Russia yesterday launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea – the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II and confirmation of the worst fears of the West.
The attacks began after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address that he had approved a “special military operation” and ordered wide-ranging attacks, hitting multiple cities and bases with air strikes or shelling, and attacking by land and sea.
The move came after Moscow earlier recognised rebel-held territories in Luhansk and Donetsk and said they had asked for its “help”.
Share prices tumbled and key commodity prices surged as the financial markets reacted to the news yesterday.
Dozens of people were reportedly killed during the first hours of Russia’s invasion, officials said, with fighting widespread across the country.
Reports indicated that Russian forces captured the Chernobyl power plant, the site of a major nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986, after fierce fighting yesterday.
Russian missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities
Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, and landing by sea at the cities of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.
Moscow troops attacked Ukraine from Belarus as well as Russia with Belarusian support, and an attack was also being launched from annexed Crimea, Ukraine’s border guard service said.
Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Gunfire rattled out near the main airport and sirens blared across the city.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said martial law had been declared and he appealed to world leaders to impose all possible sanctions on Russia, and Putin, who, he said, wanted to destroy the Ukrainian state.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter that Putin had “launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.
“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,” he said.
Putin justified the attack as “a special military operation” to protect people, including Russian citizens who had been subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine, an accusation the West has long described as absurd propaganda.
Nigeria plans special flight for Nigerians in Ukraine
The Federal Government has arranged for a special flight operation to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine, following the escalation of tension between that country and Russia.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, in an exclusive interview with NTA, said the Nigerian embassy in Kiev has been contacted to arrange those wishing to the return home from other areas, including Donestk and Luhensk.
The minister assured Nigerians that the ministry is following the event since beginning and promised to do everything for the safety of Nigerians in Ukraine, particularly students.
The Leader of the House, Alhassan Doguwa, and the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Buba Yakub, were mandated to liaise with the Ministry Foreign Affairs, the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) to bring the students back.
Doguwa and Yakub were directed to ensure they travel to Ukraine on Friday and come back with as many Nigerians students as possible by Monday.
NATO moves to send extra troops to allies
The alliance’s secretary general said Russia had “chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.”
The attack “puts at risk countless civilian lives,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement, describing it as a “grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO yesterday said it was preparing to send extra troops to its Russia-facing allies to reinforce a red line around the war in Ukraine even as it keeps “de-confliction channels” open with Moscow.
Poland prepares medical train, hospital beds for Ukrainians
Poland health ministry yesterday said the country was preparing a medical train to transport Ukrainians wounded in Russia’s assault to its neighbour.
The ministry added that Polish hospitals were ready to receive thousands of patients.
World leaders react to attacks
World leaders reacted yesterday with President Joe Biden condemning Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s actions, telling Putin to “bring your troops back to Russia”.
The African Union (AU) condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and called for an “immediate ceasefire”, saying the situation risked escalating into “a planetary conflict”.
The bloc’s current chair, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, said in a joint statement they were “extremely concerned” by the invasion.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and has spoken to Ukrainian President to discuss the next steps.
The EU bloc will hold Moscow accountable for the “unjustified” attack on Ukraine, the chief of the EU’s Executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.