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Russia attacks Ukraine

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What we know now

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine early Thursday.
  • Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russia’s “invasion has begun,” with reports of troops crossing the border from multiple directions, and explosions in multiple cities including the capital Kyiv.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky introduced martial law across the country on Thursday, urging citizens to remain calm. Earlier, he said he had tried to call Putin on Wednesday but was unsuccessful.
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Some of NATO's eastern countries have trigged Article 4. Here's what that means

NATO member states Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have triggered NATO Article 4 to launch consultations within the alliance over Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened,” Article 4 of The North Atlantic Treaty says.

According to the NATO website, consultation under Article 4 can lead to collective action among the 30 member states.

The website says Article 4 has been invoked six times previously since the alliance formed in 1949, most recently by Turkey in February 2020 after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed by an attack by Syrian government forces in opposition-held areas of northern Syria.

Turkey has invoked Article 4 on four other occasions: once in 2015 to inform the alliance of its response to terrorist attacks in the country; twice in 2012 after a Turkish warplane was shot down in northern Syria and after Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian shelling; and in 2003 when it asked for alliance help to protect its population from any spillover from the war in neighboring Iraq.

On two of those occasions, NATO responded with military aid, sending Patriot missile batteries to protect against Syrian attacks in 2012 and sending aircraft and missile batteries to southeastern Turkey along the border with Iraq in 2003.

Poland invoked Article 4 in 2014 after previous Russian aggression in Ukraine, a meeting that resulted in further alliance efforts to stand together against any threats.

Article 4 is separate from Article 5, which is the alliance’s declaration that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.

Putin lashes out with ominous threat to Ukrainians and other countries

Russian state television broadcasts an address by President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

Before the crack of dawn, just before explosions began in cities across Ukraine, Russian state television unexpectedly broadcast an address by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

The two self-proclaimed “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the breakaway Ukrainian region of Donbas, which he had officially recognized as independent less than two days before, had “turned to Russia with a request for help,” he said. To answer that call he was launching a “special military operation.” Its purpose: to “demilitarize” and “denazifiy” Ukraine. 

Within minutes, Russian missiles began hitting targets in Ukraine. “Our actions are self-defense against threats,” he told his fellow Russians, claiming Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukraine. “We do not plan to impose ourselves on anyone,” he insisted.

Putin described the “special military operation” in limited terms, to protect people living in Donbas who, he claimed, had been subjected to “genocide,” a charge that Ukraine has strenuously denied. But in the next breath, he lashed out more broadly: “NATO supports Ukrainian neo-Nazis … our actions are self-defense against threats.” 

Then, in an extraordinary passage, he spoke directly to members of Ukraine’s military, at that very moment in the crosshairs of the Russian military. Addressing them as “dear comrades,” he told them they had taken an “oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people, and not to the anti-people junta that is robbing Ukraine and abuses those same people.”

“Don’t follow its criminal orders!” he demanded. “I urge you to lay down your weapons and go home.” 

As he has done so many times before, Putin claimed Russia had no choice but to defend itself. With a hard-edged tone in his voice, he seemed to threaten the US, Europe and NATO which, in just a few minutes, would witness his armed forces opening fire on Ukraine, something the Kremlin had consistently dismissed as western “hysterics.” 

“Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history.

“We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made.”

Putin, who for years had criticized the West for ignoring his complaints about NATO’s expansion toward Russia’s borders, was finally striking back with fury. “I hope,” he concluded his short address, “that I have been heard.”

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "brutal" and "unprovoked," Australian prime minister says

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “brutal” and “unprovoked,” while announcing new sanctions on 25 more individuals and four financial institutions.

“We denounce what are unilateral hostile actions in Ukraine. Russia is flagrantly breaching international law and the UN Charter. Russia has chosen war,” Morrison said, speaking to reporters in a press conference Thursday.  

“Together with the international community, we are banding together in strong terms to condemn these outrageous acts in the strongest possible terms,” Morrison said. 

Morrison said the new sanctions would target army commanders, deputy defense ministers and Russian mercenaries “responsible for the unprovoked and unacceptable aggression,” as well as businesses that had been involved in the development and sale of military technology and weapons.

On Wednesday, Australia announced sanctions on eight members of Russia’s Security Council.

Morrison said there will be “further waves of sanctions” and that he was discussing with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on taking action against more than 300 members of Russian parliament. 

“We must ensure there is a cost for this violent, unacceptable and egregious behavior…there always must be a cost for such reprehensible violence.”

“This is a chilling reminder of the world that we live in, and where the threats and aggression of bullies and those who seek to intimidate others to seek their own advantage … is a reality,” Morrison said.

Morrison said there were no plans for Australia to engage in military support for Ukraine and that their military support had not been requested from the government.

“We work closely with NATO and their member states. What we are doing is working with them in other ways,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief: Russia attack is one of "darkest hours for Europe since World War II"

European Commission vice-president in charge of Foreign Policy Josep Borrell gives a joint press statement with Commission President on Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine Thursday ranked among the “darkest hours for Europe” in nearly 80 years, according to the European Union’s foreign policy chief.

Borrell promised “urgent assistance to Ukraine,” as well as supporting evacuation efforts, including of EU staff.

EU sanctions: Speaking alongside EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Borrell said punitive measures from the 27-member bloc against Russia would be “the harshest packet of sanctions that has ever been implemented.”

Von der Leyen said she will present “massive and strategic” sanctions against Russia for approval later today.