Russian forces have launched a major military assault on Ukraine, with reports of explosions near major cities across the country.
In a pre-dawn TV statement Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine, but said Moscow’s response would be “instant” if anyone tried to stop this.
Shortly afterwards, attacks were reported on Ukrainian military targets.
Ukraine said that “Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.
In a video statement on Thursday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said martial law was now being imposed across all of Ukraine.
“No panic. We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine,” the president said.
He said Russia carried out strikes on Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard units. Military headquarters, airfields and military warehouses in Kyiv, Dnipro and Kharkiv, officials said.
Reports are also coming of explosions in several Ukrainian cities, and gunfire near main Boryspil airport in the capital Kyiv. Warning sirens were heard blaring in the city with a population of about three million.
In a last-ditch attempt to avert war shortly before Mr Putin’s announcement, Mr Zelensky had warned that Russia could start “a major war in Europe” and urged Russian citizens to oppose it.
Mr Zelensky said Russia had almost 200,000 troops and thousands of combat vehicles on Ukraine’s borders.
Ukraine’s Western allies had also repeatedly warned Russia was poised to invade.
Responding to Russia’s assault, US President Joe Biden said Washington and its allies would respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Mr Biden said. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine” and that President Putin “has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack”. He added that he had spoken to Ukraine’s president to discuss how to respond and promises decisive action by the UK and allies.