Russian army moves into Ukraine, Putin demands Kyiv forces to surrender

Russian army moves into Ukraine.

MOSCOW, TGO: Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine today in what could be the start of war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) eastward expansion.

Shortly after Putin spoke, a reporter witness heard the sound of what appeared to be explosions in the distance from the capital, Kyiv.

Explosions also rocked the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and civilian aircraft were warned away as the US said a major attack by Russia on its neighbor was imminent.

In comments reported by Russian media, Putin said he had authorized a special military operation in breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces were only a matter of time.

Hours after pro-Russian separatists issued a plea to Moscow for help to stop alleged Ukrainian aggression – claims the US dismissed as Russian propaganda .Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to protect the people and demanded Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.

He repeated his position that NATO expansion to include Ukraine was unacceptable.

At the United Nations Security Council, the US said shortly before Putin’s announcement that an invasion was imminent.

“We are here tonight because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a full-scale, further invasion into Ukraine by Russia is imminent,” US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an emergency meeting.

“Tonight, we’re seeing the Russians close airspace, move troops into Donbas, and move forces into combat-ready positions. This is a perilous moment.”

Ukraine restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to “potential hazard”, hours after a conflict zone monitor warned airlines should stop overflights over the risk of an unintended shootdown or cyberattack.

An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto and a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv turned out of Ukraine’s airspace around the time a notice was issued, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Russia also partially closed its airspace in the Rostov flight information region to the east of its border with Ukraine “in order to provide safety” for civil aviation flights, according to its notice to airmen.

Convoys of military equipment including nine tanks were seen moving towards Donetsk earlier yesterday from the direction of the Russian border, reported.

Shelling has intensified since Russian President Vladimir Putin this week recognised two separatist regions as independent and ordered the deployment of what he called peacekeepers, a move the West calls the start of an invasion.

The UN Security Council met to discuss the stand-off yesterday night, in the 15-member body’s second late night meeting on the crisis this week.

A draft resolution calling out Moscow over its actions toward its neighbour is doomed to fail due to Russia veto power, however a Security Council diplomat said it would put Russia on notice that it is “not in compliance with international law.”

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke separately with her counterparts from Britain and Canada, while G7 leaders are also due to talk today.

Moscow has long denied that it has plans to invade despite massing tens of thousands of troops near its neighbour.

War in the horizon?

A total of 80% of the Russian soldiers assembled are in a position to launch a full-scale invasion on Ukraine, a senior US defence official said.

Satellite imagery taken yesterday showed new deployments in western Russia, many of them within 10 miles (16 km) of the border with Ukraine and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, US satellite company Maxar said.

The images showed field deployment, military convoys, artillery and armoured personnel carriers with support equipment and troops. The images could not be independently verified by reporters.

A 30-day state of emergency in Ukraine restricting the freedom of movement of conscripted reservists, curbing the media and imposing personal document checks, according to a draft text, begins on Thursday.

The Ukrainian government has also announced compulsory military service for all men of fighting age.

While the West has held off the most stringent sanctions measures it could impose, the US stepped up the pressure by imposing penalties on the firm building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its corporate officers.

Germany on Tuesday froze approvals for the pipeline, which has been built but was not yet in operation, amid concerns it could allow Moscow to weaponised energy supplies to Europe.

While both sides have said they are still open to diplomacy to resolve the crisis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier Moscow had approved an offensive and not replied to an invitation for talks.

“Today I initiated a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. The result was silence,” he said.

Ukrainian government websites, which have experienced outages in recent weeks blamed by Kyiv on cyberattacks, were again offline on yesterday. Ukraine’s parliament, cabinet and foreign ministry websites were affected.