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On TikTok, livestreams show protests — and attract scams
Livestreams on TikTok are bringing a first-person view of the conflict from all over Europe — but some of the streams purporting to come from Ukraine appeared to be fake.
Some of the livestreams appear to be authentic, showing crowds gathered in major cities to protest Russian aggression. But other TikTok users are pretending to be in Ukraine, using doctored or dubbed footage of other places in an attempt to solicit followers and monetary donations.
One account, which called for donations through TikTok, featured a livestream of a line of houses in a residential area as the sounds of gunshots, sirens and people screaming for help could be heard in the background. But that account hours earlier had posted a different angle of the same street in which cars with U.K. license plates were visible.
Other videos posted to TikTok appear to be recycling old video and passing it off as coming from Ukraine. In one video viewed almost 20 million times on TikTok and posted about two hours after the first reports of shellings in Ukraine, a soldier is seen parachuting out of an airplane. “Bro is recording an invasion,” the top comment reads.
The video is from a training exercise, first posted to an Instagram account by a user with the same username on April 6, 2016. The user on TikTok was seen later on Tuesday livestreaming on his couch.
Schiff calls for increased sanctions against Russia, says he expects bipartisan support
Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that the U.S. needs to "dramatically escalate" sanctions against Russia, and expressed support for the country's removal from the SWIFT banking system.
As countries look to potentially decrease European reliance on Russian energy, Schiff said the conflict should result in the "final death" of Nord Stream 2.
He also said he expects bipartisan support for any restrictions Biden may look to place against Russia.
"If there's any authority he doesn't have that he does need for these sanctions, I think he'll get it from Congress," Schiff said.
Families in Kyiv takes shelter in basements and subways: ‘It’s very frightening’
In Kyiv, basements and subway stations have become make-shift bunkers.
Anastasiia Odintsova, 38, told NBC News her family took shelter in the basement of her building when they heard air-raid sirens Thursday.
“It’s very frightening, especially when you have two children and can't explain why Russia shoots at us,” Odintsova said.
She said it was the first time she’s had to use her basement as a bunker.
“It’s not a real shelter for military action, but it is better than our flat,” she said, adding that her children — aged 8 and 15 — were “afraid but don’t want to leave home.”
“We all want to stay in our country, safe and free.”
Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland won't play World Cup qualifiers in Russia
Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic will not play World Cup qualifying matches in Russia, soccer officials in those nations said Thursday, hours after Moscow's attack on Ukraine.
Visiting Poland is set to play Russia on March 23 and if the hosts win, they'd face off about a week later against the Sweden-Czech Republic playoff winner, also in Russia.
The soccer federations of all three nations said they cannot play in Russia and want matches moved.
"Swedish football is appalled by what we now see unfolding in Ukraine," said the Swedish Football Association, adding that "as the situation now stands, it will be impossible to play a possible playoff match for the World Cup in Moscow against Russia on March 29."
Ukrainian residents taking shelter in subway stations
People in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, have taken shelter in subway stations that local officials have offered as impromptu bomb shelters amid attacks from Russian forces.
Public transportation has come to a halt and turnstiles opened in an offer of refuge, according to NBC News correspondent Matt Bradley. Though the city's mayor has insisted fighting has stopped in the areas surrounding Kharkiv, those taking shelter are cut off from information about what's happening around them.
"It's a really dicey situation, nobody knows exactly what's going on, even right in front of their face," Bradley reported.
Ukrainian citizens in Kharkiv take shelter in subway stationFeb. 24, 202203:28
U.S. defense official: Russians fired more than 100 missiles in opening phase of invasion
A senior defense official, as part of operational update in the situation in Ukraine, told NBC News that the initial phase of Russia's invasion of Ukraine began around 9:30 p.m. ET, with sea- and land-based missile launches.
More than 100 Russian missiles – including short range ballistic missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface to air missiles and sea missiles launched from the Black Sea – were fired in the initial salvo, the official said.
Targets have so far been military and air defenses, barracks, ammunition depots, and 10 airfields, the official said, adding that there is no clear understanding of the level of casualties on either side.
The ground incursion began around 5:00 a.m ET from Belarus, moving northwest to Kyiv. Russian troops parachuted into Kharkiv around the same time.
The full scope of electronic warfare (jamming) and cyberattacks have not come into play yet but still could be used.
Russia will also use cruise missile strikes to target government buildings, including in civilian population centers, the official said, citing the U.S. assessment of Russia’s next moves.
The official said that several U.S. F-35 fighter jets are arriving to the region later Thursday: two to Estonia, two to Lithuania and two to Romania. In addition, 32 Apache helicopters were en route to the region Thursday, but weather may delay the arrival of some.
The official said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have not had any communication with their Russian counterparts since the invasion began.
Putin has 'reintroduced war in Europe,' G-7 says in joint statement
The world leaders of the Group of Seven condemned Putin on Thursday and called on Russia to immediately withdraw its military forces from Ukraine.
"This has fundamentally changed the Euro-Atlantic security situation," the G7 foreign ministers said in a joint statement. "President Putin has reintroduced war to the European continent. He has put himself on the wrong side of history."
The leaders agreed on sanctions in a coordinated stand against Putin and reiterated support for Ukraine, calling Russia's presence in Crimea an "illegal" occupation. They also condemned Belarus' involvement, reminding the country of its "international obligations."
"We call on all partners and members of the international community to condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms, to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, and raise their voice against this blatant violation of the fundamental principles of international peace and security," they said in the statement.
Ukraine invasion jeopardizes U.S.-Russia space cooperation
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is already causing tension in the space community, one of the few global arenas in which the U.S. and Russia still cooperate.
In a statement posted Wednesday on Twitter, Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Russia’s space agency, hinted at tensions but said he values cooperation with NASA.
“We greatly value our professional relationship with NASA, but as a Russian and a citizen of Russia I am very unhappy with the openly hostile policy of the U.S. towards my country,” Rogozin said, according to a translation.
Rogozin also tweeted “Glory to Russia!” on Monday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a televised speech with misleading claims that Ukraine is “historically Russian land” and false claims the country has fallen into the hands of neo-Nazis and corrupt “puppets” controlled by the West.
NASA said in a statement that the agency is carrying out spaceflight operations as normal: “NASA continues working with Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous International Space Station operations.”
Ukraine ambassador calls for more severe sanctions against Russia
Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., said Thursday that Russia had bombed their airports, warehouses, hospitals and civilian infrastructure.
Speaking to reporters at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Markarova urged the international community to form an "anti-Putin coalition" and called on the West to immediately implement more severe sanctions against Russia.
"The future of the world order depends on this," Markarova said.
Markarova also asked for more help with defensive capabilities and humanitarian assistance, but said that Ukraine does not "expect anyone to fight for us."
She also said that a Russian platoon has surrendered to Ukraine's military after the Russian troops, she said, claimed to be unaware that they were being brought to the country to kill Ukrainians.
NBC has not been able to verify that claim.
"We are protecting our home and we will not stop," Markarova said.
Russian disinformation, propaganda ramp up as conflict in Ukraine grows
Russia’s effort to spread disinformation and propaganda across the internet and through foreign and domestic media about its invasion of Ukraine started weeks ago — and it’s expected to ramp up now that the conflict has begun.
Disinformation experts say that they have seen a concerted effort from Russian leaders and state-backed media to push a false narrative around the reasons for invading Ukraine, and that they expect that to continue as both international pressure and even some domestic Russian resistance to war grows.
“We’re going to see a huge onslaught,” said Jane Lytvynenko, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. “And we need to be prepared for that.”
Lytvynenko said people should be prepared for a wide variety of disinformation and propaganda, including the use of authentic images and video to push false narratives.
Ukraine president warns Russian forces attempting to seize Chernobyl nuclear facility
Russia isolated as 'Iron Curtain' falls down, Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered citizens details of military resistance in his latest update on Thursday, while continuing to urge Russian citizens to push back in protest against Putin.
Zelenskyy praised the work of Ukrainian forces at the Russian border while calling the fight in the southern part of the nation "complicated" in remarks posted on Telegram. He also expressed optimism in his country's defense.
"The sounds that we hear today are not only missile strikes, explosions and rockets — it’s the sound of the Iron Curtain falling down and closing Russia from the other civilized world," Zelenskyy said.
He renewed calls for Ukrainian citizens to aid territorial defense forces, asking anyone with military experience to offer themselves in the effort. Switching to Russian, Zelenskyy spoke of the sanctions he has asked for from world leaders in retaliation to Putin's military operation. He urged Russians to voice their dissent and called the suggested sanctions "the most powerful" in world history.
"I want you to stand your case in the Red Square and big streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities of Russia. Not just on the Instagram," Zelenskyy said. "Russia is now being isolated from the rest of the world."
U.S. defense official: Russians 'making a move' on Kyiv
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has so far focused on three main axes of assault – all of which have been assessed to have the intention of taking key population centers – and Putin's forces are "making a move on Kyiv," a senior defense official told NBC News.
The first axis is a south-to-north approach from Crimea to Kherson; the second axis is a north-central to south approach from Belarus to Kyiv; and the third axis is a northeast to south approach occurring around Kharkiv, where the heaviest fighting is currently occurring, the official said.
The official disclosed the information as part of an operational update on the situation in Ukraine.
Russia is “making a move on Kyiv,” the official said, adding that the the U.S. assessment of Putin’s actions indicate that Russia has “every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance.”
“We have not been surprised so far with what we have seen them do,” the official said. “It is very much in line with what was expected.”
Russia’s actions so far indicate that its invasion is still only in its initial phase, the official said. Russia’s military operation will include multiple phases, but the U.S. does not currently know how many phases the invasion will include – or how long the phases will take.
SWIFT banking system could be used as sanction against Russia. What is it?
In recent weeks, President Joe Biden has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with "severe economic consequences" and sanctions like "he's never seen" if Russia invades Ukraine.
Now, with Putin taking military action against Ukraine, Biden and U.S. allies may consider imposing one of the harshest financial penalties against Russia: kicking it out of the SWIFT banking system.
But doing so, which some financial analysts have likened to a "nuclear option," would be an unprecedented move against one of the world's largest economies.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, is a cooperative of financial institutions formed in 1973 and headquartered in Belgium. It is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium with cooperation from other major central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve System, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.
White House: Biden's meeting with G7 has concluded
A meeting of the world leaders of the Group of Seven — Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — concluded at 10:27 a.m., a White House official told NBC News. The meeting also included Charles Michel, the head of the European Council, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The call, which started at 9:17 a.m. and lasted just over an hour, was convened to discuss a joint response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a White House official said.
Biden to announce new 'consequences' for Russia
President Joe Biden is expected to announce "further consequences" for Russia in a speech at the White House on Thursday afternoon, including additional sanctions.
"Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable," Biden said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The president is expected to speak at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Biden announced a narrow round of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Putin moved troops into Moscow-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of Ukraine, hoping to deter the Russian leader from launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Kyiv mayor announces curfew for capital, metro stations will be open as shelters
Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said that the capital will be under a curfew Thursday from 10:00 p.m. local time until 7 a.m.
"This is a necessary step, but in the current conditions of military aggression and martial law, necessary for the safety of the capital's residents," the mayor said on his Telegram channel.
Public transport will not operate during curfew, but metro stations will be available as shelters around the clock, the mayor said.
"We ask all Kyiv citizens to return home on time," he added. "If you need to move around the city during the curfew, in particular, employees of critical infrastructure companies, you must have identification documents."
Timeline: How Russian military actions in Ukraine unfoldedFeb. 24, 202200:56
Molodova's president welcomes Ukrainians fleeing conflict
Maia Sandu, Molodova's president, said Thursday that its borders are open to Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion.
Sandu added that her government has set up "temporary placement centers" to help Ukrainians and that there were "over 4,000 crossings today."
Scenes from Ukraine as conflict with Russia escalates
Images from Thursday show fear and chaos in Ukraine after Russia launched what Ukraine said was a "full-scale attack."
Photos in order: A woman prays in Kyiv; Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence Square in Kyiv; a Ukrainian military truck burns at an air defense base in Mariupol; police inspect an area after an apparent strike in Kyiv; a woman waits for a train trying to leave Kyiv; the body of a rocket in a apartment after shelling on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv.
'This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe': Zelenskyy warns Russia is trying to seize Chernobyl
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian forces are trying to seize the defunct and contaminated Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kyiv near the border of Belarus.
"Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated," Zelenskyy tweeted, referring to the 1986 incident in which the power plant's reactor building exploded, causing the release of large amounts of radiation into the air.
Zelenskyy said that he reported the situation to the Swedish prime minister.
"This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe," Zelenskyy tweeted.
Earlier in the day, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister wrote on Facebook that Russians breached the Ukrainian border from Belarus into the Chernobyl Zone.
The adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, said the National Guard of Ukraine, which guards the storage of unsafe radioactive waste, was fiercely resisting.
"If the occupiers' artillery strikes hit the nuclear waste storage facility, radioactive dust may cover the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the EU countries," Gerashchenko wrote.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is an area with a more than 18-mile radius around the former nuclear power plant. Areas of Belarus and Ukraine are contaminated by the radioactive fallout, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The zone is largely uninhabited.
White House: Biden's meeting with G7 leaders has started
Biden's virtual meeting with G7 leaders began at 9:17 a.m. ET, a White House official told NBC News.
Biden and the G7 leaders are meeting to discuss their joint response to Putin's attack on Ukraine.
Biden will speak to the American public later Thursday to announce how the U.S. and its allies will further respond to Russia's invasion.
Chinese and Russian foreign ministers speak by phone
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke by phone on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese state media reported.
Wang told Lavrov that Beijing "always respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries," according to a statement published by CCTV, China's state broadcaster. He also said the Ukrainian issue has a "complex and special history" and that China understands Russia's "legitimate concerns" on security issues.
In a reference to NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance that Ukraine has expressed interest in joining, Wang said that the "Cold War mentality" should be completely abandoned and a "balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism" should be established through dialogue and negotiation.
Emergency personnel work at the crash site of a Ukrainian military plane south of Kyiv on Thursday.
U.S. moves six F-35 aircraft to Baltic Sea, Black Sea regions from Germany
Six U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft moved to the Baltic Sea and Black Sea regions Thursday from their base in Germany, U.S. Air Forces in Europe announced.
The Air Force said the aircraft will support NATO's collective defense and have "unprecedented communication capabilities, command and control, and lethality for the combined and joint force."
"These capabilities afford NATO leaders the flexibility to project power and assert air dominance in highly contested environments," the Air Force said.
It said that the aircraft, assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron, will be operating out of air bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania.
How the U.S. military is responding to Russia’s attack on UkraineFeb. 24, 202204:07
4 people killed after Russian shell hits hospital, Ukraine says
At least four people were killed when a Russian shell hit a hospital in Vuhledar in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine Thursday.
Ukraine's interior ministry said on its Telegram channel that the shell had struck the facility, with at least 10 other people left injured in the attack. Six doctors were among those injured, it said.
European Commission president promises harsh sanctions aimed at Russia's economy
President Vladimir Putin “ordered atrocious acts of aggression against a sovereign and independent country and innocent people,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday, unveiling plans for a new package of sanctions to punish Russia.
Putin “chose to bring war back to Europe,” she said in a news conference. “In a determined and united response the European Union will make it as difficult as possible for the Kremlin to pursue its aggressive actions.”
She added that she would present a package of “massive and targeted sanctions” to European leaders for their approval on Thursday.
These sanctions “will harshly limit Russia’s access to the capital markets” and have a “heavy impact,” she said, adding that they “would suppress Russia’s economic growth,” and cut off access to new technology including high tech components and cutting edge software.
“Let me be very clear, it is President Putin who will have to explain this to his citizens,” she said. “I know that the Russian people do not want this war.”
Biden convenes National Security Council in White House Situation Room
President Joe Biden convened a National Security Council meeting Thursday morning in the White House Situation Room to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, a White House official told NBC News.
Biden previously said he will speak to the American public later Thursday "to announce the further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security."
Western Ukraine city Lviv braces for refugee influx after Russian attackFeb. 24, 202203:24
Bush: Invasion is 'gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II'
Former President George W. Bush on Thursday called Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II" and ripped Russian leader Vladimir Putin for "authoritarian bullying."
"I join the international community in condemning Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. The American government and people must stand in solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as they seek freedom and the right to choose their own future," Bush added.
"We cannot tolerate the authoritarian bullying and danger that Putin poses," Bush said. "Ukraine is our friend and democratic ally and deserves our full support during this most difficult time."
Sen. Mark Warner warns that Russia's cyberattacks on Ukraine could draw NATO states into broader war
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a pair of interviews he’s concerned that Russia’s cyberattacks on Ukraine could expand and ensnare NATO nations, including the U.S., into a broader war.
Warner, in interviews with Axios Wednesday night and CBS News Thursday morning, suggested that Russia’s cyberattacks inside Ukraine could quickly spiral out of control, damaging digital assets outside the country as they spread, including those inside NATO member states, which could trigger NATO’s collective defense principle.
“One of the things that I'm gravely concerned about is if Russia unleashes its full cyber power against Ukraine; once you put malware into the wild in a sense, it knows no geographic boundary. So if the Russians decide they're going to try to turn off the power, turn off all the electricity all across Ukraine, very likely that may turn off the power in eastern Poland, in eastern Romania. That could affect our troops. If suddenly hospitals are shut down, if those NATO troops, American troops somehow have a car accident because the stop lights don't work, we are suddenly in an area, hypothetically an Article Five, where one NATO country is attacked, we all have to come to each other's aid,” Warner told CBS News.
U.S. lawmakers respond in unity, condemn Russia attack on UkraineFeb. 24, 202201:49
“If Russia launched 100 pieces, 1,000 pieces of malware in an attack against NATO or Ukraine, that might bleed into NATO nations, we are in totally unpredictable territory,” he said.
Under NATO’s Article 5 Collective Defense principle, an attack on one member state is considered an attack against all member states. According to a 2021 NATO communique, the organization said it would determine “on a case-by-case basis” whether Article 5 could be triggered by a cyberattack.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he would not send U.S. combat troops into Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine's Lugansk region on Thursday.
Former NATO Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis warns Russia may try to capture Zelenskyy
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis said in an interview on NBC's "TODAY" Thursday that he thinks Russia is going to try to capture Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
"I think he’s gonna go full-bore, get to Kyiv, try and capture Zelenskyy," Stavridis said about Putin.
The U.S. has to protect Zelenskyy and "figure out a way for him to have a government in exile, arm a Ukrainian resistance," he said. "We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us."
Stavridis warned he thinks this will be an "extensive campaign" and described the military strategy as being from "Military War College 101."
"Start with assaults that take out the air defense, take out the command and control, back it up with a cyber-attack, move your shock troops forward, your tank columns, all that’s in place, it’s been building for months," he said. "There’s really no mystery here."
Stavridis served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 2009 to 2013.
How Putin is attempting to control the narrative after attacking UkraineFeb. 24, 202203:23
No U.S. diplomatic personnel in Ukraine
U.S. Embassy in Kyiv personnel did not drive back across the border from Poland to Ukraine on Thursday, a U.S. official confirmed to NBC News.
Since Monday, at Washington’s direction, the U.S. diplomatic personnel had been spending the night in Poland and driving into Lviv each morning to continue diplomatic engagement and emergency consular work.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemns Putin's 'hideous and barbaric venture'
Russia's attack on Ukraine is a "hideous and barbaric venture" that "must end in failure," Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation Thursday.
"We have Ukrainian friends in this country, neighbors, co-workers," he said. "Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy, and the right to choose its own destiny."
"We and the world cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out," he added. "We cannot and will not just look away."
Together with its allies, he said the U.K. on Thursday, would "agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy."
"Our mission is clear," he added. "Diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually, militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure."
Russian forces make breakthrough in Kyiv region, Ukraine says
Russian forces have made a breakthrough in the Kyiv region, breaking through the state border, Ukraine's Ministry of the Interior said.
In a post to its Telegram channel, the ministry said Russian military personnel had entered through the Vilcha checkpoint, which is less than 100 miles north of the capital.
"Border guards together with the Ukrainian military accepted the battle," it said.
Biden to speak to American people; Congress calls for powerful sanctions on Russia
President Joe Biden is expected to meet with his G7 counterparts Thursday morning and then will address the American people to detail how the U.S. will respond to Russia.
Biden said in a statement Wednesday evening that he was monitoring the situation from the White House and would get regular updates from his national security team.
He said he will speak to the American public "to announce the further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security."
Many members of Congress struck a bipartisan tone and condemned Putin's decision to invade Ukraine, calling for swift and powerful sanctions on Russia.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Putin’s “unprovoked attack” has underscored the need to blacklist the Russian president and “expel the current Kremlin leadership from the international community.”
“Today must mark a historical shift in how the world views and deals with the despot in Moscow,” Menendez said.
Some Republicans blamed the attack on Ukraine on Biden, arguing that he didn't do enough in terms of sanctions to prevent the invasion.
After weeks of waiting, Ukrainians face Russia's terrifying might
Ukrainians are facing the terrifying force of a deadly Russian onslaught, which has turned weeks of quiet fears into reality.
Air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine's capital Kyiv Thursday as explosions boomed and flashed in cities across the country minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military action against its western neighbor.
At the same time, long lines snaked outside of ATMs, supermarkets and gas stations in cities such as Kyiv and Mariupol as people scrambled to prepare for what was coming.
Residents told NBC News of how their lives have been turned upside down overnight, with communities across the country gripped with "severe panic."
President Zelenskyy calls on Ukrainians to unite against RussiaFeb. 24, 202201:16
NATO calls Russian attack 'unjustified and unprovoked,' deploys extra forces
NATO called Russia’s attack on Ukraine “entirely unjustified and unprovoked” in a statement on Thursday.
“This renewed attack is a grave violation of international law, including the UN Charter,” said the North Atlantic Council. “It constitutes an act of aggression against an independent peaceful country.”
NATO has reiterated its support for the sovereignty of Ukraine as well as its territorial waters. It called on Russia to “immediately cease its military action and withdraw all its forces” and to “allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access and assistance to all persons in need.”
It also announced additional defensive land, sea, and air forces to be deployed in the eastern flank of NATO near Ukraine and Russia which it called as “preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory” measures.
“It is Russia, and Russia alone, which has chosen escalation,” the statement said.
Russia aims to neutralize Ukraine's 'military potential,' Kremlin spokesman says
Russia said Thursday its aim to is to neutralize Ukraine's "military potential."
In a briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's attack on Ukraine was "dictated only by our national interests and concern for the future."
"These are the only goals," he said. "No one talks about occupation, this word does not apply here. Russia’s aim is neutralization of Ukraine’s military potential."
World leaders condemn Russian attacks in 'Europe's darkest hour'
World leaders have joined President Joe Biden in his condemnation of Russia's attacks on Ukraine and vowed to hold Moscow accountable.
In Europe, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz all criticized military action, as did the leaders of Ukraine's neighbors in Poland and Romania.
Elsewhere, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack "egregious" and the prime ministers of Australia and Japan voiced their disapproval.
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At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers killed, presidential adviser says
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
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.
Kyiv resident says Ukrainians will fight Russian aggressionFeb. 24, 202202:17
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
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.
President Putin announces military operations in eastern UkraineFeb. 24, 202201:28
Cars queue in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday as people scramble to leave the city following the launch of Russian military action.
Ukraine's defense minister says 'anyone who is ready and able to hold a weapon' can join forces
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
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
Bombing in Podolsk kills at least 6, wounds at least 7Feb. 24, 202203:38
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.
Read more here.
Video shows tanks entering Ukraine from Belarus border
Watch: Video shows tanks from Belarus crossing into UkraineFeb. 24, 202205:30
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.
Biden to impose 'severe sanctions' on Russia at meeting with G7 leadersFeb. 24, 202202:55
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.
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.
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.
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 to impose 'severe sanctions' on Russia at meeting with G7 leadersFeb. 24, 202202:55
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.
Ukraine declares martial law in response to Russia attackFeb. 24, 202204:13
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.”
Members of Congress respond to Russian attack on UkraineFeb. 24, 202202:58
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."
Blinken: Russian forces in place for 'major aggression against Ukraine'Feb. 24, 202202:28
'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.
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.”
Here are the latest updates from the Russia-Ukraine conflict
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