Russian forces have launched a military assault on neighbouring Ukraine, crossing its borders and bombing military targets near big cities.
In a pre-dawn TV statement Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanded that its military lay down their arms.
Moments later, attacks were reported on Ukrainian military targets.
Ukraine said that “Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.
Russia’s military breached the border in a number of places, in the north, south and east, including from Belarus, a long-time Russian ally. There are reports of fighting in some parts of eastern Ukraine.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser said that more than 40 soldiers had died and dozens more were wounded. Ukraine said it had killed 50 Russian troops and shot down six Russian aircraft, but this has not been verified.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced martial law across all of Ukraine, severed all diplomatic relations with Russia and said weapons would be distributed to anyone who wanted them.
“No panic. We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine,” he said in a video statement. Ahead of Russia’s attack he had made a last-ditch attempt to avert a conflict, warning that Russia could start “a major war in Europe” and urging Russian citizens to oppose it.
Warning sirens blared across the capital, which has a population of almost three million. Traffic queued to leave the city and crowds sought shelter in Kyiv’s metro stations. Several neighbouring countries have begun preparations to take in a large number of refugees.