Russia attacked Ukraine from multiple fronts on Thursday. They bombarded key cities and took control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. This was a bloody escalation that saw dozens of civilians and soldiers killed.
According to Kyiv, the broad offensive has caused more than 200 deaths or injuries in Ukraine, putting Europe into its worst security crisis since World War II.
Hours after fighting started, Russia seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant north Kyiv. This location was the site for the 1986 radiation explosion that released large amounts of radiation into our environment.
Anton Gerashchenko (an adviser to the Interior Ministry) stated that "the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by Russia." The news was confirmed by the Associated Press by an aide to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President.
Zelenskyy had tweeted earlier in the day that Russian forces were trying take the plant. Gerashchenko warned of the possibility that a strike at the nuclear waste storage facility could result in radioactive dust being released that could be used to blanket Ukraine, Belarus, and other EU countries.
Zelenskyy wrote, "Our defenders give their lives so that this tragedy of 1986 won't be repeated." "This is a declaration against the entire of Europe."
Shelling and explosions were heard in major cities across Ukraine at 5 a.m., local time. This was minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a pre-dawn broadcast from Moscow indicating that he had authorized military action. He warned that other countries would be confronted with a Russian response if they attempted to intervene.
Zelenskyy, in remarks broadcast Thursday morning, urged Ukrainians to arm themselves for self-defense.
He said, "We are being targeted from the north, south, east, and air." "We are giving out weapons and will continue to do so to anyone who asks for them to protect our sovereignty. Every citizen is vital to our future.
Western countries responded quickly. President Joe Biden announced that a more severe round of sanctions would be applied to several Russian banks, including two major state-owned institutions, Sberbank, and VTB. He stated that all assets they had in America would be frozen.
The U.S. also restricted certain exports to Russia, and targeted elites close Putin. However, the U.S. plans did not include one of the more severe punitive measures: cutting Russia out of the Belgian financial message system, known as SWIFT. This connects more than 11,000 financial institutions across over 200 countries and territories.
Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose to wage war. Biden stated that Putin and his country would now bear the consequences.
After Putin's move to send troops into the Moscow-backed regions of eastern Ukraine, the administration took action. Biden also stated that he would send additional troops to Germany and Poland from the U.S., in addition to the ones already deployed to or redeployed within Europe over the past few days.
After holding a meeting on the conflict, the Group of Seven leaders economies condemned Putin in a joint declaration. They promised "severe economic and financial sanctions."
"President Putin has reintroduced warfare to the European continent. Their statement stated that Putin has "put himself on the wrong side" of history. G7 called on the international community "to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and to raise their voices against this blatant violation the fundamental principles international peace and security."
NATO described the attack as "unjustified" and "unprovoked" and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. It also stated that additional forces would be deployed to the "eastern portion of the alliance as well as additional maritime assets.
The U.S. and United Kingdom announced sanctions against Belarus in response to the Russian invasion. According to the Treasury Department, sanctions imposed by the Biden administration targeted the country's state-owned banks, its defense and security industries, as well as a number of its "regime connected officials and elites." The White House released a statement urging Belarus to end its support of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Officials in Ukraine reported that missiles and cruisers were hitting military control points in Kyiv as the fighting raged. NBC News reporters in the field reported that sirens broadcasted from the city and that explosions could be heard and seen in the area.
Officials from Ukraine said that missile attacks and shelling by Russian troops also targeted Ukraine's military depots, airfields and infrastructure. Several Russian soldiers were killed in the fighting as well as civilians and soldiers. Viktor Lyashko (Ukraine's minister for health) said that preliminary reports indicated that 57 Ukrainians were killed and almost 170 were injured in the fighting. This includes some medical personnel.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, Russia has launched more than 160 missiles in the time since the strikes began.
Zelenskyy posted remarks on Telegram and later reiterated his call for Ukrainian citizens to assist the defense forces. He asked anyone with military experience to join the effort.
He said that the sounds we hear today aren't just missile strikes, rocket explosions, and rockets. It's also the sound of the Iron Curtain breaking down and closing Russia off from the rest of civilized Earth."
Zelenskyy said, "Unfortunately we have many losses amongst our heroes, but also we have the Russian military taken hostage." "We have destroyed many Russian aircraft and military equipment. Many Russians are shocked by what's happening, I can see. Some started to post on social media saying they were against the invasion.
According to Ukraine, the Russian military attacked with the assistance of Belarus where Russian troops have been stationed for several months. According to the government, surveillance video from Ukraine's Border Guard Service broadcast online showed that tanks and armored vehicles crossed into Ukraine from Belarus. Ballistic missiles were also fired from there in a direction south-west.
Officials from Ukraine said that battles took place also in Hostomel which is home to an international cargo airport and is located just outside Kyiv.
Also, the government reported that it had been subject to "massive cyberattacks". NBC News could not confirm government reports on casualties, battles, troop movements.
A high-ranking U.S. defense official stated that Russia was "making moves on Kyiv," and that the U.S. assessment of Putin's actions states that Russia "essentially intends to decapitate the government and install their own method for governance."
According to the official, Russia's actions indicate that the invasion is still in its initial phase.
The official stated that they have not been surprised by what they have seen so far. It is in line with expectations.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander in NATO , and a contributor to NBC News, stated that he believed Russian forces would attempt to capture Zelenskyy.
Putin stated that he wanted the "demilitarization of Ukraine" because the West had gone too far in trying the country to join the NATO alliance. He also claimed that there were Nazi elements in Ukraine, which experts have proven to be false.
Russian President claimed that Ukraine was subject to "genocide," an assertion which international monitors reject.
Dmitry Peskov (Russia's spokesperson) stated that Russia's goal was to "neutralize Ukraine's military poten" in a press conference after the incursion. He said that Russia was not referring to occupying Ukraine.
There is very little evidence that Russia claims to have attacked Ukraine, and the U.S. warned for months about Moscow's attempts to create a pretextto begin a conflict.
Fear and gridlock in Kyiv
NBC News' Erin McLaughlin reported residents were "terrified" as dawn broke over the capital. Residents have been monitoring the situation all night and were frightened that Russia would take over the capital.
According to live television images and NBC News journalists, the gridlock on the highways leading to the city of 3,000,000 was caused by families trying to flee. Long lines were seen at gas stations, grocery stores, and ATMs.
Mayor also announced a curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and opened subway stations to residents as shelters.
The Russian border is less than 20 miles away from Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. There were explosions and stores closed as Russians stockpiled food and gasoline. Matt Bradley, NBC News' foreign correspondent, reported that there was also an explosion. The mayor stated that Russian tanks were located near the city's ring road and that residents should be safe at subway stations.
According to the Infrastructure Ministry of Ukraine, over 3,100 Ukrainians were evacuated from Donetsk, Luhansk, and other regions in the east. More evacuations are expected on Thursday.
The start of military action
Russia had already surrounded Ukraine from three sides with around 150,000 troops and air and naval forces prior to the invasion. This buildup and Moscow's bold security demands prompted fears of an invading force for several weeks. severe predictions were made for civilian and military casualties.
Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, tweeted that the world must stop Putin after the fighting started. At the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian Ambassador, spoke directly to his Russian counterpart and said, "There's no purgatory or hell for war criminals." They will go straight to hell.
Eight years ago, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It also supported pro-Russian separatists within the country's eastern region. This conflict has remained unresolved for an estimated 14,000 deaths. In recent days, the shelling escalated and Russia sent troops in for so-called peacekeeping operations.
Wednesday's Kremlin statement stated that separatist leaders from eastern Ukraine requested military assistance in order to defend against "aggression" by the Ukrainian government.