Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in a televised address to his citizens in the early hours of Thursday morning, drawing a line under the West’s diplomatic efforts to avert calamity and restore the peace.
Explosions were reported soon afterwards on the outskirts of the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, as well as the capital Kiev, prompting many Ukrainians to form queues at supermarkets, ATMs and petrol stations in preparation for weathering the siege or attempting to flee.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said his government has introduced martial law in all territories of the state and urged citizens to stay at home as much as possible.
Meanwhile the country’s airports have been shut down temporarily and secured against potential Russian aircraft landings while Russia has closed its own airspace around the border to civilian access for the next four months.
In the opening skirmishes, Ukraine’s military has said it has destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country’s east.
According to Mr Zelensky, 137 Ukrainian civilians and soldiers were ultimately killed on the first day of fighting and another 316…