Desert-area leaders declare support for the Ukrainian people
Coachella Valley Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36) issued a message on Twitter Thursday morning to declare his alliance with the people of Ukraine.
His tweet read:
"Russia's declaration of war on Ukraine threatens peace and stability around the globe. I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people to protect their sovereignty, and my prayers are with them. The United States and our allies will work closely together to deter and defend against further Russian aggression and to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for his actions."@RepRaulRuizMD
Russia's declaration of war on Ukraine threatens peace and stability around the globe. I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people to protect their sovereignty, and my prayers are with them. (1/2) https://t.co/2SNUriJTgZ— Raul Ruiz (@RepRaulRuizMD) February 24, 2022
Independent California Assemblyperson Chad Mayes tweeted, " Ukraine will fall to Russia only if the West lets it happen. This is an existential fight against the rise of the autocrats. We must stand in unity against this threat to freedom and democracy and we must win." He added the trending hashtag #IStandWithUkraine.
Ukraine will fall to Russia only if the West let’s it happen. This is an existential fight against the rise of the autocrats. We must stand in unity against this threat to freedom and democracy and we must win. #IStandWithUkraine— Chad Mayes (@ChadMayes) February 24, 2022
The Town of Yucca Valley tweeted: "In light of recent events, the Town of Yucca Valley stands in support of the people of Ukraine."
In light of recent events, the Town of Yucca Valley stands in support of the people of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/PzCd75OkkW— Town of Yucca Valley (@MyYuccaValley) February 24, 2022
'Fierce fighting’ rocks Ukraine as Russia launches major invasion
By Matthew Chance, Nathan Hodge, Tim Lister, Laura Smith-Spark and Ivana Kottasová, CNN
Russia has launched an unprecedented military assault on Ukraine by land, air and sea that has already left dozens dead, prompting Western leaders to condemn Moscow and vow unity with Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials said more than 40 soldiers and as many as 10 civilians had been killed since the Russian invasion began shortly before dawn. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser in the President’s Office, said a few dozen soldiers had also been injured and “as far as I know, at the moment there are a few civilian deaths — up to 10.”
The Russian attack on Ukraine has so far involved “roughly more than 100 Russian-launched missiles of various types,” a senior US defense official said Thursday.
Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin told CNN that Ukrainian troops had retreated from “fierce fighting” with Russian forces for control of the strategic Antonov airbase on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, but were staging a counterattack.
Earlier Thursday, large numbers of Russian helicopters dropped Russian troops at the airbase to secure it, he said.
A CNN team spoke with Russian airborne troops on the perimeter of the airbase, only about 20 miles from the heart of the capital, and heard exchanges of fire with Ukrainian forces.
Yenin told CNN that Russian forces appeared to be encircling Kyiv and look poised to attempt an invasion of the city. Ukrainian officials believe the Russian plan is to overthrow the Ukrainian leadership and install a pro-Russian government.
As air raid sirens rang out across the capital Thursday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky moved to enact martial law and government ministers accused Moscow of launching a “full scale invasion” that would be resisted.
The first blasts were heard at around 5 a.m. local time Thursday, prompting immediate condemnation from the United States and its allies, which have threatened to enact “full scale” sanctions in response to Russian military aggression.
Russia’s invasion follows weeks of warnings from the United States and other Western powers that an attack against Ukraine was imminent — and weeks of denials by Moscow that it planned any such action.
CNN teams on the ground heard explosions in and near multiple Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, the second largest city Kharkiv, Odessa, and distant firing from Zaporizhzhiya. Images released by Zelensky’s office showed large explosions to the east of Kyiv with huge columns of smoke rising into the air.
In an emotional speech Thursday afternoon, Zelensky called on world leaders for support, warning that if Ukraine doesn’t get help now, “war will come knocking at your door tomorrow.”
“In the Donbas — our Armed Forces are doing exceptionally, the Kharkiv direction is most difficult, the defense forces are working, they are holding the city securely. The most problematic situation in the south. Our troops are fighting fierce battles in the suburbs of Kherson. The enemy is pushing from the occupied Crimea, trying to advance towards Melitopol,” Zelensky said in an update on the military situation.
Russian troops were slowly advancing in the Chernihiv region in Ukraine’s north, he said, but Ukrainian defenses were holding elsewhere.
Heavy traffic could be seen clogging roads heading west out of the capital as dawn broke, while further east, near the Russian border, the mayor of Kharkiv urged citizens not to leave their homes.
Western leaders were united in their swift and strong condemnation of Russia’s military action.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement saying Russia had launched “an unprovoked and unjustified attack” on the Ukrainian people, adding that “the world will hold Russia accountable.”
Biden is expected to spell out a raft of sanctions later Thursday in an address to the nation. The measures could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions and slap sanctions on additional members of Putin’s inner circle.
“There is no justification for any of this — this is Putin’s war,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters in Berlin. “In attacking Ukraine, the Russian President Putin is blatantly infringing on international law,” he said, adding that it is a “terrible day for Ukraine and a very dark day for Europe.”
Russian stocks plunged Thursday, with the country’s main index dropping 45% before recovering some losses. The ruble briefly crashed to a record low against the US dollar.
Ukrainian official: ‘Full-fledged’ war has begun
Families crowded into subway stations in Kyiv as city authorities issued an air raid warning and urged residents to seek shelter underground.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on his official page that “peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strike” and called the situation “a war of aggression.” And an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, Anton Gerashchenko, told journalists Russia’s “invasion has begun” with “missile strikes on Kyiv.”
CNN witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.
In recent weeks, Russia has amassed a significant number of troops, vehicles and tanks in Belarus near the border with Ukraine. The two countries have held joint military exercises across the countries, and near the Belarus-Ukrainian border.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told CNN that a “full-fledged large-scale war has begun in Europe.”
“From the north, east and south, Russian forces went on the offensive against Ukraine. Tanks, planes, diversion groups from Russia,” he said.
Zelensky tweeted that Russian forces were attempting to seize control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of Europe’s worst nuclear disaster. “Our defenders are sacrificing their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” he said.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said one Russian K-52 helicopter was shot down in the Kyiv region, as well as three other helicopters. It was unclear if the other three were Russian or Ukrainian.
Earlier Thursday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said six Russian planes had been shot down as forces attacked Ukraine. Russian military denied the claims, state news agency TASS reported.
The missiles fired by Russia include “short-range ballistic missiles” as the primary weapon, as well as “medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles,” and “sea-launched missiles from the Black Sea,” the US official said Thursday.
Russia also deployed 75 fixed-wing heavy and medium bombers in the initial attack and initiated “some ground incursions” into Ukraine from Belarus, northwest of Kyiv, the official added.
So far, Russian targets in Ukraine have included “military and air defense” targets, meaning “barracks, ammunition warehouses, nearly 10 airfields,” the official said. “We do not have a good sense of total damage, as you might expect. We do not have a good sense of casualties, civilian and or military,” the official added.
UK military intelligence earlier said more than 80 strikes had been carried out against Ukrainian targets.
Putin vows ‘immediate’ response if countries intervene
Hours before the invasion began, Putin announced a military operation in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which contains Donetsk and Luhansk, the separatist-held regions that Moscow recognized as independent on Monday — in violation of international law.
In the address, broadcast live on Russian national television, Putin urged Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and go home, saying all responsibility for possible bloodshed would be entirely on the conscience of the Ukrainian government.
“Our plans are not to occupy Ukraine, we do not plan to impose ourselves on anyone,” he said, but threatened “those who may be tempted to intervene” on Ukraine’s behalf.
“Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never experienced in your history,” he said.
The launch of the Russian military operation came even as members of the UN Security Council met in New York to call for a peaceful resolution to the impending crisis.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told foreign journalists Thursday that the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine are among the objectives of Russia’s military action in the country, which he described as a “special operation.”
“Ideally, Ukraine should be liberated, cleansed of Nazis, of pro-Nazi people and ideology,” Peskov said, though he refused to say if that meant regime change in Kyiv. This Russian claim of a need to “denazify” Ukraine is one Putin has touted repeatedly over the years and is entirely baseless.
Russian authorities have warned Russian citizens not to participate in anti-war protests.
Speaking in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a “brutal act of war” and said it put “countless innocent lives” at risk.
“Peace on our continent has been shattered. We now have war in Europe, on the scale and of the type we thought belonged to history,” he said. “NATO allies condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. It is a blatant violation of international law, an act of aggression against a sovereign independent and peaceful country.”
NATO will increase land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank, the security alliance said in a statement.
What’s happening on the ground
Ukraine’s borders were reportedly under attack from Russian forces to the north in Belarus and the south from Crimea, according to the Ukrainian State Border Service.
Russian troops had attacked border units, patrol border and checkpoints with “artillery, heavy equipment and small arms,” the border service said.
The Russian military claimed Ukraine’s border service “did not provide any resistance” and claimed to have “suppressed” Ukraine’s air defenses. CNN was not able to immediately verify either of those claims.
Gerashchenko, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser, tweeted that troops had landed in the southern city of Odessa and were crossing the border in Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. In a post on his Facebook page, he also said control centers such as airfields and military headquarters were being hit by shelling in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and that there was artillery fire along the border.
Ukrainian authorities said seven people were killed and 17 wounded in a missile attack on a military area north-east of the capital.
The mayor of Brovary, Ihor Sapozhko, said the attack occurred at 2:30 p.m. local time. Brovary has a Ukrainian Special Forces base.
Three military facilities in the Lviv region have been attacked, according to regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy. Kozytskyy told journalists that facilities located in Kamianka, Brody and Novyi Kalyniv — all in the Lviv region — were affected.
The Russian military released a statement Thursday claiming it was not targeting Ukrainian cities, saying “the civilian population is not at risk.”
“The Russian Armed Forces are not launching any missile or artillery strikes on the cities of Ukraine. High-precision weapons destroy military infrastructure: military airfields, aviation, air defense facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the statement read.
But despite the Russian military’s claims that civilians wouldn’t be targeted, many chose to leave the capital, while others hunkered down in shelters.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a curfew Thursday from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time but said the city’s subway stations would stay open around the clock.
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
CNN’s Anna Chernova, Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Gul Tuysuz, Ellie Kaufman, Barbara Starr, Allegra Goodwin, Vasco Cotovio, Helen Regan, Hada Messia, Nadine Schmidt, Jo Shelley, Erin Burnett and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this report.