Tanks enter country from north, south and east as explosions are heard in the capital
Article for the FT by Max Seddon in Moscow, John Reed, Roman Olearchyk and Polina Ivanova in Kyiv and Henry Foy in Brussels.
Vladimir Putin has begun a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine and demanded Kyiv’s army lay down its weapons, starting what could be the largest conflict in Europe since the second world war.
With bombardments of artillery, missiles and small arms, Russian troops launched attacks from Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, across its eastern frontier with Russia, and in the south from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Columns of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles later rolled into the country from all three fronts, while dozens of helicopters assaulted a key airport outside Kyiv. Roads out of the capital were gridlocked with civilians fleeing the city. Ukrainian authorities reported dozens of casualties in fighting across the country.
Nato allies strongly condemned the attacks and, in an emergency meeting, the US-led military alliance decided to deploy additional land, air and sea forces to bolster its eastern flank with Russia.
In an address on state television shortly before 6am on Thursday, Russia’s president said Moscow would seek to “de-Nazify” Ukraine and “defend” victims of “genocide”, despite there being no evidence of such crimes.
Putin warned other countries against “the temptation of meddling in the ongoing events” and said Russia’s response would “lead you to consequences that you have never encountered in your history”.
As the full scale of the assault became clear, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation, calling “everyone with battle experience” to take up arms and resist forces that had invaded the country “just as fascist Germany did”.
Moscow’s stock exchange suspended all trading on Thursday morning after the pre-market index fell sharply. When trading resumed, the share gauge tumbled as much as 45 per cent. The rouble weakened by as much as a tenth against the dollar to a record low of Rbs89.99.
Brent crude prices rose as much as 7.2 per cent to more than $103 a barrel, the first time the international oil benchmark has crossed the $100 threshold since 2014. European natural gas contracts surged by more than a third to €117 per megawatt hour.
Global equities markets also fell. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng share gauge lost more than 3 per cent. European stocks opened sharply lower, while futures markets indicated that US stocks would drop later in the day.
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Russian forces begin full-scale invasion of Ukraine