Sunday, February 25

Russia-Ukraine conflict live updates: World leaders condemn Putin, Ukraine battles Russian attack

After weeks of waiting, Ukrainians face Russia’s terrifying might

People wait for buses as they attempt to evacuate the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday.Pierre Crom / Getty Images

Ukrainians are facing the terrifying force of a deadly Russian onslaught, which has turned weeks of quiet fears into reality.

Air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine’s capital Kyiv Thursday as explosions boomed and flashed in cities across the country minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military action against its western neighbor.

At the same time, long lines snaked outside of ATMs, supermarkets and gas stations in cities such as Kyiv and Mariupol as people scrambled to prepare for what was coming. 

Residents told NBC News of how their lives have been turned upside down overnight, with communities across the country gripped with “severe panic.”

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NATO calls Russian attack ‘unjustified and unprovoked,’ deploys extra forces

NATO called Russia’s attack on Ukraine “entirely unjustified and unprovoked” in a statement on Thursday. 

“This renewed attack is a grave violation of international law, including the UN Charter,” said the North Atlantic Council. “It constitutes an act of aggression against an independent peaceful country.”

NATO has reiterated its support for the sovereignty of Ukraine as well as its territorial waters. It called on Russia to “immediately cease its military action and withdraw all its forces” and to “allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access and assistance to all persons in need.”

It also announced additional defensive land, sea, and air forces to be deployed in the eastern flank of NATO near Ukraine and Russia which it called as “preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory” measures.

“It is Russia, and Russia alone, which has chosen escalation,” the statement said.

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Russia aims to neutralize Ukraine’s ‘military potential’, Kremlin spokesman says

Russia said Thursday its aim to is to neutralize Ukraine’s “military potential.” 

In a briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s attack on Ukraine was “dictated only by our national interests and concern for the future.”

“These are the only goals,” he said.  “No one talks about occupation, this word does not apply here. Russia’s aim is neutralization of Ukraine’s military potential.”

World leaders condemn Russian attacks in ‘Europe’s darkest hour’

World leaders have joined President Joe Biden in his condemnation of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and vowed to hold Moscow accountable.

In Europe, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz all criticized military action, as did the leaders of Ukraine’s neighbors in Poland and Romania. 

Elsewhere, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack “egregious” and the prime ministers of Australia and Japan voiced their disapproval.  

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At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers killed, presidential adviser says

Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence square in central Kyiv on Thursday.Daniel Leal / AFP – Getty Images

Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the midst of Russia’s attack, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych said Thursday that at least 40 soldiers had been killed in the hours since Russia launched its assault. Arestovych said most of the fatalities were caused by airstrikes and rocket strikes in the morning.

He said that less than 10 civilians were also reported to have been killed.  

Russia has launched ‘full-scale attack’ from ‘multiple directions,’ Ukraine’s foreign minister says

People examine the damage caused by a rocket to a building in Kyiv on Thursday.Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Ukraine’s foreign minister has sounded the alarm that Russia’s attack has quickly evolved into a “full-scale attack from multiple directions.” 

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“No, this is not a Russian invasion only in the east of Ukraine, but a full-scale attack from multiple directions,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet Thursday morning.

Still, he said, “the Ukrainian defense has not collapsed.”

“Ukrainian army took the fight. Ukraine stands with both feet on the ground & continues to defend itself,” he said. 

China avoids calling Russian action an ‘invasion’

China on Thursday repeated its call for all parties involved in the situation in Ukraine to exercise restraint.

“We still hope that parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalation,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing.

Hua rejected a reporter’s description of Russia’s predawn military operation as an “invasion.” 

She also responded to comments by Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman, who suggested on Wednesday that since China often promotes the principle of sovereignty, it should use its “considerable influence and sway” with Russia to persuade Putin to back down.

“The U.S. is not in a position to tell China how to respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hua said, citing what she said was interference by the U.S. and its allies on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other of China’s “internal affairs.”

Kyiv resident and journalist Volodymyr Yermolenko described hearing explosions in the capital and said Ukrainians will fight Russian aggression.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with Russia, comparing attack to WW2

Ukraine has officially severed diplomatic relations with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Thursday morning as he called on Russians to protest the attack on Ukraine, comparing it to the Second World War. 

“For all those who have not yet lost their conscience in Russia, it is time to go out and protest against the war with Ukraine,” he said in a tweet.

“Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years,” he said in a separate post. “As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history.”

Russia, he said “has embarked on a path of evil,” while Ukraine “is defending itself & won’t give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.”

In a separate statement, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would “lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands.”

“We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities,” he said in another post.

Ukraine’s neighbors, Lithuania and Moldova, announce states of emergency

Lithuania and Moldova — two countries bordering Ukraine — are introducing a state of emergency, their presidents said Thursday.

“Today I will sign a decree on introducing the state of emergency, which will passed by the Parliament in an extraordinary session,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said in an address on Thursday morning.

He called Russia’s actions “unprovoked military aggression” which threaten “millions of innocent lives and undermines the foundations of international order.”

The president has reiterated that “Lithuania is safe” as a part of NATO and said the Baltic state would consider further sanctions on Belarus over its involvement.

Moldova, which is not a part of NATO, is ready to accept the thousands of people feeling from Ukraine, said President Maia Sandu.“We will help people who need our help and support,” she said on Thursday.

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