Photos Show Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine as it Unfolds

After months of increasing tensions, Russia attacked neighboring Ukraine with a large-scale military operation in the wee hours of Thursday morning. In a televised speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered a “special military operation” to defend ethnic Russians in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The areas in eastern Ukraine are controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and were recognized Feb. 21 by Moscow as independent republics, a move which the EU denounced as a violation of international law.Ukrainian leadership has said at least 40 people have already been killed in what it called a “full-scale invasion” by Russian forces.

While Putin said the aim of the assault was to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine and to demilitarize (rather than occupy) Ukraine, the U.S. says Russia’s moves are intended to create a pretext for a wider invasion. Russian troops were already advancing at Ukrainian borders since months.

Continue reading: Putin Does Not Want to Revenge Ukraine, But Also The U.S. And Its Allies

According to reports, large explosions could be heard in Kyiv (the Ukrainian capital), Kharkiv (the northeastern region) and elsewhere on Thursday. Odessa was a major port and naval base in Ukraine, where 18 victims were reported to have been killed by a missile strike.

“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said, in Russian, in a direct appeal to Russia’s citizens. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”

Zelensky announced martial law Thursday morning and asked Ukranians for calm and to return to their homeland. Zelensky claimed that he tried to call Putin Wednesday evening before the invasion, but the Kremlin refused to respond. Many thousands of Ukranian citizens tried to flee cities including Kyiv. Others took refuge in underground stations and makeshift bunkers.

Continue reading: Here’s What We Know So Far About Russia’s Assault on Ukraine

World leaders quickly condemned Moscow’s actions, which U.S. President Joe Biden called “unprovoked and unjustified.” Following the invasion, the E.U. announced a raft of sanctions against Russia “designed to take a heavy toll on the Kremlin’s interests and their ability to finance war.”

Although Ukraine has existed for over three decades as an independent nation-state, in Putin’s eyes the former Soviet state is an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space.” In an attempt to rewrite history, the Russian leader said Feb. 21 that Ukraine never had “real statehood.” Ukraine had expressed a desire to join the military alliance NATO, a suggestion which Moscow condemned.

This is a collection of some of the best images that tell the story about the invasion to date.

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