As Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists continued striking targets across Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the public to remain calm while declaring martial law.
Missile strikes and military barrages struck Ukrainian targets from the country’s northern, eastern and southern borders.
The strikes drew quick international condemnation of Russia, from capitals across Europe to Asia.
The invasion also shook financial markets around the world; global oil and gold prices soared, U.S. stock futures tumbled and indices across Asia recorded significant losses while European markets opened with a downward reaction.
Zelenskyy said in his morning public address that he had been in touch with U.S. President Joe Biden following the Russian invasion, reported NPR’s Tim Mak. “We are strong,” he said in his address, adding, “Glory to Ukraine.”
Biden called Putin’s actions an “unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine” and warned of “a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.
Biden is to make an address to the U.S. public on Thursday after a meeting with G7 leaders.
The U.S., the EU and their allies are hitting Russia with sanctions in response to Putin’s decision to recognize two Ukrainian territories as independent republics — and send troops there.
Biden ordered new sanctions Wednesday on the Russian-owned company that is building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as well as its officers.
The American president vowed more sanctions to punish Russia.
Likewise, EU leaders are considering additional sanctions against Russia. “We will not let President Putin tear down Europe’s security architecture,” tweeted Ursula von Der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
“He should not underestimate the resolve and strength of our democracies. The European Union stands with Ukraine and its people. Ukraine will prevail.”
The violence began as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session late Wednesday night in a bid to stave off an invasion of Ukraine.
But even as diplomats implored Putin to pull back his military forces, strikes began across Ukraine.
NPR correspondents heard explosions in the capital Kyiv, in the eastern city of Kharkiv, close to the border with Russia, and in the port city of Odessa in the south of the country.
Explosions also were heard on the outskirts of Kramatorsk, a town in the Donbas region controlled by Ukraine.
As the strikes began, NPR’s Frank Langfitt reported loud explosions booming over the southern port city of Odessa while jets roared overhead. Lines formed at gas stations and traffic began to head out of town.
A pair of families from the city of Kherson packed their SUVs hurriedly at a hotel and headed for the western city of Lviv near the Polish border.
“I’m scared. I’m scared for my baby,” said a lawyer, who only gave his name as Constantine.
Putin said the goal of the operation was the “demilitarization” of Ukraine. He urged Ukrainian troops to lay down their weapons and warned outside countries to not interfere.
In the run-up to the invasion, Zelenskyy said his country was prepared to defend itself.
“Only I and our army will know the clear steps regarding the defense of our state. And believe me, we are ready for anything,” Zelenskyy said.