Putin declares war: Everything we know so far

Putin declares war: Everything we know so far
Explosion seen in Central Ukraine in Russian invasion

Explosions were heard across the country, including Kiev, after Russian president Vladamir Putin declared war on Ukraine.

On Thursday, Ukraine said the Russian leader had launched a “full-scale invasion” after he announced a “special military operation” in the east of the country. Shortly after his televised address, there were explosions reported in the outskirts of the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and the capital.

Earlier in the week, Putin dispatched troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent states. While Russia claimed the troops would be "peacekeeping", the US slammed it as "nonsense" and accused the country of creating a pretext for war.

On Monday, Putin said the decision to recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic's independence “should have been made a long time ago." He added that his country was "not afraid of anything or anyone."

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Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky called for "clear and effective actions of support" from Ukraine's allies during a late-night broadcast to the nation.

"It is very important to see now who our real friend and partner is, and who will continue to scare the Russian Federation with words only," he added.

Here is everything we know so far:

What is the cause of the tension in the region?

The current tensions date back to 2014 when the pro-Moscow Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown. This prompted fears in the Kremlin that the country was moving into the orbit of the West.

Putin responded by sending troops to annex Crimea, a territory of Ukraine. They also backed a rebellion led by pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donbas region, which led to 14,000 deaths.

What has happened now?

Russia declared war on Ukraine after explosions were heard across the country when Putin launched a major military assault on Ukraine. Putin warned that Moscow's response will be "instant" if anyone tries to take on Russia and urged Ukrainian soldiers to lay down weapons and return to their homes.

On Monday, Putin addressed a long list of grievances when describing Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history. He said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian land and after the Soviet collapse, was used by the West to contain Russia.

The president has decided to recognise the two Russian-backed regions in east Ukraine – Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic – as independent states.

He has ordered troops into the two regions to “maintain peace” – crossing the red line set by the West by deploying Russian forces on Ukrainian territory.

What has been the response?

Ukrainian president Zelensky said the government is introducing martial law on all territories of the state and urged citizens to stay at home as much as possible. He also tweeted that he is continuing negotiations with the world leaders, adding: "The world is with us."

Joe Biden vows that the world will hold Russia accountable, predicting major loss of life.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the Russian president has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction”, and is expected to announce further sanctions.

The meeting of the Cobra emergency committee follows a call between Johnson and Zelensky during the night as Russia launched its assault.

The prime minister – whose initial package of sanctions was criticised by senior Tories and opposition figures – has promised to respond “decisively” to the Russian onslaught.

So, what now?

Boris Johnson is leading a crisis meeting of senior ministers and officials to consider how to respond to Putin’s military action against Ukraine.

Junior UK foreign minister James Cleverly is bringing forward an unprecedented and coordinated sanctions package that starts today. More will be announced in the coming days.

He told Sky News, they would be the most severe sanctions Russia has ever seen. Cleverly also told BBC Breakfast that Ukrainians "should know that the UK stands with them".

He said the UK would be providing "direct assistance" to Ukraine in the defence of their country.

"This has long been planned by Vladimir Putin. This is an invasion and it is completely unprovoked and unjustified."

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