Ukraine-Russia live updates: Putin orders military operation in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation against Ukraine in an address carried on Russian state television early Thursday, as the Kremlin attacked military targets across Ukrainian territory in what President Biden called “premeditated war” against Russia’s western neighbor.

Putin described the goal of the military operation as ending the “genocide” against the people in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have been at war with Ukrainian forces since 2014.

“Its goal is to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years,” Putin said. “And to this end, we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. We will also bring to justice those who committed the numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Though Putin said the operation was about the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, the Russian military proceeded to attack a wide range of targets across the country, including in the capital, Kyiv, and the eastern city of Kharkiv.

Putin said Russia didn’t plan to occupy Ukrainian territory but made references to the right to self-determination by local peoples, suggesting that Moscow could be planning to organize referendums in areas of Ukraine after the military campaign.

The Russian leader made mention of the referendum that Russia held in Crimea in 2014, subsequently annexing the piece of Ukrainian territory located on the Black Sea.

Putin also directly addressed members of the Ukrainian armed forces, calling on them to lay down their arms and refuse to take orders from their superiors in Kyiv.

He also warned anyone considering interfering with Russia’s plans of grave consequences, appearing to threaten the use of nuclear weapons.

“Whoever tries to interfere with our actions should know that the Russian response will be immediate and will lead to the kind of consequences you have never experienced in your entire history,” Putin said. “We are ready for any scenario of events.”

He said Russia could no longer tolerate a Ukraine that he said had been taken hostage by forces hostile to Russia.

Putin said Russia “cannot feel safe and develop and exist with the constant threat coming from the modern territory of Ukraine.”

Therefore, he said, he had no choice but to authorize a military operation. He noted, “We simply weren’t given any other option to defend Russia and our people other than that which we will use today.”

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