Ukraine declares martial law amid Russia’s military operation

People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. (DANIEL LEAL / AFP)

KIEV / MOSCOW – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday declared martial law in the country after Russia started a military operation against Ukraine.

In a video address, Zelensky said his country is under attack. According to the Interior Ministry, military depots and airfields in the capital were hit by missiles.

In Kiev, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places across the city, according to media reports. The country's airspace was closed for civilian aircraft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier authorized "a special military operation" responding to appeal from the leaders of the "republics" in the Donbass region. 

The Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry said it was evacuating passengers and staff from Boryspil, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency. 

Russian Armed Forces are destroying "military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces" with high-precision weapons

Defense Ministry, Russia

Media reports said there were also attacks in Kharkiv city in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, in Kramatorsk town in the frontline in eastern Ukraine, in Vasylkiv city near Kiev, in Dnipro city in central Ukraine as well as in the southern port city of Odesa. 

Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on Thursday on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, the Russian aviation authorities announced after authorization of the special operation. 

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian Armed Forces are destroying "military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces" with high-precision weapons, not targeting Ukrainian cities. 

Putin on Monday signed two decrees recognizing "the Lugansk People's Republic" and "the Donetsk People's Republic" as independent and sovereign states. 

"Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," he said. 

Putin called on "all people living on the territory of today's Ukraine" to "independently determine the future of their own and children." 

NATO has created fundamental threats year after year, expanding to the east and bringing its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders, Putin noted. 

Russia will not allow Ukraine to have nuclear weapons, he said, adding that Russia's actions are not connected with infringing upon Ukraine's interests but with protecting itself from "those who take Ukraine hostage." 

In case of external interference in the situation in Ukraine, Russia will respond immediately, he said. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russia will give "a strong response" to new US sanctions, "not necessarily symmetrical" but "sensitive" to Washington. 

Following Moscow's recognition of the two "republics" in east Ukraine's Donbass, the United States announced a package of restrictions targeting Russia's financial sector. 

Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force.

Vladimir Putin, President, Russia

The statement said that the sanctions are in line with Washington's ongoing attempts to "change Russia's course." 

ALSO READ: US sanctions Russia after Putin sends troops to Lugansk, Donetsk

Russia has proven that it is able to minimize the damage from the Western sanctions, and the pressure has failed to undermine Russia's determination to firmly defend its interests, the ministry stressed. 

Ukraine introduces special measures 

Ukraine has imposed special measures in regions bordering Russia, Belarus and those having access to the seas, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) of Ukraine said on Wednesday. 

The measures include the limitation of movement of private vehicles and floating devices, flights of light planes and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as restrictions on filming and photographing of certain objects, according to a statement on the SBGS website. 

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council proposed the parliament introduce a state of emergency across the country due to the buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. 

The Ukrainian Parliament backed the bill to introduce a state of emergency in the country starting Feb 24 amid the ongoing tensions with Russia, according to the parliament's press service. 

READ MORE: Ukraine urges talks over Russia's decision on Donetsk, Luhansk

The legislation, introducing the state of emergency in all Ukrainian regions except for the conflict-hit Lugansk and Donetsk regions, for 30 days, was supported by 335 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament. 

In the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where a Joint Forces Operation is underway, a special legal regime has been already in effect. 

According to Interfax-Ukraine news agency, the state of emergency in 22 Ukrainian regions envisages a ban on holding mass meetings and protests, on changing the place of residence by those liable for military service, and on the production of information materials that can destabilize the situation in the country. 

The new law also stipulates for restriction of freedom of movement, inspections of vehicles, premises and personal belongings of citizens, and the introduction of a curfew if the need arises. 

The Ukrainian Parliament backed the bill to introduce a state of emergency in the country starting Feb 24 amid the ongoing tensions with Russia

Besides, it provides for the evacuation of residents from places where there is a danger to the lives of people. 

Since November, Kiev and some Western countries have accused Russia of assembling heavy troops near the Ukrainian border, including in Belarus, with a possible intention of "invasion." 

Denying any intention to attack any country, Russia said it has the right to mobilize troops within its borders to defend its territory, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's increasing military activities near Russia's borders constitute a threat to Russia's border security. 

Putin-Erdogan talk 

President Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone conversation on Wednesday to discuss the Ukrainian crisis and security guarantees between Russia and the West. 

With regard to Russia's recognition of the two "republics" in east Ukraine's Donbass, Putin said "the Ukrainian authorities' aggression in Donbass and their categorical refusal to implement the Minsk Agreements," according to a Kremlin statement. 

As for Moscow's security proposals, Putin expressed his disappointment with the response from the US and NATO as they ignored Russia's legitimate concerns and demands. 

The leaders agreed to continue Russian-Turkish contacts in various formats.