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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.

At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers killed, presidential adviser says

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence square in central Kyiv on Thursday.Daniel Leal / AFP - Getty Images

Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the midst of Russia's attack, an adviser to the Ukrainian president's office has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych said Thursday that at least 40 soldiers had been killed in the hours since Russia launched its assault. Arestovych said most of the fatalities were caused by airstrikes and rocket strikes in the morning.

He said that less than 10 civilians were also reported to have been killed.  

Russia has launched 'full-scale attack' from 'multiple directions,' Ukraine's foreign minister says

Image: Russia Starts Large-Scale Attack On Ukraine
People examine the damage caused by a rocket to a building in Kyiv on Thursday.Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Ukraine's foreign minister has sounded the alarm that Russia's attack has quickly evolved into a "full-scale attack from multiple directions." 

"No, this is not a Russian invasion only in the east of Ukraine, but a full-scale attack from multiple directions," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet Thursday morning.

Still, he said, "the Ukrainian defense has not collapsed."

"Ukrainian army took the fight. Ukraine stands with both feet on the ground & continues to defend itself," he said. 

China avoids calling Russian action an 'invasion'

China on Thursday repeated its call for all parties involved in the situation in Ukraine to exercise restraint.

“We still hope that parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalation,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing.

Hua rejected a reporter's description of Russia’s predawn military operation as an “invasion.” 

She also responded to comments by Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman, who suggested on Wednesday that since China often promotes the principle of sovereignty, it should use its "considerable influence and sway" with Russia to persuade Putin to back down.

"The U.S. is not in a position to tell China how to respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Hua said, citing what she said was interference by the U.S. and its allies on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other of China's "internal affairs."

Kyiv resident and journalist Volodymyr Yermolenko described hearing explosions in the capital and said Ukrainians will fight Russian aggression.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with Russia, comparing attack to WW2

Ukraine has officially severed diplomatic relations with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Thursday morning as he called on Russians to protest the attack on Ukraine, comparing it to the Second World War. 

"For all those who have not yet lost their conscience in Russia, it is time to go out and protest against the war with Ukraine," he said in a tweet.

"Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years," he said in a separate post. "As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history."

Russia, he said "has embarked on a path of evil," while Ukraine "is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks."

In a separate statement, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would "lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands."

"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities," he said in another post.

Lithuania and Moldova announce states of emergency

Lithuania and Moldova — two countries close to Ukraine — are introducing a state of emergency, their presidents said Thursday.

“Today I will sign a decree on introducing the state of emergency, which will passed by the Parliament in an extraordinary session,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said in an address on Thursday morning.

He called Russia’s actions “unprovoked military aggression” which threaten “millions of innocent lives and undermines the foundations of international order.”

The president has reiterated that “Lithuania is safe” as a part of NATO and said the Baltic state would consider further sanctions on Belarus over its involvement.

Moldova, which is not a part of NATO, is ready to accept the thousands of people feeling from Ukraine, said President Maia Sandu.“We will help people who need our help and support,” she said on Thursday.

Ukrainian military says battles unfolding in Kharkiv and Kherson regions

Airstrikes hit Chuhuiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine on Thursday.Wolfgang Schwan / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Battles are unfolding across Ukraine, the country's armed forces said Thursday, with fighting ongoing in both the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. 

"Heavy fighting is taking place in the Kharkiv area and in the area of the Joint Forces operation, where the enemy has suffered casualties and equipment," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an operational note Thursday morning. 

Meanwhile, the operational note said the situation "in the Kherson direction is difficult, but Ukraine's defense forces are repelling the aggressor." 

Ukraine's military said earlier Thursday that at least 50 Russian troops had been killed near a town in Luhansk region, while a total of at least four Russian tanks were destroyed near the eastern city of Kharkiv, it said. 

In addition, Ukraine said a sixth plane of the armed forces of Russia was destroyed in the Kramatorsk region Thursday. 

Russia has denied reports of aircraft and armored vehicles being destroyed, according to Reuters.

Zelenskyy calls for unity among Europeans in call with Macron

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for unity among Europeans and "multiple interventions to support Ukraine" in a Thursday morning phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, the Élysée Palace said in a statement.

The palace said Macron spoke to Zelenskyy at around 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). 

It said Macron assured his Ukrainian counterpart of "France's full support and solidarity" and said the French president had triggered a defense council with cabinet ministers and advisors later Thursday morning.

Cars queue in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday as people scramble to leave the city following the launch of Russian military action.

Image:
Emilio Morenatti / AP

Ukraine's defense minister says 'anyone who is ready and able to hold a weapon' can join forces

Tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol
Tanks move towards the city of Mariupol in south eastern Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation on Thursday.Carlos Barria / Reuters

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has called on "anyone who is ready and able to hold a weapon" to join the country's defense forces after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation targeting eastern Ukraine.

"Dear compatriots! The enemy is attacking, but our army is invincible," Reznikov said in a Facebook post Thursday morning. "Ukraine is entering a regime of total defense."

"Anyone who is ready and able to hold a weapon can just now join the ranks of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in your region," he said. 

The defense minister directed those looking to obtain weapons to contact the brigades and battalions of troop forces in their area. 

"You only need to have a passport," he said, as he called for "death to the Russian occupiers" and "glory to Ukraine."

Military facilities in Kyiv, across Ukraine hit in missile strikes, interior ministry says

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv, Ukraine on Thursday.Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and state emergency services said early Thursday that missiles struck a number of facilities in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro. 

Among the facilities hit were the center of the Military Administration, military depots and airfields, with shelling also reported at border areas. 

The interior ministry said one of its facilities of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine in Kyiv had been hit, saying it was likely struck by missile weapons. 

It also said the Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, was being destroyed by missile systems, with an airport in Lutsk, a city on the Styr River in northwestern Ukraine, being targeted by shelling. 

Press agency photos showed smoke rising from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv — Ukraine's interior ministry confirmed the airport had been hit.

Ukraine announces first casualties: 6 dead in Odessa bombing

At least six people were killed and seven others wounded in a bombing in the southern Odessa region, according to Ukraine's General Office of the National Police

The casualties occurred in the city of Podolsk as Russian forces continue military operations in Ukraine. It's the first announcement of any casualties as the situation in the region unfolds Thursday.

Conditions on the seven people injured in the bombing are not yet clear. There are 19 people unaccounted for in the bombing, authorities said.

Oil prices jump as Russia launches attack on Ukraine

Oil prices popped more than 5 percent on news that Russia was launching a military attack in Ukraine.

U.S. crude futures jumped by 5.23 percent to trade at $96.92 per barrel. Brent crude futures were up 5.4 percent at $102.07 per barrel, crossing the $100 level for the first time since 2014.

Natural gas prices surged 5.39 percent. Spot gold, traditionally seen as a safe-haven asset, rose 1.82 percent and last traded at $1,942.21.

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Video shows tanks entering Ukraine from Belarus border

A live video stream broadcast online by the Ukrainian government showed tanks and armored vehicles entering the country from Belarus early Thursday.

The surveillance footage, from the Senkivka border checkpoint about 140 miles north of Kyiv, showed a procession of tanks entering Ukraine. The Ukrainian armed forces said earlier on Thursday that they had destroyed two Russian tanks.

Ukraine says it destroyed 2 Russian tanks

Two Russian tanks were destroyed Thursday as Ukrainian forces faced Russian military operations in the country, Kyiv's military said. 

Ukraine’s defense ministry added that it had also taken down “several trucks” in addition to the tanks. NBC News has not confirmed the claims, and Russian news agencies denied previous reports from Ukrainian officials that its planes had been shot down by Ukraine’s military.  

Russian forces have made attacks on what appeared to be strategic military targets over the past several hours.

Behind the scenes at the White House

The first inkling that an invasion may have been underway came Wednesday night as top White House deputies from key agencies were called to gather for a meeting around 8:40 p.m. local time, multiple officials told NBC News.

As reports started pouring in that explosions were heard in eastern Ukraine, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan huddled with White House communications director Kate Bedingfield inside the West Wing. The two helped finalize President Joe Biden’s statement.

Shortly before midnight, a White House official told NBC News that Biden had been briefed via secure call by Secretary of State Blinken, Defense Secretary Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley and Sullivan. Minutes later, Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to a U.S. official. 

Biden announced that the U.S, and its allies and partners would be imposing “severe sanctions” on Russia. A White House official said they would be significant new actions to punish Russia, but would not say that the U.S. would unload every financial penalty in its arsenal.

Putin wants war with entire 'Democratic world,' Zelenskyy warns

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the civilians to remain calm as Russian forces attacked the country Thursday, promising to start an "anti-Putin" coalition with fellow world leaders. 

Zelenskyy said that the country was not only being attacked by bombs "but also by fakes" and promised to give residents regular updates as the situation unfolds. He did not offer additional information to allegations about fake attacks;.

"It’s important to get your truth from the official sources," Zelenskyy said. "Today Russia has started invasion into Ukraine, Putin has started a war with Ukraine and with all the democratic world. He wants to destroy our country, he wants to destroy everything we have overcome, everything live for." 

He added that he has asked world leaders to impose sanctions against Putin and for military support against Russia. 

"We have to save a democratic world and we will do this," he said. "Glory to Ukraine!"

Baltic states call for 'strongest possible sanctions' against Russia

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have jointly called for the "strongest possible sanctions" on Russia after its attack against Ukraine, including disengaging Russia from SWIFT, the international payment system, and isolating the country politically. 

"This act of agression[sic] is not acceptable, its a blatant violation of the international law, of all international norms and a crime against Ukrainian people that we condemn," the three ministers said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter read on Thursday.  

The officials also pledged to provide military assistance for the people of Ukraine to defend themselves, as well as economic, financial and political support and humanitarian aid. 

“In this difficult moment we stand united with the people of Ukraine… We support you and do anything possible so that agressor[sic] will pay a highest possible price," the statement said. 

German leader Scholz: 'A dark day for Europe'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Russia's attack on Ukraine was a blatant violation of international law.

"There is no justification for it. Germany condemns this reckless act by President Putin in the strongest possible terms. Our solidarity is with Ukraine and its people," Scholz said in a statement early Thursday.

He called for Russia to immediately stop its military action. "This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe," Scholz said.

He was among many Western leaders to condemn Russia's military actions, with calls for harsh sanctions to follow. 

Scholz on Tuesday took the first steps to suspend certification for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia's actions earlier this week.

Ukraine President Zelenskyy speaks with world leaders about 'anti-Putin coalition'

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he had spoken with other world leaders about measures to stop Russian attacks and build an "anti-Putin coalition" in a tweet issued early Thursday morning.

Zelenskyy specified that he talked to President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, Poland President Andrzej Duda and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson about "immediate sanctions, defense and financial support."

"Close the airspace! The world must force [Russia] into peace," he wrote.

State Department issues security alert for U.S. citizens in Ukraine

The U.S. Department of State has issued a security alert to American citizens in Ukraine, warning them to seek cover and prepare to shelter in place. 

The State Department said in the alert that the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate citizens from Ukraine, and encouraged citizens to remain vigilant. 

"Further Russian military action can occur at any time without warning. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine are strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness," the memo said.

The memo encouraged citizens to know where to go to seek shelter and what to do in the aftermath of an attack.

"Know the location of your closest shelter or protected space. In the event of mortar and/or rocket fire, follow the instructions from local authorities and seek shelter immediately," the alert said. "If you feel that your current location is no longer safe, you should carefully assess the potential risks involved in moving to a different location."

The State Department also said it has suspended consular operations in Lviv following the suspension of consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv two weeks ago.

U.S. citizens requiring consular services, including passports and visas, have been instructed to visit American embassies in neighboring countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. 

Ukrainian officials say they have shot down Russian planes

Ukraine's military is reporting that it has shot down five Russian planes and a helicopter Thursday as it fends on attacks across the country. NBC has not confirmed. 

"The opponent is taking the losses," the defense ministry said. "Keep calm and believe in Ukrainian defenders." 

The country's airspace is currently shut down to civilian traffic. The defense ministry also reported having shot down a Russian plane in an "area of environmental protection" that appeared to be separate from the other five planes. 

Polish prime minister: 'Europe and the free world has to stop Putin'

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, Ukraine's neighbor to the west, has called for an immediate response to what he called Russia's "criminal aggression."

"Europe and the free world has to stop Putin," he said in a tweet Thursday morning as countries surrounding Ukraine closely watch the unfolding conflict.

Morawiecki, a nationalist who has often clashed with the European political establishment, said the European Council meeting scheduled for Thursday "should approve fiercest possible sanctions."

Twitter publishes security advice in Ukrainian, Russian

Twitter on Thursday published updated advice in Ukrainian, Russian and English on how people can secure their accounts while in conflict zones. 

In a series of tweets from @TwitterSafety, the San Francisco-based tech company said it was important for users to be aware of settings such as how to set a strong password, how to keep location information private and how to delete an account if a user wants to for safety reasons. 

The tweets did not say whether the company was aware of specific accounts being compromised in connection to with the Russia-Ukraine crisis, but the social media network has been a battleground for views and information about the conflict.

On Wednesday, Twitter reinstated several accounts that had been documenting Russia's military actions, after saying it had removed them accidentally. 

House to receive unclassified briefing call on Ukraine on Thursday

The House will receive an all-member unclassified briefing call from key Biden administration officials on Thursday on the situation in Ukraine, two sources familiar with the planning told NBC News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are expected to be briefers, the sources said, adding that the call is expected to follow a separate unclassified briefing for senators.

The all-member Senate call has been scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, a Senate aide told NBC News Wednesday.

Bitcoin, U.S. futures markets down sharply as Russia attacks Ukraine

Bitcoin, American futures and the Japanese Nikkei stock index all slumped following news that Russia had launched a military operation in Ukraine. 

The value of Bitcoin had dropped 8.63 percent over 24 hours by 12:30 a.m. Thursday, with the sharpest drop concurrent to Putin's announcement. Dow Jones and Standards & Poor futures were down just less than 2 percent, while NASDAQ futures had slipped about 2.4 percent.

During active trading, the Nikkei index had fallen 2 percent at the same time, half an hour before the close of trading. 

Moscow's exchange halted trading Thursday as the value of the ruble dropped, according to the Financial Times.

  

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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