Ukraine: Von Der Leyen condemns Putin for Russia’s invasion
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On Wednesday, Mr Putin held a surprise television announcement where he said he had “made the decision of a military operation”, despite weeks of intense diplomacy and threats of sanctions from western allies. Within a few hours of Mr Putin’s speech, Russia’s defence ministry said it had neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems.
Explosions were heard across Ukraine overnight, with its foreign minister warning a “full-scale invasion” was underway.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebo confirmed overnight that the Russian President has begun his “full-scale” invasion.
He tweeted: “Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes.
“This is a war of aggression.
“Ukraine will defend itself and will win.
“The world can and must stop Putin.
“The time to act is now.”
On Monday, the Russian President convened an unscheduled meeting with his security council in Moscow amid increasing tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
The meeting was to decide whether Russia would recognise two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as sovereign states.
In recognising the independence of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia has officially given up on the 2015 peace deals that recognise Ukraine’s sovereignty over the territory.
It also gives Russia a pretext to send troops to the separatist-held areas.
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According to Russian News Agency, TASS, Mr Putin made the decision to conduct a “special military operation” after a message from the Donetsk republic.
Mr Putin said: “Its purpose is to protect the people who have for eight years been exposed to humiliation and genocide by the regime in Kiev.
“For this, we will seek demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, and also press for bringing to justice those who have committed numerous bloody crimes against peaceful civilians, including Russian citizens.”
Mr Putin also urged the Ukrainian military to “lay down arms at once and leave for home”.
He continued: “Those servicemen of the Ukrainian army who will meet this demand will be free to leave the zone of combat operations and return to their families.”
All responsibility for possible bloodshed “will rest upon entirely on Ukraine’s ruling regime”.
The Russian President explained Moscow’s actions were taken in self-defence from threats and from a “still greater misfortune than the one happening today”.
He added: “However difficult it may be to do this, I am asking you to understand this and calling for cooperation in order to turn this tragic page as soon as possible and to move forward together.”
Mr Putin also warned against attempts at foreign intervention in the current development, let alone foreign intervention.
He warned: “Nobody should feel any doubts that a direct attack on Russia would end with the potential aggressor’s defeat and terrible consequences for the attacker.
“Whoever may try to create obstructions to us, let alone pose threats to our country and our people, they should know that Russia’s response will follow without delay and entail consequences that you have never encountered in your history.
“We are prepared for any march of events.
“All necessary decisions in this connection will be made. I hope that I will be heard.”
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