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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.

Ukraine says Russian troops attacked border units with help from Belarus

Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said Russian troops attacked Ukrainian border units and checkpoints with help from Belarus on Wednesday evening. Ukraine shares a border with Belarus to its north and with Russia to the east.

NBC News has not confirmed the attacks, and Ukrainian officials did not disclose any casualties. 

"This is happening within Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr regions," the ministry said. "In addition, the attack takes place from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea." 

Ukrainian armed forces and national guard are working to support border guards, and will fire "at the enemy" as needed, the ministry noted. 

Boris Johnson affirms support for Ukraine on call with Zelenskyy

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the Russian military's attacks on Ukraine, the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday. 

The leaders discussed the current state of the attacks, and Johnson told Zelenskyy "the West would not stand by," according to the office. 

Johnson said he was appalled by the attacks, and hoped Ukraine would resist. 

Explosions, sirens heard in Kyiv as Russia launches attacks on key Ukrainian cities

Russia launched attacks on multiple cities in Ukraine on Wednesday evening, a decisive escalation after months of military buildup that stirred dire warnings from the United States and its allies.

NBC News reporters in the central capital of Kyiv and the northeast city of Kharkiv reported hearing loud explosions or thuds just minutes after Putin said in a public address that he had authorized a military action against Ukraine. Journalists in other cities also reported hearing explosions.

Putin said he was taking action to “demilitarize” Ukraine because the West had pushed too far in trying to draw the country into the NATO alliance and had threatened Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

“I urge you to immediately lay down your weapons and go home,” Putin said, speaking to Ukrainian soldiers during a special televised address. 

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First emergency sirens heard in Kyiv

Emergency sirens have sounded in Kyiv, signaling an attack is underway on the Ukrainian capital.

NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin said officials told her earlier that they were scrambling to get the city ready for possible attack, including preparing bomb shelters and creating plans for evacuation and critical infrastructure.

Justin Trudeau condemns Russia’s 'egregious attack' on Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced Russia's "egregious attack" on Ukraine and called on Moscow to immediately halt "all hostile and provocative actions" in a statement issued Wednesday night.

“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine," Trudeau said. "These unprovoked actions are a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also in violation of Russia’s obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations."

“Canada calls on Russia to immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country," he added. “Russia’s actions will be met with severe consequences."

Trudeau said that he will meet with G7 leaders Thursday morning and continue to work closely with NATO and other allies to respond to the acts, including possibly imposing "significant sanctions" in addition to those already announced.

Biden to meet with G7 leaders to discuss 'severe sanctions' on Russia

Biden announced he will meet with leaders of the G7 to impose "severe sanctions" on Russia in support of Ukraine. 

The White House released a written statement following Biden's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the statement, Biden said he briefed Zelenskyy on the steps his administration is taking to "rally international condemnation" against Russia. 

Biden said Zelenskyy had reached out to him and asked Biden to call on world leaders to "speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression," the statement said. 

"Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Leaders of the G7, and the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia," he said. "We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people." 

Kyiv Mayor tells residents: 'Hold on! We must persevere!'

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko issued a sobering message to residents via the Telegram app Thursday morning local time. He urged people to remain calm as Russian forces descended on Ukraine, declaring that "the worst enemy is panic." 

"Dear Kyivans! Ukraine is attacked by the aggressor. The roar of shells can be heard in Kyiv. The worst enemy now is panic. We do not lose endurance," Klitschko said, adding that residents should prepare an emergency suitcase filled with important documents and other necessities.

"City authorities are in the capital. We continue to ensure the functioning of the city," Klitschko said. "We continue to ensure the functioning of the city. Hold on! We must persevere!"

Residents of Kyiv 'waking up absolutely terrified'

Residents of Kyiv are "waking up absolutely terrified" amid blasts in the capital, according to NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin, who is on the ground. 

"They knew the threat was there, they just never thought that this would actually happen," she said. "It is a stunning reality."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemns Russian attack

Boris Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom, condemned the Russian military's attack of Ukraine on Wednesday night, saying Putin chose a "path of bloodshed and destruction." 

In a tweet, Johnson said he has spoken to Zelenskyy about plans for the U.K.'s response and promised the country and its allies would "respond decisively."

Republican House committee leaders commit to 'enacting strongest possible sanctions' against Russia

Three top Republican U.S. House committee members decried Putin's actions in Ukraine and pledged to increase sanctions against Russia in a joint statement Wednesday night.

The statement was issued by Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul of Texas; Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers of Alabama; and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Mike Turner of Ohio.

"Today, we stand resolute with the Ukrainian people and resolve to provide them with the tools they need to withstand and repel this unprovoked attack. Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin’s hands, and his alone," they said.

The legislators added that they are "committed to enacting the strongest possible sanctions and export controls" to punish Russia for its actions. 

"We cannot respond like we did in 2008 or 2014," the statement concluded. "The world must never forget or forgive this heinous act.”

Ukraine declares martial law as new explosions heard

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered martial law across the country as Russian forces began military operations early Thursday. 

Residents woke up to the news that Putin would begin military operations in eastern Ukraine along with sounds of explosions as assaults began on strategic targets.

“Today we need each and everyone of you to stay calm if you can stay at home,” Zelenskyy said, without describing exactly what martial law would entail. “We are working, the army is working, all sector of defense and security of Ukraine is working. I will keep in touch all the time as well as security and defense council. I will talk to you soon. Don’t panic, we’re strong, we’re prepared, we will win.”

Zelenskyy noted that he spoke to Biden and received assurances that the U.S. was preparing to offer Ukraine international support. 

Some internet disruptions reported in Ukraine

Internet service companies said Wednesday night that they were already seeing evidence of internet disruptions in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where journalists have also reported nearby explosions.

NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet outages, said it tracked a loss of connectivity tied to a Triolan, a local internet provided, shortly after Putin announced that he had authorized military action. The company added on Twitter that the outage appeared to only affect fixed-line service and not mobile service.

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, a major internet services company, said most of Ukraine's internet infrastructure appeared to be working, and added that the drop-off in service in Kharkiv could be due to power outages.

Sen. Mitt Romney slams Russia, past U.S. foreign policy

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, slammed Russia and past U.S. foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican presidents in a statement late Wednesday night.

"Putin's Ukraine invasion is the first time in 80 years that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation. It is without justification, without provocation and without honor," he said. "Putin's impunity predictably follows our tepid response to his previous horrors in Georgia and Crimea, our naive efforts at a one-sided 'reset,' and the shortsightedness of 'America First.'"

"The '80s called' and we didn't answer," he said, referring to a 2012 presidential debate in which then-President Barack Obama mocked Romney’s suggestion that Russia was America’s greatest threat.

“The '80s called and they’re asking for their foreign policy back,” Obama said to Romney, the Republican nominee at the time.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.”

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." 

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.

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." 

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.”

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. 

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."

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.

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." 

'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.

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."

'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.

Here are the latest updates from the Russia-Ukraine conflict

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