Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a pre-dawn attack on Ukraine Thursday, hitting cities with airstrikes and sending tanks across the border. The long-anticipated move, which U.S. intelligence agencies have been predicting for months, was widely condemned by world leaders.
President Biden, who convened a virtual meeting with G-7 allies early Thursday, is scheduled to address Putin’s “unprovoked and unjustified” assault in an address to the nation this afternoon.
Here’s what to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What exactly happened?
In a televised speech just before 6 a.m. Moscow time, Putin announced that his forces were entering Ukraine in what he described as a “special military operation” aimed at the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of the sovereign nation. Within moments of Putin’s address, distant explosions were witnessed by reporters in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa as Ukrainians woke up to a new, uncertain reality.
Have there been any casualties?
Oleksii Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said at least 40 people had been killed and dozens others wounded in the attack so far. Although given the size and sweep of the Russian invasion, it’s safe to expect that the actual number of casualties is higher.
Zelensky cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law.
“As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history,” he tweeted. “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom.”
The Ukrainian president said Russian forces were trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, and Ukrainian forces were battling other troops just miles from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, for control of a strategic airport.
Zelensky also described the invasion as “a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”
How did NATO react?
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “a brutal act of war.”
“Peace on our continent has been shattered,” he said.
At a tense emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Volodymyr Yelchenko, tore into his Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya.
“Your country declared a war against my country,” Yelchenko said, adding: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador.”
What was the response from the White House?
Biden participated in a virtual meeting early Thursday with G-7 leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to “discuss their joint response,” according to a White House official.
Biden plans to address the nation at 1:30 p.m. ET, when he is expected to announce “full-scale” sanctions against Russia.