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Russia Attack On Ukraine Updates Courtesy Of CNN

French President Calls For Russian Military Operations In Ukraine To End “Immediately”*
French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia must “immediately” end military operations in Ukraine.

“France strongly condemns Russia’s decision to wage war on Ukraine. Russia must end its military operations immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday. “France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands with Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war.”

The French president spoke with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky early Thursday morning, with Zelensky asking for “multiple interventions” to support Ukraine, according to the Elysee Palace.

Zelensky also requested “unity in Europe,” and Macron “assured him of France’s support and solidarity,” according to the Elysee.
Macron also spoke with Charles Michel, president of the European Council, Thursday morning.

6 min ago
*EU Leader Promises “Harshest Ever Sanctions” Against Russia In Response To “Barbaric Attack”*
European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to “weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize” following the “barbaric attack” by Moscow against Ukraine.

“We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets,” Von der Leyen told reporters on Thursday.

“We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments that are being used to justify it.”
“Harshest” sanctions: Von der Leyen said she will present “massive and strategic” sanctions against Russia for approval later today.
“These sanctions are designed to take a heavy toll on the Kremlin’s interests and their ability to finance war. And we know that millions of Russians do not want war,” she said.
“We will not allow President [Vladimir] Putin to replace the rule of law, by the rule of force, and ruthlessness,” she said, “Ukraine will prevail.

8 min ago
*Leader Of Civil Liberties Organization: Russia’s Attack Could Cause A “Refugee Crisis”*
Oleksandra Matviichuk, chair of the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, told CNN on Thursday she fears the Russian attack on Ukraine will cause a “refugee crisis.”
“I am in Kyiv. And a lot of people stay in Kyiv and will fight for our country and for our city, and for our dignity,” she said. “But people with children, people without parents, people who are scared (will) try to leave (the) city.”

She added that she fears Russia’s attack will also target journalists, civil activists, human rights defenders, and volunteers “who are … resistant to the occupation.”
When asked what could possibly prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back, Matviichuk responded, “Now, it all depends onto immediate reaction of the West.”
“We, as Ukrainians, will win,” she said. “I don’t know how my personal story will end but I have no doubt Ukraine will stand. But we need time, and (the) West can provide this time, with their immediate reaction.”

20 min ago
*Subway Stations Become Improvised Bunkers In Kyiv, As People Leave The Ukrainian Capital*
In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, subway stations have become improvised bunkers. Witnesses in the city told CNN the stations are full of people carrying supplies, organized in groups.
The stations are full — but not the trains themselves, which are still running smoothly.

Ukrainians flee Kyiv: Photos began emerging Thursday morning of heavy traffic in the city, with long lines of cars heading out of Kyiv.

“While we hear those (air raid) sirens, you can imagine how panicked the people of this city are being shaken out of their beds at these thundering explosions that have been taking place all around us,” said CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv earlier today.

“All that traffic is heading in one direction … driving as fast as they can to the west towards the safer areas, if you’d like, of the country, perhaps towards Poland, which is three or four or five hours drive from from here. You can see it’s almost a constant stream of traffic the residents of this country moving out towards the west, the opposite direction of of Russia.”

21 min ago
*Poland & Baltic Countries Trigger Consultations Under NATO Article 4*
From CNN’s Brad Lendon in Seoul, South Korea and Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
NATO member states Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have triggered NATO Article Four to launch consultations within the alliance over their security concerns.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represented a “threat to the whole of Europe,” the Estonian government said in a statement on Thursday.
“Russia’s widespread aggression is a threat to the entire world and to all NATO countries, and NATO consultations on strengthening the security of the Allies must be initiated to implement additional measures for ensuring the defense of NATO Allies,” Kallas said. “The most effective response to Russia’s aggression is unity.”

Some context: Under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Agreement, the Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the allies is threatened.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO. However, Russia has demanded that NATO commits to never admitting Ukraine to the alliance, something NATO members have rejected, citing the alliance’s “open door” policy.

28 min ago
*People Urged To Take Cover In Ukrainian City Of Lviv*
From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq in Atlanta and journalist Sofiya Harbuziuk in Lviv, Ukraine
Residents of Lviv in western Ukraine were urged not to panic by local authorities on Thursday following Russia’s attack on the country, according to local reports.

Authorities in the city said residents should turn off their lights and take cover, a local state-run TV report said. They should also hold on to their important documents, the report added.
A CNN team on the ground heard the sound of sirens multiple times on Thursday.

CNN reporters also saw residents in the outskirts of Lviv lining up outside banks to withdraw cash.
Some diplomats previously relocated to Lviv, which is located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the border with Poland, over the past couple of weeks as fears grew that a Russian attack on Ukraine would include the capital, Kyiv.

24 min ago
Flight Tracker Shows Mostly Empty Airspace Above Ukraine & Western Russia*
Imagery from flight tracking service Flightradar24 shows mostly empty airspace above Ukraine and western Russia, with planes in the area steering clear of the border regions.
Early on Thursday, Ukraine’s aviation authorities issued a notice restricting the country’s airspace, covering the regions around Kyiv, Dnipro, Lviv, Odessa and Simferopol.
European aviation regulators also warned that any civilian aircraft near the Ukrainian border could face a “high risk” of being targeted.

14 min ago
*Japan’s Prime Minister Says Russia’s Invasion “Shakes Foundations Of International Order”*
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine, saying it “shakes the foundations of the international order.”
“We strongly criticize Russia’s actions and will cooperate with the United States and the international community to respond swiftly,” Kishida told reporters at a news conference.
Kishida added that Tokyo would continue to work with relevant ministries to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals in Ukraine.

When asked about further sanctions against Moscow, Kishida told reporters he would consider future measures after communicating with other G7 nations and the international community.
Some context: Kishida on Wednesday said Japan will impose sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Kishida said Japan will suspend the issuance of visas and freeze the assets of people involved in recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine. He did not specify names or how the sanctions would be carried out.
He also said Japan will ban imports and exports to and from Donetsk and Luhansk, and prohibit the issuance and circulation of Russian bonds in Japan.

45 min ago
*Belarus’ Lukashenko Convenes A Meeting With Military, State Media Says*
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will convene a meeting with his military, state-run news agency Belta reported on Thursday.
Belarus and Russia have close military ties, and Russian troops recently deployed to Belarus for extensive military drills.

CNN has witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.

Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke earlier Thursday morning about the ongoing situation in Ukraine, Belta reported.

46 min ago
Ukraine Defense Ministry: “Russian Troops Are Suffering Losses”
From CNN’s Mick Krever in Kharkiv and Tim Lister in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Thursday its forces are countering the Russian offensive “with dignity” and inflicting losses on Moscow’s troops.

“National Defence Forces, using the right for self-defence according to the article 51 of the United Nations Charter are countering with dignity the enemy’s attempts to break through the state border,” the Ministry said in a statement shared on Whatsapp. “Situation is controlled. The Russian troops are suffering losses.”

The Ministry also said there had been “no losses among the defenders of Ukraine.”
In an earlier statement, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it had neutralized Ukrainian air defenses.

CNN has been unable to independently verify either of these claims.

47 min ago
*Long Lines Of Cars In Kyiv Heading Out Of Ukrainian Capital*
Photos from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv are emerging of long lines of cars heading out of the city after Russia’s attack early Thursday morning. Heavy traffic appears to be all moving west, away from where explosions were heard this morning, with few cars going east.
Earlier Thursday morning, CNN reporters heard explosions coming from the east of the city, in the direction of Boryspil International Airport.
Explosions have also been reported in other parts of Ukraine including Kharkiv and the port city Odessa.

24 min ago
*Russian Military Vehicles Enter Ukraine From Crimea*
Russian military vehicles have entered Ukraine through Crimea, according to a video released by the Ukrainian Border Guard.

It’s unclear which border crossing the vehicles are entering Ukraine from — Chongar in the east or Kalanchak in the west.

Earlier this morning, livestream video from the Belarus border crossing showed a column of troops and military vehicles crossing into Ukraine. The video was shot around 6:48 a.m. local time at the crossing between Senkivka, Ukraine, and Veselovka, Belarus.

The Ukrainian Border Guard told CNN in a statement earlier that their borders were attacked by Russia, and Belarus, “with the use of artillery, heavy equipment and small arms.”

28 min ago
*UK’s Boris Johnson Told Zelensky “The West Would Not Stand By” As Russia Attacks*
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call on Thursday that “the West would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people,” according to Downing Street.

Johnson and Zelensky spoke over the phone after Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, according to a statement tweeted by Downing Street.

Johnson told Zelensky on the call that “he was appalled by the unfolding events in Ukraine,” said the statement. It added that Johnson hoped “Ukraine could resist,” and that the United Kingdom had Ukrainians in their thoughts “during this dark time.”

28 min ago
*Bitcoin Price Falls After Russia Attacks Ukraine*
The price of bitcoin fell below $35,000 early Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
Bitcoin was trading at $34,969 as of 1:22 a.m. ET, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s a decline of more than 8% compared to a day earlier.
The world’s most valuable cryptocurrency fell below $40,000 over the weekend, and has continued to slide as the Ukraine crisis intensifies.

29 min ago
*Ukraine’s President: “The World Is With Us”*
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted on Thursday that he is continuing consultations with world leaders.
“The world is with us,” he wrote. “I continue negotiations with the leaders. Received support from the Emir of Qatar.”

Earlier in the morning, he tweeted that he had spoken with US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

32 min ago
*Chinese Embassy In Ukraine Warns Nationals To Stay Inside, And Put Chinese Flags On Their Cars For Safety*
From CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Caitlin McGee in Auckland
The Chinese embassy in Ukraine released a warning for its citizens in the country early Thursday, urging them to place the Chinese flag on their vehicles for safety.

“The situation in Ukraine has deteriorated dramatically. There have been bombings in multiple cities, and the military operations are under way,” said the statement from the embassy. It urged citizens to stay home and away from windows or glass, warning “serious riots” may happen on the streets.

It added that if Chinese nationals are driving on the roads, “the Chinese national flag can be affixed to the visible part of the car body.”

It also asked Chinese nationals to pay close attention to the situation, stay in contact with overseas Chinese organizations, and to “extend a helping hand to each other to reflect the image of the Chinese people and the strength of China.”

A tricky spot for China: China has found itself in an uncomfortable position during the ongoing crisis; China and Russia have have presented an increasingly united front in the face of what they view as Western interference into their domestic affairs and threats to their security. That partnership was very publicly bolstered only weeks ago at a Xi-Putin summit.
Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, called for all parties to “stay cool headed and rational” on Wednesday night, saying “a peaceful solution” was still possible — even as the Ukrainian ambassador declared it was “too late” for de-escalation given Russia’s attacks.

37 min ago
*US Embassy In Kyiv Tells Americans To “Shelter In Place”*
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
The United States Embassy in Kyiv has issued a warning for Americans in Ukraine to “shelter in place” due to Russian attacks in a number of major Ukrainian cities.
“There are reports of Russian attacks on targets in a number of major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Mariupol,” the embassy said on Twitter.

“US citizens in Ukraine are advised to shelter in place and take the following actions:
• If you hear a loud explosion or if sirens are activated, immediately seek cover.
• If in a home or a building, go to the lowest level of the structure with the fewest exterior walls, windows, and openings; close any doors and sit near an interior wall, away from any windows or openings.
• If you are outdoors, immediately seek cover in a hardened structure; if that is not possible, lie down and cover your head with your hands.”

42 min ago
*Russian Military Claims It Met No Resistance From Ukrainian Border Guards*
The Russian military claimed in a statement Thursday that Ukraine’s border service “did not provide any resistance” to Russian units invading Ukrainian territory.
The statement also claimed the Russian military had “suppressed” Ukraine’s air defenses.
CNN was not able to immediately verify either of those claims.

Aircraft denial: In the same statement, the Russian military denied claims by Ukrainian forces that they had downed several Russian aircraft, saying reports “do not correspond with reality.”
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces earlier said that five Russian aircraft and a helicopter were shot down early Thursday, as Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

42 min ago
*European Leaders Urge Strong Sanctions Against Russia & Aid For Ukraine*
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė urged “strong and united action” in a tweet on Thursday.
For anyone who doubted, the time to start seeing things for what they are is long past,” she wrote.
The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia released a joint statement condemning “in (the) strongest possible way, the open large scale Russian (aggression) against the independent, peaceful and democratic Ukraine.”

The statement said Russia’s actions were a “blatant violation of the international law” and a “crime against Ukrainian people that we condemn.” It called on the international community to “impose strongest possible sanctions on Russia,” and to provide Ukraine with military, economic, political and humanitarian aid.

Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau also condemned Russia’s actions in a tweet on Thursday, urging Moscow to “stop all military action immediately and return to diplomacy.” The lives of millions of people are at stake, he added.

55 min ago
*Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry: “This Is An Act Of War”*
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Russia’s military action Thursday as an “act of war” in a statement posted to Facebook.
“This is an act of war, an attack on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a gross violation of the UN Statute and the fundamental norms and principles of international law,” spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in the statement.

Nikolenko said Russian troops had carried out strikes on “peaceful” Ukrainian cities, in an offensive that aimed to “destroy the state of Ukraine, seize Ukrainian territory by force, and establish occupation control.”
“Ukraine is claiming its right to self-defence in accordance with international law,” the statement said, adding the Ukrainian military was ready to “repel the aggressor and defend the Ukrainian land with all their might.”

Call for help: Nikolenko urged the international community to “act immediately,” requesting new sanctions be applied to Russia and military equipment to support Ukraine’s’ defense capabilities.
“Lives and security not only of the Ukrainian citizens, but also on the security of the citizens of Europe and the future of the world order depends on our united response,” the statement added.

56 min ago
*Cars Head West In Kyiv, Away From Explosions In The East*
Traffic across Kyiv’s North Bridge on Thursday morning all appears to be moving west, with no cars going east.
Early this morning, CNN teams on the ground reported hearing explosions that sounded like they were coming from the east of the Ukrainian capital — the direction of Boryspil International Airport.

57 min ago
*European Leaders Condemn Russian Invasion “In Strongest Possible Terms”*
The President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission issued a joint statement Thursday condemning Russian military action in Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms.”
“Russia is grossly violating international law and undermining European and global security and stability,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement.

“We call on Russia to immediately cease the hostilities, withdraw its military from Ukraine and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. Such use of force and coercion has no place in the 21st century.”

European leaders to discuss action against Moscow: The statement said that Michel has scheduled a European Council meeting on Thursday to discuss the Ukraine crisis and potential punitive measures against Russia.

“We deplore the loss of life and humanitarian suffering. The EU and its Member States are ready to urgently provide humanitarian emergency response. We call on Russia and Russia-backed armed formations to respect international humanitarian law,” the statement added.
“The EU stands firmly by Ukraine and its people as they face this unparalleled crisis. The EU will provide further political, financial and humanitarian assistance.

“We are coordinating our response with our international partners, including NATO and G7 whose leaders will meet today.”

1 hr ago
*Tanks Enter Ukraine Via Belarus Border*
Livestream video shows tanks and other armored vehicles entering Ukraine through a border crossing with Belarus.
The video was taken at the Senkivka, Urkaine crossing with Veselovka, Belarus, shot around 6:48 a.m. local time.
The US Department of Defense is tracking the reported incursion of troops from Belarus into Ukraine, a US defense official said Thursday.
It was not clear if the troops were only Russian or also Belarusian, the source said.

1 hr 5 min ago
*Ukrainian Foreign Minister: “Ukraine Will Defend Itself. Ukraine Will Win”*
In a tweet on Thursday morning, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to “Ukrainians around the globe” to speak up and urge action from their leaders.
“Putin attacked, but no one is running away,” he wrote. “Army, diplomats, everyone is working. Ukraine fights. Ukraine will defend itself. Ukraine will win.”
“Share the truth about Putin’s invasion in your countries and call on governments to act immediately,” he said.

1 hr 3 min ago
*Kyiv Has Woken Up To A New Reality*
The first bangs came at just after 5 a.m. on Thursday, putting a definite end to any speculation about what Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to do.
Just minutes before, Putin announced he was ordering military operation in Ukraine. Now, the residents of Kyiv could hear the consequences first hand.

The explosions were coming from some distance away from the city center, but were clearly audible across the Ukrainian capital, the deep noise piercing through the quiet early morning.
Kyiv residents have been told stay at home and pack a bag with necessities, in case they need to leave abruptly.

Across the city, red arrows painted on walls indicate the locations of the nearest bomb shelters. The city first put them up after the war broke up in east of the country in 2014, but they were recently repainted again, so that they are unmissable.
At 6:18 a.m., two hours before the school day would usually get underway, parents of children attending the Ivan Franko school in the heart of Kyiv received a message informing them kids must stay at home on Thursday. Classes are moving online, but will continue.
Then, just after the sun came up, at 7 a.m., the air raid sirens went off for the first time.
While the streets within the city centre were calm and quiet, with hardly anyone walking around, the highways heading away from Kyiv were a lot busier than normal with heavy traffic heading northwest.

1 hr 13 min ago
*Ukraine Armed Forces Say 5 Russian Aircraft & A Helicopter Shot Down*
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has claimed five Russian aircraft and a helicopter were shot down early Thursday, as Russian forces attacked Ukraine.
The Russian military has denied the claims, state news agency TASS reported on Thursday.

1 hr 18 min ago
*Russian Attack Was Consistent With US Intelligence Forecast, US Senators Say*
US senators have said the unfolding attack in Ukraine is in line with intelligence briefings they received about what to expect from a Russian invasion.
In a series of tweets, Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Russia was launching a “full scale and comprehensive military assault throughout Ukraine.”

The attack involved “airborne and amphibious landings, missile strikes from air, ground and naval forces, electronic and cyber attacks and a large ground force to occupy a large swarth of territory,” Rubio said.

He added that Russian airborne forces are also working to “take control of the airport in Kyiv (so) they can fly in forces to occupy the (capital) city.” A source familiar with the matter said the tweets were based on US intelligence being shared with Intelligence Committee members.
Congress briefed on attack: As the Russian attack escalated late Wednesday, Sen. Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence chairman, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke with CIA Director William Burns, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN that senators would be briefed on the invasion by the White House Thursday.
“A lot of what we’re seeing happening in regards to the apparent air attacks on the defense infrastructure of Ukraine is all part of what was expected we would see,” Cardin said. “There is no justification for it. I can tell you there’ll be strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate and Congress for the strongest possible reaction by the United States and our allies.”

1 hr 24 min ago
*Airports In Southern Russia Have Restricted Operations, Aviation Authority Says*
Several Russian airports have restricted operations in relation to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, according to a statement from Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsia.
“In contraction with the difficult situation around Ukraine, from the 24th of February at 3.45am Moscow time, flights in a number of airports in the South of Russia have been suspended,” the statement read.
The restrictions will be in effect until March 2, according to the aviation authorities.
Flights are suspended at airports in:
• Rostov, Krasnodar, Anapa, Gelendzhik, Elista, Stavropol, Belgorod, Bryansk, Oryol, Kursk, Voronezh and Simferopol, Crimea.
“The aviation authorities of Russia strongly recommend that passengers on upcoming flights and those who are meeting flights go to those airports,” the statement read. “All changes in the schedule of airports and airlines should be clarified on the official websites of airports and airlines, including social networks.”

1 hr 32 min ago
*Mayor Of Kharkiv In Ukraine Warns Citizens Not To Leave Their Homes*
The mayor of Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, has urged citizens to stay home as explosions and sounds of artillery are reported across the country.
“Please do not leave your homes today. Due to the complicated situation, schools, kindergartens and other institutions do not work today — until the situation becomes clearer,” Mayor Igor Terekhov said in a Facebook post on Thursday morning.

“At the same time, public transport works as usual. I will keep you informed of what is happening and the actions of city authorities throughout the day.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine: The national capital Kyiv and second-largest city Lviv have both sounded air raid sirens — but the mood is still “remarkably calm” on the ground, according to CNN reporters on the ground. It’s about 8 a.m. there, with what looks like normal morning traffic as people head to work.

1 hr 36 min ago
*Pentagon Is Tracking Reported Incursion Of Troops From Belarus Into Ukraine, Source Says*
The US Department of Defense is tracking the reported incursion of troops from Belarus into Ukraine, a US defense official said Thursday.

It was not clear if the troops were only Russian or also Belarusian, the source said.
Some context: Through a livestream video, CNN witnessed troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus at about 6:48 a.m. local time Thursday.
The livestream video was taken at the Senkivka, Ukraine, crossing with Veselovka, Belarus.
In recent weeks, Russia has amassed a significant number of troops, vehicles and tanks in Belarus near the border with Ukraine. During that time, the two countries have held joint military exercises across the countries, and near the Belarus-Ukrainian border.
Early Thursday, the Ukrainian state border service said the country was attacked through multiple borders, including Belarus.

1 hr 39 min ago
*CNN Team Hears Air Raid Sirens In Lviv*
CNN reporters in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, heard sustained air raid sirens just before 7:45 a.m. local time (12:45 a.m. ET).

Reporters in the country’s capital of Kyiv also heard air raid sirens earlier Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, some diplomats relocated from Kyiv to Lviv as fears grew that a Russian attack on Ukraine would include the capital.

1 hr 40 min ago
*Moscow Exchange Suspends Trading*
From CNN’s Nathan Hodge in Moscow
The Moscow Exchange announced Thursday it had suspended trading on all of its markets until further notice.

1 hr 43 min ago
*South Korean Embassy In Kyiv Warns Its Citizens In Ukraine To Be Prepared For Emergency Evacuation*
The South Korean embassy in Kyiv strongly urged its citizens in Ukraine to be ready to evacuate to a safe area in case of an emergency, in a notice published before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine.

“Our embassy learned on February 23 that all Russian embassy and consulate staff in Ukraine hastily left Ukraine, and some national embassy staff also left Kyiv,” said the embassy on its website early Thursday.

“Considering the urgent change in the current situation, we strongly recommend that the South Koreans who are still in Ukraine be fully prepared so that they can move to a safe area or location promptly in case of an emergency,” the embassy said.

The embassy also urged all South Korean nationals in Ukraine to maintain contact with the embassy.

1 hr 44 min ago
*Stock Markets Plunge As Russia-Ukraine Crisis Escalates*
From CNN’s Laura He in Hong Kong
Asian markets and US stock futures plunged on Thursday as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 3.2%. Korea’s Kospi dropped 2.7%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 2.4% after coming back from a holiday. China’s Shanghai Composite moved 0.9% lower.
US stocks futures also tumbled. Dow futures were down as much as 780 points, or 2.4%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were down 2.3% and 2.8%, respectively.

The broad losses followed a sharp decline on Wall Street on Wednesday. The Dow closed down more than 464 points, or 1.4%, posting its fifth straight day of losses. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell 1.8% and 2.6%, respectively.

1 hr 38 min ago
*Japan’s Prime Minister Says He Will Work With G7 Nations On “Tense” Ukraine Situation*
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday that the situation in Ukraine is “tense” and he would work with G7 nations on the issue.

“The situation is tense. We will continue to work in collaboration with the international community, including the G7 nations,” Kishida told reporters. “We will do our best to collect information and get a grasp of the situation.”

Some context: Kishida on Wednesday said Japan will impose sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Kishida said Japan will suspend the issuance of visas and freeze the assets of people involved in recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine. He did not specify names or how the sanctions would be carried out.

He also said Japan will ban imports and exports to and from Donetsk and Luhansk, and prohibit the issuance and circulation of Russian bonds in Japan. Kishida added that the details of the sanctions will be discussed further.

Kishida said Wednesday that Russia’s actions had “clearly” violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law and urged Russia to resolve the situation through a diplomatic process.

1 hr 33 min ago
Ukrainian-Controlled Part Of Luhansk Announces General Evacuation*
A woman and child peer out of the window of a bus as they leave Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on Thursday, February 24. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
The Ukrainian-controlled part of Luhansk announced a general evacuation on Thursday morning as Russia attacked Ukraine.

“We recommend residents of Luhansk region to leave the region immediately,” the head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration, Serhiy Haiday, said on Facebook.

“The owners of vehicles should move in the direction of the Dnieper river on their own.”
Evacuation by train is being organized for those who cannot leave independently, he added, directing people to the Lysychansk, Rubizhne and Svatove train stations.

“During the evacuation, please remain calm and listen to the instructions of the authorities, the National Police and the State Emergency Service of Ukraine,” he said.

Luhansk is one of two separatist regions backed by Russia, along with Donetsk. Both regions, known as oblasts in Ukrainian, are split between parts controlled by Ukraine and by pro-Moscow separatists.

1 hr 51 min ago
*Ukraine Says It Was Attacked Through Russian, Belarus & Crimea Borders*
Ukraine was attacked through multiple borders, the Ukrainian state border service said early Thursday.
“At about 5:00 a.m., the state border of Ukraine in the area with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus was attacked by Russian troops supported by Belarus,” the service said.
It added that attacks are being carried out in Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr regions — areas on the eastern and northern borders of Ukraine. The attacks are targeting border units, border patrols and checkpoints using artillery, heavy equipment and small arms, the border service said.
“In addition, the attack takes place from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea side,” said the service.
Ukraine is firing back: It added that border guards, along with Ukraine’s Armed Forces and National Guard, are “firing at the enemy” depending on the situation on the border.

1 hr 59 min ago
*US Embassy In Kyiv Says Its Aware Of Military Engagements “Within Ukraine”*
The US Embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, said in a Twitter post Thursday that it is “aware of military engagements within Ukraine.”

“We will continue to monitor and provide updates. Americans are encourage to monitor this account and @TravelGov as we issue updates,” the tweet said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday that the small group of US diplomats who have remained in Ukraine were continuing to sleep in Poland and commuting to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Price said they had “every expectation that they will continue to do so as long as the security environment remains permissive.”

CNN has asked the State Department whether US diplomats returned to Ukraine on Thursday.
US officials had repeatedly urged Americans to leave Ukraine as they warned Russia could invade at any time.

2 hr 1 min ago
*Putin Spoke With Belarus’ Lukashenko On The Ukraine Situation*
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko spoke by phone on Thursday, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
“At about 5:00 a.m. today, a telephone conversation took place between the Presidents of Belarus and Russia, during which Vladimir Putin informed his Belarusian counterpart about the situation on the border with Ukraine and in the Donbas,” Belta cited the Belarusian presidential press service as saying.

*Troops Entering Ukraine Via Belarus:*
CNN has witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.

2 hr 3 min ago
*Troops & Military Vehicles Have Entered Ukraine From Belarus*
CNN has witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.

The livestream video was taken at the Senkivka, Ukraine crossing with Veselovka, Belarus. The column was seen entering Ukraine around 6:48 a.m. local time.

In recent weeks, Russia has amassed a significant number of troops, vehicles and tanks in Belarus near the border with Ukraine. During that time, the two countries have held joint military exercises across the countries, and near the Belarus-Ukrainian border.

2 hr 5 min ago
*Biden Says He Condemned Russian Attack In Call With Ukraine’s Zelensky*
In a statement, US President Joe Biden said he spoke late Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via a secure call after Zelensky reached out.

“I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the United Nations Security Council,” Biden said in the statement, adding that Zelensky had asked him “to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Biden added that he will meet with the leaders of the G7 nations, and that the US and its allies would impose “severe sanctions on Russia.”

CNN reporters and witnesses in cities across Ukraine have reported hearing explosions in the early hours of Thursday.
Here’s where:
• Kyiv: CNN reporters in Ukraine’s capital heard explosions from the east in the direction of the city’s international airport. Social media users reported hearing several explosions in the Boryspil area to the east of the capital, where the international airport is located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the city. CNN has not confirmed that the airport has been targeted.
• Kharkiv: A CNN team in Ukraine’s second biggest city, in the northeast of the country, heard a “steady stream of loud explosions.”
• Kramatorsk: Two people in the eastern city, located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of separatist-held Donetsk, told CNN they heard at least two massive explosions.
• Dnipro: A resident of the central city told CNN they had heard “a few explosions.”
• Mariupol: Two residents told CNN they heard explosions east of the city, which is located in the southeast of the country.
• Odessa: A CNN team in the Black Sea port city heard two groups of explosions about 20 minutes apart.
• Zaporizhzhia: A CNN team in the southeastern city said they heard at at least one very distant explosion.
Additionally, a CNN team in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Kharkiv, said they heard a regular stream of thuds that sounded like outgoing artillery fire. *CNN

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