Moscow/Kiev, Feb 25 (SocialNews.XYZ) Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised "a special military operation" in Donbas, and Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were under attack.
A total of 11 airfields, three command posts, a Ukrainian naval base, and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 air defense missile systems were among the facilities destroyed, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
Signs of nervousness were growing as planes flew overhead, explosions were heard, and an alarm siren sounded in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, where citizens were standing in long lines hoping to draw money and stock up on supplies, Xinhua news agency reported.
In the centre of Kiev, the local bus system, subway, banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and hotels were still operating normally. However, many private shops and bookstores have closed.
The US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have both denied the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine.
In a televised speech to the country earlier on Thursday, Putin said, "Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," noting that Russia's move is in response to "fundamental threats" by NATO, which has expanded to eastern Europe and brought its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders.
The Russian President called on all people living on the territory of Ukraine to "independently determine the future of their own and children".
In Kiev, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places across the city, according to local media reports. The country's airspace was closed for civilian aircraft, and local authorities were evacuating passengers and staff from the airport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday declared martial law in the country following Russia's military operation.
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.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday in a press briefing that "we have made it clear that we do not have any plans and intentional deploying NATO troops to Ukraine".
The White House on Wednesday said the US would not be in a war with Russia or put troops on the ground in Ukraine.
"What I will tell you is President Joe Biden has been crystal clear and consistent: He is not sending US troops to fight in Ukraine. That has not changed," said White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki during a daily briefing.
Putin on Monday signed two decrees recognising "the Luhansk People's Republic" and "the Donetsk People's Republic" as independent and sovereign states and deployed "peacekeeping" forces in the two regions.
Seeing it as "a matter of time" for NATO to expand eastward, Putin took military action against Ukraine after recent negotiations with the US and NATO failed.
Russia will not allow Ukraine to have nuclear weapons, he said on Thursday, adding that Russia took action to protect itself from "those who take Ukraine hostage".
In a late-night address on Wednesday, Zelensky said he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Putin.
"I initiated a telephone call with the President of the Russian Federation. Result: silence."
While mobilising troops, Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, the aviation authorities said on Thursday.
Additionally, the Russian Aviation Authority Rosaviatsiya announced that Russia has temporarily closed more than 10 airports in the south and Crimea.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the 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.
A 37-year-old citizen named Anna said that sales in her cosmetics stores in Kiev dropped by 40 per cent this January due to heightened tensions.
Having not planned to leave the city because her children are still in school, she expressed the hope that the war would not interrupt school for her children.
Besides Kiev, several military targets in eastern and southern Ukraine were under attack early Thursday, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
The Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport and its fuel and lubricants depots in western Ukraine were also destroyed by Russia's missile systems, reported Ukrinform, citing the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
Ukraine's border guard service said Russia's ground forces crossed into Ukraine from several directions on Thursday. Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions and Crimea in the south.
The border guard also said separately that Russian troops had crossed the Ukrainian border into the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.
Following Russia's operation, Ukrainian President announced that Kiev had severed diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia launched military operations in Donbas, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported.
In a televised address, Zelensky said more than 40 people were killed and dozens wounded in the conflict.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the severance of bilateral diplomatic ties was "not our choice," Sputnik reported.
Shortly after Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on Wednesday evening called on Russia to withdraw its troops.
If the military action would lead to a generalised war, "it is difficult to forecast how dramatic it will be in the number of people who will die, in the number of people who will be displaced, in the number of people who will lose hope in relation to the future," Guterres told reporters following a Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told a meeting with top military brass that the purpose of Russia's military operation in Donbas is to prevent local destruction and civilian casualties in Donetsk and Luhansk, noting that even though the conflict has already begun, the sides must find ways to prevent bloodshed and full-scale war.
To rally the support of his Western allies, Zelensky has reached out to US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron through phone.
During the call, Biden briefed his Ukrainian counterpart on the steps Washington is taking "to rally international condemnation," adding that the US "will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people," according to a White House statement.
Biden also said he would meet with leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries on Thursday.
The US has announced what it called "the first tranche" of punitive measures on Russia -- sanctions on two major Russian banks and the country's sovereign debt, preventing Moscow from raising money from the West and trading new debt in the US or European markets. It also sanctioned Russian elites and their family members.
Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen said on Thursday that "everything must now be done to avoid further escalation and to protect lives".
Emphasising that "peace comes first," Van der Bellen said the way to the negotiating table must be open to all sides.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian tweeted on Thursday that "The #Ukraine crisis is rooted in NATO's provocations. We don't believe that resorting to war is a solution."
It is "imperative to establish ceasefire and to find a political and democratic resolution," he added.
Guterres on Wednesday evening asked Putin to send his troops back to Russia and "give peace a chance" after the Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine concluded.
China maintains that the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned and a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should be finally established through dialogue and negotiation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.