MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. Russia has begun a military operation in Ukraine following a request from the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics for assistance in repelling Kiev’s military aggression, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in urgent address on Thursday.
He said that Moscow would seek the "demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine, called upon the Ukrainian army to lay down weapons and warned there would follow a prompt response to attempts at foreign intervention from outside.
After that there followed reports of sounds of explosions in a number of Ukrainian cities, including Kiev and Kharkov. TASS has summarized the latest news regarding the situation.
After a message from the Donbass republics Putin made a decision to conduct a "special military operation."
"Its purpose is to protect the people who have for eight years been exposed to humiliation and genocide by the regime in Kiev. For this we will seek demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, and also press for bringing to justice those who have committed numerous bloody crimes against peaceful civilians, including Russian citizens."
Moscow’s plans to not include an occupation of Ukraine. It is for the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination. Also, Putin said that Russia could not let Kiev obtain nuclear weapons and recalled NATO’s illegitimate expansion to the east.
Address to Ukrainians
Putin urged the Ukrainian military to "lay down arms at once and leave for home."
"Those servicemen of the Ukrainian army who will meet this demand will be free to leave the zone of combat operations and return to their families." All responsibility for possible bloodshed "will rest upon entirely on Ukraine’s ruling regime."
In his address to the Ukrainian people, he explained that Russia’s actions were taken in self-defense from threats and from a "still greater misfortune than the one happening today."
"However difficult it may be to do this, I am asking you to understand this and calling for cooperation in order to turn this tragic page as soon as possible and to move forward together."
Warning to others
Putin warned against attempts at foreign intervention in the current developments, let alone foreign intervention.
"Nobody should feel any doubts that a direct attack on Russia would end with the potential aggressor’s defeat and terrible consequences for the attacker," he warned.
"Whoever may try to create obstructions to us, let alone pose threats to our country and our people, they should know that Russia’s response will follow without delay and entail consequences that you have never encountered in your history. We are prepared for any march of events. All necessary decisions in this connection will be made. I hope that I will be heard," Putin said.
First western reaction
Immediately after that US President Joseph Biden made a written statement, in which he blamed Russia for what he described as "a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering," and warned that "the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way."
Biden said that later on Thursday he would make a special address to announce further measures against Russia Washington and its allies would take.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that a meeting of the alliance’s member-countries will consider the effects of Russia’s actions towards Ukraine.