After weeks of threats and failed attempts at diplomacy, Vladimir Putin launched a broad Russian military offensive targeting Ukraine at around 5am Ukrainian time today. World leaders warn this invasion could spark the largest war in Europe since 1945.
Within minutes of Putin’s short televised address, in which he announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, the country was under attack from cruise and ballistic missiles, with explosions heard near major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv.
Though Putin said that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine, he added a chilling warning to other nations in his address: “To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me,” he said.
What we know so far
The initial wave of strikes appeared to involve cruise missiles, artillery and airstrikes targeting Ukraine’s military infrastructure, airbases and border positions.
The first casualties have been reported. At least eight people have been killed and nine were wounded by the Russian shelling. It’s unclear if any were civilians.
Russian backed separatist rebels were reported to be attacking Ukrainian positions around the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk about two hours into the attack.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, announced martial law had been declared across the country in the immediate aftermath of the first wave of strikes.
Western leaders have responded with fury to Russia’s actions, with Joe Biden accusing Putin of choosing a “premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering”.
“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden said.
With Europe dependent on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas supplies, concerns that Russia could use its gas supplies to hurt Europe are well founded.
European gas prices have since jumped more than 40%, with the global stock market plunging against the backdrop of the invasion. Follow our business live blog for more updates.
US and UK intelligence believe Russian-backed hackers are behind another insidious new strand of malware, raising more concerns of potential Russian cyber-attacks against Ukraine as Russia utilizes every tool at its disposal.
As western leaders look to toughen up economic sanctions, however, they may find that a swift economic victory against Russia is unlikely.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a small but growing number of Ukrainians are making plans to go back to their homeland to fight. “The reality is that no one except Ukrainians will defend Ukrainian land,” said Marta Mulyak.
For live updates on the situation in Ukraine, follow our live blog.
In other news …
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The number of mothers dying during pregnancy, childbirth or the year after increased in the pandemic’s first year, continuing a decades-long trend that disproportionately affects Black people. In 2020, there were almost 24 deaths per 100,000 births in the US, while the rate was 20 per 100,000 in 2019. Meanwhile, among Black people, there were 55 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, almost triple the rate for white people.
Don’t miss this: the question of Donetsk and Luhansk
Before last night’s invasion, Putin had announced earlier this week that he was recognizing the independence of the two separatist regions of Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as Donbas. Their leaders, Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, have seen their political profile rise in Russia in the days since, leaving little question for analysts over who was truly in control.
“The Russian leadership coordinated everything and nothing was left to chance,” said the political analyst Konstantin Skorkin, a Luhansk native who focuses on the region.
Climate check: the climate research publisher consulting for the fossil fuel industry
Elesvier, a Dutch company behind many renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the Lancet and Global Environmental Change, is also doing consultancy work for the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil and gas drilling and publishing books aimed at expanding fossil fuel production.
Last Thing: baby talk
Can actors tread the boards if they can’t actually walk yet? Babies have been cast in film and television for decades now, but in the West End of London, some directors are taking the risk of putting the most temperamental of thespians on stage.
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