell.”

Putin orders ‘military operation’ in Ukraine

Earlier, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered a “special military operation” in the Donbas region.

The breaking news has been seen as a sign that the full-scale invasion of Ukraine may be underway.

AFP reports the operation was confirmed by Mr Putin in a late-night televised address, which went to air on Thursday afternoon Australian time.

In the video, Mr Putin claims violence between Russia and Ukraine is “inevitable” and “only a question of time”.

According to AFP, the operation was authorised to “defend” separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“I have made the decision of a military operation,” Mr Putin said in a surprise televised statement.

In the address, Mr Putin said he did not plan to occupy Ukrainian territory, and urged Ukrainian forces to down their weapons and simply return home, warning Ukraine would be blamed for any ensuing bloodshed.

He also issued a concerning threat to any nations planning to intervene, vowing that would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.

The announcement coincided with the UN’s Security Council meeting – the second such crisis meeting this week.

Just before news of Mr Putin’s announcement broke, the UN’s under secretary had warned an invasion would cause “an unacceptably high cost, human suffering and destruction”.

Biden warns of ‘catastrophic loss of life’

Mr Putin’s announcement of a military operation in Ukraine prompted outrage from Joe Biden who warned of a “catastrophic loss of life”.

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

“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.

Europe as close to war as it has been ‘for a generation’

German’s ambassador said Europe is as close to war as it has been for a generation.

“We meet at the very moment of a military escalation we have not experienced in Europe for over a generation’s time,” German’s ambassador said.

“The President of Russia announced a military operation in Ukrainian territory. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms.”

‘Wipe out everything’: Putin’s gruesome weapons revealed

Fears over what’s actually in Vladimir Putin’s arsenal are growing amid reports some of the world’s most gruesome weapons were seen moving towards the Ukrainian border.

Apart from nuclear warheads, the TOS-1 “Buratino” and TOS-1A “Solntsepek” are among the most destructive and widely feared weapons on the planet.

And in a disturbing sign, footage has emerged showing convoys of TOSs travelling through the Russian city of Belgorod towards Ukraine recently.

TOS-1s are rocket launchers and thermobaric weapons unique to the Russian army.

The Buratino is a Russian self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS) which has previously been used in conflicts such as Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, and Syria.

The TOS-1 is used to launch a rocket bearing a fuel-air explosive, which causes the very air to explode.

It can kill and destroy anything in its path, and inflict horrifying and lethal injuries on humans, including causing internal organs to collapse and sucking air out of a person’s lungs, which causes them to suffocate.

In an article published on, military expert Sebastian Roblin wrote that TOS-1s were able to “melt” an army, explaining that: “these are among the most devastating explosive weapons short of tactical nuclear weapons”.

“While the heat generated by FAEs causes lethal burns in a wide radius (roughly two hundred by three hundred metres) the overpressure created by the sudden combustion of the air is even deadlier. The fiery blasts create a partial oxygen vacuum that kills and maims in a variety of grotesque ways and cannot be mitigated with body armour or hard cover,” he wrote.

“A TOS-1 rocket barrage will wipe out everything within the two-hundred-by-three-hundred-metre blast zone. This is problematic when the weapon is employed against targets amid an urban civilian population.”

‘Do not fly’: Grim warning as crisis escalates

Russia has blocked civil aircraft from flight routes bordering northeastern Ukraine, while a number of planes in the area have been diverted and Ukraine’s Dnipro, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia airports have been shut as the crisis ramps up.

It comes as conflict zone monitor Safe Airspace increased Ukraine’s risk to Level 1 – Do Not Fly – “on the basis of extreme tension and developments on Feb 23”.

“Risk of intended targeting of civil aircraft, cyber attack on ATC service, and unforeseeable non-normal operating environment for civil aircraft,” it states.

‘Ominous’ tactic as Russian army moves

CNN is reporting that Russian army vehicles have been engaging in a bizarre tactic near northeast Ukraine.

Reporter Frederik Pleitgen claims trucks have been spotted driving with their licence plates on backwards, in what is being interpreted as an “ominous” sign.

“We’ve seen … military trucks, who have actually had their license plates on backwards. They turned the license plates around, which could be them trying to mask some sort of movement,” Pleitgen told CNN.

Meanwhile, he said convoys were also forming near the rebel region of Donetsk.

Five explosions rock Ukrainian city

Reuters is reporting that at least five explosions have been recorded in the rebel city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

In the wake of the blasts, four military vehicles were seen heading towards the explosion site.

It comes just hours after the Kremlin announced Donetsk and Luhansk had requested assistance over Ukraine “aggression”, in what has been described by US officials as the groundwork for a possible “false flag” operation.

Undercover mercenaries enter Ukraine

European experts have claimed hundreds of Russian mercenaries have covertly snuck into Ukraine’s breakaway territories to begin preparations for war.

According to the New York Times, mercenaries from the Wagner Group – a Russian paramilitary organisation whose contractors have reportedly participated in a number of conflicts – have made it into Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

That’s according to two high-ranking European insiders, who claim the 300-odd task force entered the rebel regions in civilian clothing.

It was a tactic previously used by Mr Putin in 2014 during the annexation of Crimea, when mercenaries were used to assist rebel forces in the area.

Russia slams Australia’s move

The Russian embassy in Australia has hit out at the PM’s sanctions against Russia, labelling them “xenophobic” and alleging ethnic Russians in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk faced the “imminent threat of ethnic cleansing”.

“In alignment with its key partners, Canberra has played its part in supporting and encouraging the xenophobic bullies based in Kyiv,” the embassy said, according to the ABC.

“Recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics was the only solution Russia felt compelled to take.

“This decision by Russia will not be reverted.”

Breakaway regions plead for help

Sputnik is reporting that the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) – the two pro-Russian, breakaway Ukrainian territories at the centre of the current crisis – have appealed to President Putin for help against Ukraine.

According to the Russian state-owned news agency, the DPR and LPR have requested assistance to “repel aggression from Kyiv forces”.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the leaders accused Ukraine of carrying out shell attacks which allegedly killed civilians and forced others to run.

However, the US said the plea for help was another example of a “false flag” operation designed to justify an invasion.

“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,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

Putin’s ‘secret invasion’ army caught on video

A German news outlet has captured “Putin’s secret invasion army” making its way through southern Russia along the border with Ukraine.

The footage, originally taken by Bild and now circulating on social media after being shared with Russian defence policy student PhD Rob Lee, “likely shows an entire GRU Spetsnaz

Brigade with 220 fully-loaded vehicles in Rostov 25km from the border of the Donbas, including 26 Rys, 14 Tigr-M SpN, 15K-63968 Typhoon-K MRAPs, a Linza MRAP ambulance, and trucks”.

According to Mr Lee, “many of the vehicles had foliage attached as camouflage, including on the roofs presumably to make it more difficult for satellites to ID them”.

Originally published as Russia Ukraine updates: Putin orders ‘military operation’ in Ukraine

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