After months of a buildup of weaponry, materiel, and troops along Ukraine's borders, as well as extreme geopolitical posturing and brinksmanship, Russia has begun a major military operation in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of the "special military operation" in a speech broadcast on national television this evening.
Author's Note: We have a new article published with up-to-date ongoing live coverage of the war in Ukraine linked here.
Putin reiterated many of the same claims he had made in a speech earlier this week as justification for launching the military intervention against Ukraine, including the refusal of the government in Kyiv to renounce any plans to join NATO and the entirely unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. He insisted that Russia is not seeking to occupy Ukraine, but claimed that the country would be "demilitarized" as result. He added that Ukrainian forces that laid down their weapons now would be assured safe passage back to their homes. The Russian President threatened swift action against any outside powers that might attempt to intervene in the conflict, as well.
Putin made his announcement as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting, where many representatives, including the one from the United States, called on Russia to choose a path other than conflict.
There are already a stream of reports about possible artillery and missile strikes occurring across Ukraine, as well as the movement of Russian ground forces into the country. It is difficult to independently confirm many of these reports and the details about exactly what has and continues to occur in Ukraine are likely to change and evolve as time goes on.
U.S. President Joe Biden has already issued a statement decrying what he has described as "An unprovoked and unjustified attack" and says that "the world will hold Russia accountable."
This is a rapidly developing situation and we will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
Update 11:20 PM EST:
Reports continue to flow in regarding Russian attacks on locations across Ukraine. The most significant, but still unconfirmed report is that airborne troops may be attempting to forcefully seize sites in and around Kyiv, including Boryspil International Airport, the seizure of which would provide a bridgehead that additional forces could flow through.
There are also reports of major attacks along Ukraine's coast on the Black Sea and the the Sea of Azov, areas that had long been projected as potential vectors of attack during a future Russian incursion. Just today, the U.S. military cited the presence of amphibious warfare ships and other naval vessels in these bodies of water as particularly worrisome signs that an invasion was imminent.
Reports of air and missile strikes, as well as of artillery fire and other fighting, continue to come from other areas of Ukraine. As stated before, the situation is extremely fluid and it is difficult at present to independently confirm many of the reports emerging now.
In the meantime, the United Nations Security Council meeting meant to help stave off the conflict is continuing as it is unfolding. Russia's ambassador reiterated the Kremlin's position regarding the purported threats posed by Ukraine and its current government and asserted that the country had the right to invade under the U.N. Charter's Article 51, which enshrines the right of self-defense.
Ukraine's representative has called on Russia to relinquish its current role as head of the Security Council for declaring war. In a subsequent exchange, the Russian representative claimed that his country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is currently sleeping as this situation is developing.
Update 12:00 AM EST:
The sun is now rising in Ukraine and the country's Ministry of the Interior is reporting hundreds of casualties from the initial wave of Russian attacks. There are continued reports of air, missile, and artillery strikes across Ukraine, including ones targeting military bases and command and control nodes.
For its part, Russia's Ministry of Defense has also confirmed that its objectives include the destruction of a wide array of Ukrainian military facilities. Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations has now framed the invasion as a "liberation" of the Ukrainian people, as well.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has now addressed his nation again, saying that he has spoken to President Biden and that "they are preparing international support," presumably referring to the U.S. government. He further advised Ukrainians to stay home or otherwise seek shelter so that the country's military could react unimpeded.
What steps the United States, and its allies and partners, might now take remain to be seen. A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone that had been monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine from within the country's airspace now appears to be taking up station in the Black Sea.
In Russia itself, the value of the Ruble has tumbled and the country's stock market is down since the start of this war. Only time will tell what impact this, together with increasing foreign sanctions, might have on Putin's plans.
In addition, reports have emerged suggestions that the metadata on Putin's speech announcing the invasion of Ukraine was recorded on February 21. If true, this would show that he had already made the decision to act at least days ago. Questions have been raised about these particular claims.
Update 1:10 AM EST:
Air raid sirens have been going off sporadically in Ukraine's capital Kyiv as imagery begins to emerge showing civilians attempting to leave the city by car. Ukrainian officials continue to appeal for calm as more attacks are ported across the country.
Unconfirmed videos reportedly showing ballistic missile launches targeting Ukraine are now beginning to appear online. Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles were among the many weapon systems that Russia had arrayed around Ukraine in recent weeks.
Ukrainian authorities now say that the country's security forces are engaged in ground combat with Russian elements that moved across the country's borders with Russia and Belarus. Belarusian troops may also be involved. They have also indicated that enemy "sabotage and reconnaissance groups," likely references to special operations elements, have been taking part in the operations.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have denied reports of Russian paratroopers landing in Odesa, but have not spoken to the earlier reports of an airborne operation in Kyiv. So far, there has been nothing to substantiate that latter reporting.
As the fighting continues to evolve, Ukrainian authorities now say they have shot down a number of Russian aircraft, including fixed types and helicopters. One of these may have been an Su-24 Fencer combat jet. Russia has denied these losses. There are clear indications that Russian forces have been targeting Ukrainian air defenses, including pictures showing the remains of a Kh-31 air-to-surface missile in Kyiv. There are multiple variants of the Kh-31, but it is best known as an anti-radiation missile.
The White House has now released its own statement regarding Biden's call with Zelensky, in which he says that the U.S. government is preparing to hit Russia with even more substantial sanctions. American allies and partners are beginning to issue similar statements of support for Ukraine and pledges to slap the Kremlin with their own sanctions.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry Dmytro Kuleba has outlined the actions that Ukraine would like to see taken. This includes massive economic sanctions and steps to isolate Russia from the international community, as well as continued direct military and other assistance to Ukraine.
A Russian KA-52 attack helicopter has been spotted over over Luhansk. While unconfirmed, this would mean Russian attack helicopters have pushed far forward.
Update: 1:49 AM EST—
U.S. Embassy now giving directions to U.S. citizens still in the country:
KA-50 over Crimea, which is not all that odd, but definitely flying low and aggressive:
The video above clearly shows Russian forces crossing from Crimea into Ukraine. This would indicate that a southern front is indeed active.
An unconfirmed video from Odessa:
The seperatist regime in Luhansk now says an operation is underway to seize the rest of the region that shares its name:
Incredible footage of a cruise missile strike on Ivano-Frankivsk Air Base in western Ukraine:
A mass exodus west out of Kyiv is underway according to multiple reports:
You can continue to read our ongoing rolling coverage of Russia's attack on Ukraine in this new article.
Contact the authors: Joe@thedrive.com and Tyler@thedrive.com