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Russia-Ukraine conflict updates: Biden unveils more sanctions after Russia takes Chernobyl

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday by land, air and sea after weeks of tense buildup and efforts from global leaders to find a diplomatic solution.

This event has ended. For more updates, read here.

463d ago / 4:59 AM UTC

Attacks in heard in Ukraine appear to be 'pinprick' assaults on key targets

The first wave of attacks on Ukraine appeared to be specific assaults on infrastructure and military targets, according to NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who is currently in eastern Ukraine.

"It sounds like it is fairly specific airstrikes outside of the population centers," Engel said. "And when you listen, when you read the news coming through the Ukrainian officials, they are talking about airfields that have been hit command and control centers that have been hit." 

Engel said that while early reports from Russian media indicated that the military would begin an "onslaught" on Ukraine, it does not appear that reality has played out on the ground in the early morning since Putin declared his military operation.

Explosions have been heard in the capital of Kyiv for hours, where residents are waking up "absolutely terrified," NBC News' Erin McLaughlin reported. Siren systems designed to help warn citizens of incoming attacks have not been activated, indicating the population centers have not yet been targeted by the Russian military. 

463d ago / 4:56 AM UTC

President of Romania, prepared for 500k refugees, condemns Russia

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, whose country borders Ukraine, condemned Russia's military action against Ukraine on Thursday and promised "massive" consequences.

Iohannis wrote in a tweet called it "another very grave breach of international law."

"This will be met with the strongest reaction by the international community inflicting massive consequences," he said. Romania's defense minister said Tuesday that Romania was preparing to receive up to 500,000 refugees if Russia invaded Ukraine, Reuters reported.

463d ago / 4:51 AM UTC

Biden briefed on ongoing attack by Russian military, Psaki says

National security and defense leaders briefed Biden on the state of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military Wednesday night, press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley were all present on the call, which was held on a secure line, Psaki said. 

463d ago / 4:48 AM UTC

Biden speaking to Zelenskyy, U.S. official says

President Joe Biden was on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as of 11:40 p.m. ET, a U.S. official said.

463d ago / 4:45 AM UTC

Rubio says Russia launched 'full scale' and 'comprehensive military assault' in Ukraine

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that a Russian "invasion" of Ukraine is underway.

Rubio tweeted that "what is underway is a full scale & comprehensive military assault" throughout Ukraine. He said that long-range missile launches from Russia were underway and that Russian aircraft were en route to conduct strikes.

463d ago / 4:44 AM UTC

Russian shelling underway across Ukraine, government adviser says

Russian shelling had begun to hit across Ukraine on Wednesday evening East Coast time, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said in a WhatsApp chat with journalists, citing the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

The regions affected included Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Poltava, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr and Kyiv, the capital. Planes were blown up at two airfields in the southeastern city of Melitopol and the village of Ozerne in the northern Zhytomyr region, Herashchenko said.

463d ago / 4:37 AM UTC

Putin says he is fighting a resurgence of Nazism. That's not true.

Putin's rationalization for invading Ukraine includes a claim that he is fighting neo-Nazism.

"It is not surprising that Ukrainian society was faced with the rise of far-right nationalism, which rapidly developed into aggressive Russophobia and neo-Nazism," Putin said Monday, suggesting that NATO countries are backing neo-Nazis.

While it's true that the Ukrainian National Guard is home to the Azov Battalion — a force populated by neo-Nazis — there is no evidence to suggest widespread support for such extreme-right nationalism in the government, military or electorate. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish; three of his family members were killed in the Holocaust.

In the most recent Ukrainian parliamentary elections in 2019, a coalition of ultranationalist right-wing parties failed to win even a single seat in the Rada, the country's 450-member legislature. And for several years, U.S. appropriations laws have included a provision banning spending in support of the Azov Battalion.

But in accusing Ukraine of pro-Nazi sentiment, Putin is playing to generations-old scars from World War II, when his country was allied with the U.S., Britain and other countries in defeating the Axis powers. According to the World War II museum in New Orleans, an estimated 24 million Russians died in that war.  

463d ago / 4:36 AM UTC

E.U. declares Ukraine air space a conflict zone

The E.U. Air Safety Agency announced Wednesday night that Ukrainian airspace was unsafe for civilian aircraft.

"Air operators are reminded that this is now an active conflict zone," the agency said in a Conflict Zone Information Bulletin.

The alert comes after almost all civilian aircraft left Ukrainian airspace just hours before Putin announced military action and explosions began to be heard near cities across the country.

463d ago / 4:32 AM UTC

Senators in both parties condemn Russia’s military action against Ukraine

U.S. senators in both parties condemned Russia’s military action against Ukraine on Wednesday night and called for further sanctions against Moscow.

“For more than 70 years, we have avoided large-scale war in Europe. With his illegal invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has tragically brought decades of general peace to an end,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, in a statement.

“President Biden has already imposed an initial tranche of sanctions, and it is now time for us to up the pain level for the Russian government," he said. "They will pay a steep cost for Putin’s reckless ambition, in blood and in economic harm.” 

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a member of the Armed Services Committee, called for additional sanctions as he warned that China will be watching America’s response closely as it eyes Taiwan. 

“It’s crystal clear Vladimir Putin harbors fantasies of reuniting the Soviet Union, and now he’s translated this fantasy into action. He has absolutely no right to invade Ukraine’s sovereign borders and impose Russia’s will on the freedom-loving people of Ukraine," Cramer said in a statement. 

“We needed sanctions months ago to ward off exactly this type of action. Now that Putin has taken these steps we must implement strong, primary and secondary sanctions immediately,” he added. “Our response here is greater than Russia and Ukraine; what we choose to do will also send a message to China on Taiwan.”

463d ago / 4:28 AM UTC

Trump says Russian aggression in Ukraine happening because of 'rigged election'

After Putin announced that Russia would conduct military operations in Ukraine, former President Donald Trump blamed the unrest on the U.S. presidential election. 

In a brief phone interview, Trump said he believed Putin decided to attack Ukraine because he sees "the weakness and stupidity" of the Biden administration, and claimed the conflict wouldn't have happened if he were still president. "It happened because of a rigged election," he said, referring to his false claim that the election was stolen from him.

Trump, who praised Putin as "very, very savvy" in a statement Tuesday, was asked repeatedly how he would handle the crisis but did not answer the question, saying only that he knows Putin "very well. We had many, many times together. I got along with him fantastically." 

He added, "I don't believe he wanted to do this initially. I think he wanted to do something and negotiate it" and it "got worse and worse." 

463d ago / 4:24 AM UTC

Ukrainian, Russian diplomats have heated exchange during emergency UN meeting

Ukraine's representative to the United Nations accused the Russian ambassador of declaring war during an emergency meeting of the body's Security Council late Wednesday night.

The meeting had been called discuss what was feared to be an imminent attack by Moscow against its neighbor.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian diplomat, sarcastically asked the Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya if he should play a video of Putin declaring war.

Nebenzya said something inaudible, and Kyslytsya was quick to reply: "Do not interrupt me please, thank you."

"You declared the war, it is the responsibility of this body to stop the war," said Kyslytsya. "So I call every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war," he continued.

463d ago / 4:21 AM UTC

Russia's actions a 'grave breach of international law,' NATO secretary general says

Russia's military action against Ukraine is a "grave breach of international law," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement late Wednesday. 

Stoltenberg called Putin's decision to conduct military operations in Eastern Ukraine a "reckless and unprovoked attack." Stoltenberg added that Russia's actions constitute a "serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security" and put civilian lives at risk. 

"Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country," he said. 

Stoltenberg called on Russia to cease military action and respect Ukraine's sovereignty.

"NATO Allies will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions," he said. "We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all Allies." 

463d ago / 4:18 AM UTC

Biden will announce 'further consequences' against Russia Thursday, White House says

President Joe Biden on Thursday will announce the "further consequences the United States" and its allies and partners will impose on Russia for the military action it has taken against Ukraine in the early morning hours local time, a White House official said late Wednesday evening.

463d ago / 4:15 AM UTC

Former Russian ambassador McFaul: 'This is a tragic day'

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Wednesday night that Russia's attack on Ukraine reminded him of Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II.

"This is a tragic day," he said during an interview on MSNBC. "This was an unprovoked attack of a democratic country."

McFaul's comments came shortly after initial reports of explosions near many major cities in Ukraine. Those explosions followed Russian President Vladimir Putin saying in a public address that he had approved military action in eastern Ukraine.

463d ago / 4:09 AM UTC

Ukraine 'will defend itself and will win' against Russian aggression, foreign minister says

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said late Wednesday his country is prepared to defend itself against Russia, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to conduct a military operation in Eastern Ukraine "a war of aggression."

"Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine," Kuleba said in a tweet. "Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now."

463d ago / 4:07 AM UTC

Missile strikes have struck in Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian official says

A series of explosions have occurred in the capital area of Kyiv, Ukraine's national police told reporters early Thursday local time.

NBC News heard blasts in the area shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of of a special military operation in eastern Ukraine.

463d ago / 3:43 AM UTC

Biden says Putin 'has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life'

President Joe Biden on Wednesday night said Russian President Vladimir Putin has "chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering," as Russia announced the start of a special military operation in eastern Ukraine.

"The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces," Biden said in a late-night White House 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," Biden continued, adding that the U.S. and its allies and partners "will respond in a united and decisive way."

Biden is scheduled to meet with G7 counterparts on Thursday morning. After the meeting, Biden said he will also announce further consequences that will be imposed on Russia by the U.S. and its allies "for 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," he said. "The world will hold Russia accountable."

Biden's remarks came as Putin delivered an emergency speech early Thursday Moscow local time and amid an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on the escalating crisis.

463d ago / 3:36 AM UTC

Rep. Brendan Boyle: 'No doubt' about NATO's unity

Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., who just returned from NATO meetings in Brussels, said he is confident that the allied nations will remain unified in the face of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

“I have absolutely no doubt about both the unity and resolve of all 30 NATO member states,” Boyle said in a text message exchange with NBC News.

“Putin yearns for the old days of the Evil Empire," Boyle added. "He clearly possesses the former. We must not allow him to attain the latter.”

463d ago / 3:19 AM UTC

Putin announces start of a special military operation in Ukraine

Putin says Russia will conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine, according to a translation by NBC News.

Putin delivered an emergency speech early Thursday Moscow local time that Russia. 

463d ago / 3:07 AM UTC

U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield tells Putin 'send your troops, your tanks, and your planes back'

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Wednesday night urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back troops as she reiterated support for Ukraine at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting in New York.

"We are here tonight because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a full-scale, further invasion into Ukraine by Russia is imminent," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Russia’s attack on Ukraine is tantamount to an attack on the UN and every member state in the chamber tonight."

Thomas-Greenfield urged Putin to "send your troops, your tanks, and your planes back to their barracks and hangars. Send your diplomats to the negotiating table. Back away from the brink, before it is too late."

"The United States, Ukraine, our allies and partners across Europe, UN officials, every other member of this Security Council – we have all repeatedly implored Russia to engage at the diplomatic table," she said. "Those calls were not heard. Instead, tonight, Russia has brought its people, the Ukrainian people, and the world to the brink of a conflict that will produce an untold amount of human suffering."

Russians should be asking themselves "how many Russian lives Putin will sacrifice for his cynical ambitions?," Thomas-Greenfield added. "We must confront this threat head on, in this council, in the UN, and in our capitals. The people of Ukraine are counting on us. Let’s not let them down."

463d ago / 2:59 AM UTC

Rubio predicts Russian attacks to begin 'in the hours to come'

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, predicted Wednesday night that Russia's first attacks on Ukraine would begin "in the hours to come," though he did not provide any evidence for his statements.

Rubio also predicted how Russia would strike air defense systems and look to get between the city of Kyiv and Ukraine's military forces in the eastern part of the country.

463d ago / 2:48 AM UTC

U.N. Secretary General urges Putin to halt attack on Ukraine

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres urged Putin to stop his troops from invading Ukraine in a speech on Wednesday night. 

Guterres said he never believed the rumors that Russia would invade and thought nothing serious would happen, but "I was wrong and I would like not to be wrong again today," he said during an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting. 

"So, if indeed an operation is being prepared I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart," said Guterres, according to a real-time UN translation. "President Putin stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance, too many people have already died." 

463d ago / 2:35 AM UTC
463d ago / 2:34 AM UTC

'Not thinking about the stock market': Why sanctions are unlikely to stop Putin

After months of threats, the United States and its allies moved swiftly to sanction Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine, a move President Joe Biden said amounted to “the beginning of a Russian invasion.”

The question now is whether those measures will do anything to damage — or deter — the Russian leader, who has taken Europe to the brink of a devastating new conflict.

The first salvo of Western sanctions targeted large Russian banks, oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, a key gas pipeline and a host of other individuals. The European Union is set to unveil its own, with reports suggesting they may go even further.

But while leaders in Washington, Europe and Asia were able to present a united front against Moscow's aggression, officials and analysts say it's unlikely the sanctions will do anything to deter Putin from pursuing a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Read more here.

463d ago / 2:29 AM UTC

Ukrainian airspace clears out, airliners make u-turns

Ukrainian airspace was almost entirely clear of commercial air traffic on Wednesday night, with flight tracking services showing many jets making dramatic U-turns.

Ukrainian airspace was closed to civilian aircraft around 9 p.m. ET, according to a Notice to Airmen, which is an alert issued about sudden changes to airspace

Reuters reported that at least one air safety advocacy organization, Safe Airspace, recommended that no civilians flights fly over any part of Ukraine. According to Reuters, Russia also closed some airspace on the eastern border with Ukraine "in order to provide safety" for civil aviation flights."

463d ago / 2:16 AM UTC

'Truly horrifying': Ukrainian expats in the U.S. feel fear, anger — and guilt

Every morning these days, Lana Prudyvus wakes up with dread in the pit of her stomach.

Prudyvus, a tennis coach who was born in Ukraine and lives in California, feels “terrified” about what awaits on her cellphone — news alerts about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest announcement and text messages her father sends from their homeland about the developments there.

“In the last couple days, the situation has become worse and worse by the hour,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Putin is so unpredictable, and that’s the hardest part. We have no idea what’s going to happen next.”

Read more here.

463d ago / 2:15 AM UTC

Here are the latest updates from the Russia-Ukraine conflict

Just catching up on the news? Here is what you may have missed: