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Russian forces moving across Crimea days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images

Russia invades Ukraine as war returns to Europe

As President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Eastern Ukraine, the Russian army mobilized en masse against its neighbor.

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On the night of Wednesday, Feb. 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on state television to announce a special military operation he authorized to be carried out in Eastern Ukraine. 

What happened next, many are still processing on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 24.

As Putin made his speech, explosions began erupting in cities across Ukraine, including Kharkiv in the Northeast, Mariupol in the Southeast, Dnipro and capital Kiev in central regions, and Odessa and Kherson in the South.

It was the beginning of Russia’s invasion of the country, as airports and military intelligence outposts were targeted by Russian artillery and air raids in an effort to neutralize Ukraine’s own air and intelligence defense efforts. 

Early reports also showed attacks that hit civilian locations, with one being picked up by the New York Times in Kharkiv. Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry also reported heavy fighting along the border in Eastern Ukraine as forces engaged Russian ground forces. Russian attacks were also launched from Belarus, where President Aleksandr Lukashenko permitted forces to be stationed on its border with Ukraine.

By the morning of Feb. 24, Russian advances had been made in Eastern, Southern and Northern Ukraine, and dozens of casualties had been reported. That number will indefinitely rise as the invasion continues.

In his speech amid the invasion, Putin also threatened any country that tried to intervene with “consequences you have never faced in your history,” also stating that Russia “remains one of the most powerful nuclear states.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who made a final plea to Russia hours before the invasion, urged Ukrainians to stay home and trust in the country’s military to defend itself from the Russian attackers. He also said that attempts to reach Putin were returned with silence amid the beginning of the invasion.

On Feb. 24, Zelenskyy announced Ukraine had cut all diplomatic ties with Russia.

The most damning assessment of Russia’s actions came at a UN Security Council convening on the night of Feb. 23, also as Putin announced the military operation and it began.

The last person to take the stand and talk to Russian ambassador and President of the body Vasiliy Nebenzya was Ukraine’s Sergiy Kyslytsya. He demanded the council intervene to stop the war per its duty and slammed the Russian leader, who responded by saying it was a “military operation,” not a war declaration.

“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell ambassador,” was Kyslytsya’s response.

Nebenzya tried to reiterate Russia’s talking points of NATO aggression before the meeting quickly adjourned.

The world on the whole reacted with condemnation for Putin and the invasion, with responses coming quickly from France’s Emmanuel Macron, Italy’s Mario Draghi, and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, among others. All promised severe sanctions against Russia and major support to Ukraine in its effort to defend itself.

The European Union called an emergency meeting for its 27 member states on Feb. 24 to discuss those sanctions.

On the U.S. side of things, its intelligence had been predicting a Russian invasion for some time, as President Joe Biden announced Russia’s intentions to the world in a press conference last week.

He will also be announcing sanctions against Russia at a press conference on Feb. 24.

Outside of public officials, the feeling of everyday citizens of the world was one of profound sadness and prayer following Russia’s invasion. 

As explosions erupted and the firefights started, everyday Ukrainians were caught in the middle, and now millions are streaming out of the cities under siege to hopefully safer circumstances alongside their families. They are the focus of the world amid its darkest hour in a long time.

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