Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Kyiv's decision to sever diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine.
“This morning has gone down in history, but this story is completely different for our country and for Russia,” Zelensky said in a briefing streamed on the Ukrainian President’s office Facebook page shortly after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. “And we have severed diplomatic relations with Russia.”
Zelensky's decision came hours after Putin launched an all-out offensive in Ukraine, claiming that the assault was launched to protect the people of two self-proclaimed separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk, who, according to Putin, were being attacked by the Ukrainian military. The Kremlin had earlier said separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military support against Kyiv.
The appeals came after Putin recognized the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics as independent entities and signed friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance agreements with the two separatist territories.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that its military does not target Ukrainian cities, underscoring that only military infrastructure is being neutralized with precision strikes. The Russian media reported that Russia has so far destroyed 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities in Ukraine, including 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.
Media reported a series of loud explosions were heard across the country, including Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv, shortly after Putin's announcement. Reports from authorities described shelling and firing across 17 of Ukraine’s 27 regions., while a BBC report stated that Russia also hit Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport in western Ukraine.
Zelensky declared martial law across Ukraine, urging citizens to remain calm. He said the country's armed forces are fending off Russia’s missile strikes and artillery shelling in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, as well as other parts of the country.
“Ukraine is defending itself and will not give up its freedom, no matter what Moscow thinks,” Zelensky said.
Ukraine's defense ministry claimed a total of six Russian Air Force aircraft and two helicopters had been shot down since the attack began. The defense ministry revealed that several Russian tanks had been destroyed. Media reports said two Su-24 jets, which are light bombers, were among the aircraft shot down.
Ukraine and Russia, the two post-Soviet countries, have been at odds since the 2014 crisis in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions. Ukraine accuses Russia of annexing the Crimean Peninsula – a territory that extends into the Black Sea – and backing anti-government separatist regimes in the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. The crisis has destabilized the Donetsk and Lugansk regions – collectively known as Donbas. Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of supporting the separatist regimes in Donetsk and Lugansk with weapons and troops.
Today's attack prompted immediate condemnation from the US, UK, EU and other Western allies, which have vowed to impose further, sweeping sanctions against Russia over what US President Joe Biden called “an unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine.