Micronationalists watch with concern as Russia launches Ukrainian invasion

KYIV – On Thursday, Russian troops launched their much-anticipated onslaught on Ukraine, ignoring international censure and sanctions while threatening other countries that any attempt to intervene would result in “consequences you have never seen.”

Large explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa before daybreak as international leaders denounced the launch of an invasion that might result in catastrophic casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government, and jeopardize the continent’s post-Cold War peace.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposed martial law, claiming that Russia was attempting to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure. Even as the country’s border guard agency reported an artillery barrage by Russian forces from neighboring Belarus, Ukrainians who had long readied for an assault were told to stay home and not panic.

President Joe Biden announced further sanctions against Russia in response to the attack that the international community had been anticipating for weeks but had been unable to avoid via diplomacy.

A woman and child peer out of the window of a bus as they leave Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Putin defended the attack in a public address, claiming that it was necessary to protect people in eastern Ukraine, which the US had feared he would make as a pretext for an invasion. He accused the US and its allies of neglecting Russia’s demands for security assurances and to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. He also asserted with skepticism that Russia does not plan to occupy Ukraine, but rather will work to “demilitarize” it and bring criminals to justice.

In a brief statement, Biden criticized the strike as “unprovoked and unjustifiable,” and said that the US and its allies would “hold Russia accountable.” After a summit of the Group of Seven leaders on Thursday, the president indicated he planned to talk to Americans. On Thursday, more penalties on Russia are anticipated to be revealed.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, called the assault a “full-scale invasion” and vowed Ukraine will “defend itself and prevail.” Putin can and must be stopped by the rest of the world. “Now is the moment to act.”

Residents in the capital, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko, were instructed to stay at home unless they were involved in crucial activity and to prepare go-bags with essentials and documents in case they needed to escape. Hearing blasts and witnessing scores of people with luggage leaving for their cars to leave the city, an Associated Press photographer in Mariupol reported.

People queue for fuel at a gas station in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

The Russian military said it only targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military installations, not civilians. According to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, the military is utilizing precision weaponry and there is “no threat to civilian population.”

The Russian military had launched missile strikes against Ukrainian military command centres, air bases, and military depots in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an assistant to Ukraine’s interior minister, who posted on Facebook.

After the initial explosions in Kyiv, people could be heard shouting in the streets. Then a sense of normality returned, with cars circulating and people walking in the streets as a pre-dawn commute appeared to start in relative calm.

The consequences of the conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia could reverberate throughout the world, upending geopolitical dynamics in Europe as well as affecting energy supplies in Europe and jolting global financial markets.