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 Before dawn, Moscow time, on Thursday, February 24, Russian state television broadcast a speech by Vladimir Putin where the president announced the start of a “special military operation” in the Donbas (the area of eastern Ukraine claimed by separatists whose independence Moscow recognized earlier this week). Putin said the purpose of the military operation is to protect residents who “have been subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime for the past eight years.” The Russian president claimed that Moscow does not plan to occupy Ukrainian soil (dismissing Kyiv’s sovereignty over the Donbas), but he also called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms and “go home.”

Recent major developments:

  • Ukraine has declared a general mobilization,
  • The EU has announced “massive and targeted” sanctions targeting 70 percent of the Russian banking market, as well as measures to strangle Russia’s energy sector
  • After a group of anonymous hackers “declared war on Russia,” websites belonging to the propaganda network Russia Today started crashing.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian attacks have already killed at least 137 people, including all 13 soldiers stationed on Zmiinyi Island who died in combat before it fell to Russian forces.
  • Japan and multiple European states have stopped issuing visas to all Russian nationals.
  • The United States, Great Britain, and Canada have announced new sanctions, including measures targeting Aeroflot and Sberbank

The local police in a small town of Ukraine’s Cherkasy region say the Ukrainian military has shot down a Russian aircraft and officials are search for the pilot.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported the following update on its invasion of Ukraine:

  • Russian troops have disabled 118 military facilities, including 11 airfields;
  • shot down five Ukrainian jets, one attack helicopter, and five drones;
  • destroyed 18 Ukrainian tanks, seven multiple rocket launchers, 41 vehicles, five boats, and 14 “Osa” and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems; and
  • seized control of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Russian officials say the area’s background radiation levels are normal.

Moscow claims that 82 Ukrainian soldiers have laid down their arms and surrendered near Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea in Ukraine’s Odesa region

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has announced that an enemy infiltration group is active in the Kyiv residential district of Obolon. The Ukrainian military is calling on the public to report the movement of any military vehicles and use Molotov cocktails against the enemy.

Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to President Zelensky, has stated that Ukraine is ready to hold talks with Russia to negotiate Kyiv’s neutrality, but it must receive security guarantees, he says.

“Ukraine has always and always will leave room for negotiations — including now, when Russia has launched a full-scale invasion. This war must be stopped. These military actions must stop,” said Podoliak.

Russian troops draw closer to the heart of Ukraine’s capital

Artillery fire echoes through the suburbs of Kyiv. This video was recorded in Minsk Massif, just north of the city’s center.

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said in a Facebook post that it has detected increased gamma radiation reference levels in the exclusion zone at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which Russian troops seized on Thursday.

“Such fluctuations are associated with the movement of a large amount of heavy military equipment through the Exclusion Zone. The condition of the power plant’s nuclear installations and other facilities is unchanged,” the agency explained.

Russia’s federal government begins blocking independent news coverage of the invasion

Russia’s federal censor has started blocking news reports that violate its ban on the dissemination of information not provided by “official Russian sources.” According to watchdog group Roskomsvoboda, the federal agency has ordered Internet service providers in Russia to block access to two articles (one from an Armenian website and another from an Estonian website) about Russian airstrikes in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar claims that Russian troops captured two vehicles from Ukraine’s Armed Forces, “dressed in the uniforms of Ukrainian soldiers and are speeding toward the center of Kyiv from the direction of Obolon” (a residential district in Kyiv). Maliar says a convoy of Russian military trucks is following the stolen vehicles. “They will surely be destroyed,” she vows.

President Zelensky has formally asked the Bucharest Nine (Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) to provide defense assistance to Ukraine.

The Estonian authorities have reportedly announced that they will allow visiting Ukrainian nationals to remain in the country beyond the expiration date of their legal stays. Estonia is also permitting Ukrainian citizens who do not have biometric passports to enter the country without visas (previously available only to Ukrainians with biometric passports).

Early in the morning on Friday, people in Kyiv hide in bomb shelters from Russian air strikes

Sergei Chuzavkov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Sergei Chuzavkov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA
Sergei Chuzavkov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

Ukrainian troops are reportedly engaged in battle with Russian forces in the town of Okhtyrka, about 45 miles south of the city of Sumy, according to local officials.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, has shared photographs of what he says is Russian military hardware captured in battle outside Chernihiv.

Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency says there are currently about 150,000 tourists located in regions of southern Russia where aviation officials have suspended operations at local airports. Most of these people are in Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory. Rostourism also says it is working with Russia’s Transportation Ministry to compile a list of all travelers abroad who are unable to return to their homes in Russia due to the airport closures.

Less than 24 hours into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian business leaders have lost $39 billion in value, estimates Bloomberg. LUKOIL chairman Vagit Alekperov was the biggest loser. His net worth tumbled by $6.2 billion to $13 billion.

Turkish officials have confirmed that Ukraine formally requested that Russian warships be denied passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. Ankara says it can close the straits to naval vessels, but Russia would retain the right to return its fleet to base.

President Volodymyr Zelensky updates the nation on Russia’s invasion

Addressing Ukrainians:

Only the solidarity and only the determination of Ukrainians can preserve our freedom and protect our state. The army, the border guards, the National Guard, the police, our intelligence agencies, and the territorial defense forces are all performing their duties to the fullest. We are defending ourselves! We will not give in! Glory to Ukraine!

Addressing Russians:

Earlier tonight, bombs began to fall on residential areas of the hero city of Kyiv. It all recalls 1941. I want to say to all the citizens of the Russian Federation who came out to protest: We see you. It means you have heard us. It means you’re beginning to believe us. Fight for us. Fight against war.

More reports of Russian troops closing in on Kyiv

Citing a statement from the military, the Ukrainian news media says Russian armored vehicles were stopped in the town of Ivankiv, about 50 miles outside Kyiv, by blowing up a bridge in the area. The Biden administration reportedly told U.S. lawmakers several hours earlier that Russian troops were even closer to the Ukrainian capital.

Russian air strikes well west of Kyiv

Rivne International Airport (roughly 200 miles west of Kyiv) is reportedly under Russian missile attack, says the local mayor.

Ukraine’s National Bank has prohibited all transactions with Russian and Belarusian rubles and imposed a ban on fulfilling obligations to legal entities or individuals located in the Russian Federation or in Belarus.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma, has traveled to Nicaragua and delivered a speech to the local parliament about Ukraine’s “genocide” against the residents of the Donbas, claiming that Vladimir Putin ordered a Russian “peacekeeping operation” to “prevent an all-out war.”

Russia has threatened to close its airspace to all British airlines, including for transit flights, in response to London banning Aeroflot from the UK.

The sounds of automatic gunfire have been reported in the streets of Sumy, a city about 200 miles east of Kyiv.


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