- Russian forces have sized control of Chernobyl, with video revealing tanks parked in front of the reactor
- Came after ‘fierce’ battle with condition of nuclear waste storage facilities ‘unknown’, Ukraine said
- Meanwhile NATO-member Turkey said one of its ships was hit by a ‘bomb’ near Odessa – underlining fears that the alliance could easily get sucked into the conflict and spark all-out war in Europe
- Citizens in Kiev have been rushed to shelters, after the government warned Russia will soon bomb the city
By CHRIS PLEASANCE and HARRIET ALEXANDER FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and NICK CRAVEN IN KIEV and WILL STEWART IN MOSCOW and SERGEY PANASHCHUK and RACHAEL BUNYAN FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 12:59 AEDT, 24 February 2022 | UPDATED: 06:57 AEDT, 25 February 2022
- Global markets tanked with Russia’s ruble sliding to its lowest value ever
- The price of oil shot up to over $100 per barrel
- EU will freeze Russian assets, halt access to financial market and target ‘Kremlin interests’
- G7 called Putin a ‘threat to global order’ vowing ‘severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions’
- Joe Biden announced new sanctions targeting Russian banks, exports and military
- Boris Johnson called the invasion a ‘catastrophe for our continent’ and branded Putin a ‘dictator’
- China repeated calls for talks but refusing to criticize Russia’s attack
- Moldova declared a state of emergency
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said invasion is ‘heavy blow’ to regional peace
- NATO ambassadors scheduled an emergency meeting on Thursday
- UN Security Council will discuss a resolution condemning the invasion
- Ukraine demanded the world banish Russia from SWIFT banking system
Russian forces have seized control of Chernobyl nuclear power plant after a ‘fierce’ battle, with the condition of nuclear storage facilities ‘unknown’, sparking fears of a radiation leak that could cause fallout in Europe.
Video revealed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles standing in front of the destroyed reactor, which sits just 60 miles north of the capital Kiev.
Meanwhile Turkey reported that one of its ships had been hit by a ‘bomb’ off the coast of Odessa, where fighting is also going on. Turkey is a member of NATO, underlining fears that the war in Ukraine could quickly suck in other states and spark an all-out conflict in Europe.
Speaking after the latest developments, Joe Biden announced more sanctions against Russia but warned the conflict could last for many months and resisted calls to send in US troops to Ukraine, saying he has no plans to speak to Vladimir Putin.
The sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, but Russian oil and natural gas were exempt in a bid to avoid disruption to global markets.
‘Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,’ Biden said in remarks at the White House.
Elsewhere, Kiev ordered civilians into bomb shelters and declared a curfew amid concerns Russia is about to strike the capital as Ukrainian troops lost control of a key airfield around 15 miles away. Russian forces had attacked it with around two dozen attack helicopters earlier in the day, four of which are thought to have been shot down.
‘They are going to bomb Kyiv now. Authorities told us to hide in shelters,’ a source in the city told MailOnline as authorities said a hospital had been hit, killing four people.
The Ukrainian army was this afternoon fighting in almost every region of the country, battling the Russians for control of military bases, airports, cities and ports from Kharkiv to Kiev, and Donetsk to Odessa.
It came after Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to attack around 5am, unleashing a salvo of rocket fire that American intelligence said involved more than 100 short and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles, and 75 bombers that targeted military sites including barracks, warehouses and airfields in order to knock out the country’s military command structure.
Russia said the strikes destroyed 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities, 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations controlling Kiev’s anti-aircraft batteries.
That was followed by attacks from Crimea in the south towards the city of Kherson, a northern advance from Belarus to Kiev, and an eastern advance from Belgorod towards Kharkiv where the heaviest fighting is going on.
American officials said this was merely an ‘initial phase’ of the attack, and that the majority of Russia’s 190,000 troops at the front remain in reserve. The goal of the attack is to ‘take key population centres’ and ‘decapitate the Ukrainian government’, the officials added.
Ukraine’s health ministry said so far 57 people have been killed on the first day of conflict, while 169 have been wounded.
The port cities of Mariupol and Odessa, where Ukraine’s main naval bases are located, were also attacked – though Odessa appeared to remain under Ukrainian control as of Thursday afternoon. Russian tankers blockaded the Kerch Strait, leading from the Back Sea to the Sea of Azov, cutting off Mariupol.
A Russian AN-26 military transport aircraft also crashed in Russia’s southern Voronezh region, killing its crew on board.
The accident could have been caused by a technical failure and has not inflicted any damage on the ground, Interfax said, citing a press office of Russia’s western military district.
Volodymyr Zelensky, in an address to the nation on Thursday evening, described Russia as ‘evil’ and said Putin had attacked ‘like a suicidal scoundrel… just as Fascist Germany did in World War II’.
‘Ukraine will not surrender its freedom, whatever Moscow thinks,’ he added. ‘For Ukrainians independence and the right to live free on our land is the highest value.’
He had earlier called on all Ukrainian citizens willing to defend their homeland to step forward, saying guns will be issued to everyone who wants one. He also asked for civilians to give blood to help wounded troops. And he asked world leaders to impose the ‘harshest sanctions possible’ on Putin.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, addressing the nation at midday, said western allies are preparing a ‘massive’ package of sanctions against Russia and told the people of Ukraine: ‘We cannot and will not just look away.’ Johnson referred to Putin as a ‘dictator’ who would never ‘subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians’.
As the West prepared to cut off Russia financially, Vladimir Putin summoned his oligarchs to demand loyalty over his attack on Ukraine – perhaps fearing a rebellion from within after prominent Russian TV figures and celebrities spoke out to oppose the conflict.
Speaking in the Kremlin, he said that Russia had been ‘forced’ to take action over Ukraine and had ‘no other choice’ but to attack, saying the country remains ‘part of the global economy’ and that he ‘will not hurt the system we belong to’. ‘I want you to show solidarity with the government,’ he told them.
Russian tanks surround Chernobyl nuclear power plant
- Watch videoTanks seen fighting in middle of traffic just outside Kharkiv
- Watch videoRussian Mi-8 helicopters seize control of airport minutes from Kiev
- Watch videoHalyna Hutchins’ widower speaks out about wife’s death & Alec Baldwin
- Watch videoRussian military helicopters fly over hydroelectric power plant
- A Russian T-72 tank is pictured sitting in front of the main reactor at Chernobyl after Putin’s forces seized it in a ‘fierce’ battle with the condition of nuclear storage facilities ‘unknown’
Russian armoured vehicles park on roads near the Chernobyl plant, amid fears that damage to the facility could cause a radiation leak that would blanket Europe with fallout
The attack has come to Ukraine on all fronts with bombs and missiles dropped on targets across the country in the early hours, followed by troop attacks from Crimea, the Donbass, Belgorod and Belarus as well as helicopter landings in Kiev and at power plants on the Dnieper River. Chernobyl nuclear power plant has also fallen to Russian forces
Russian Mi-8 helicopters seize control of airport minutes from Kiev
Attack helicopters are pictured flying over the Kiev region of Ukraine after dozens of Russian aircraft attacked the city
An image captured near Kiev shows what appears to be the wreckage of a downed Russian attack helicopter with a soldier parachuting out of it (to the left of the frame)
Tanks seen fighting in middle of traffic just outside Kharkiv
World leaders react to Russia’s war on Ukraine
RUSSIA PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN
‘I have decided to conduct a special military operation… to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide… for the last eight years.
‘And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine. And to bring to court those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.’
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELINSKIY
‘Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in the WW2 years.
‘As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself & won’t give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.’
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG
‘This is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion…
‘Peace on our continent has been shattered Russia is using force to try to rewrite history, and deny Ukraine its free and independent path…
‘We have no plans to send NATO troops in Ukraine. What we do is defensive.’
U.S PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
‘President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering…
‘I will be meeting with the leaders of the G7, and the United States and our allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia.’
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT URSULA VON DER LEYEN
‘President Putin is responsible for bringing war back to Europe…
‘We will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking their access to key technologies and markets. We will weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernise.’
‘In addition, we will freeze Russian assets in the EU and stop the access of Russian banks to the European financial market.’
EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF JOSEP BORRELL
‘These are among the darkest hours of Europe since the Second World War.
‘The EU will respond in the strongest possible terms and agree on the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented.’
GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ
‘Putin is bringing suffering and destruction to his direct neighbours, he is violating the sovereignty and borders of Ukraine.
‘He is endangering the lives of countless innocent people (and)… the peace order on our continent. For all that there is no justification. This is Putin’s war.’
FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON
‘France strongly condemns the decision of Russia to start a war with Ukraine. Russia must immediately put an end to its military operations.’
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON
‘President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine…
‘This is a catastrophe for our continent.’
CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON HUA CHUNYING
‘You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word invasion.
‘China is closely monitoring the latest situation. We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control.’
GERMAN ARMY CHIEF LIEUTENANT GENERAL ALFONS MAIS
‘In my 41th year of peace-time service, I would not have thought that I would have to experience a war.
‘And the Bundeswehr, the army which I have the honour to command, is standing there more or less empty-handed. The options we can offer the government in support of the (NATO)alliance are extremely limited…
‘We have all seen it coming but were not able to get through with our arguments to draw the consequences after (Russia’s) annexation of Crimea. This does not feel good. I am fed up with it.’
TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY
‘This attack is a grave violation of international law and poses a serious threat to the security of our region and the world.
‘We call on the Russian Federation to immediately end this unjust and unlawful act.’
HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ORBAN
‘With our EU and NATO allies, we condemn Russia’s military attack.’
PORTUGUESE PRIME MINISTER ANTONIO COSTA
‘The answer to this crisis should be a diplomatic solution… NATO will not intervene or act in Ukraine.
‘Ukrainian citizens who have family, friends and acquaintances here are welcome in Portugal.’
ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER YAIR LAPID
‘Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a grave breach of international order. Israel condemns the attack.’
RUSSIAN EX-OIL TYCOON AND ARCH KREMLIN CRITIC MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY
‘It is Putin and his entourage who started the war in order to hold on to their power – not the Russian people.
‘Unleashing a war of aggression and using the armed forces for personal gain signifies that a junta led by Putin has seized power in Russia.’
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK POLICYMAKER YANNIS STOURNARAS
‘In my view it is going to have a short-term inflationary effect â that is prices will increase due to higher energy costs.
‘But in the medium to long term I think that the consequences will be deflationary through adverse trade effects.’