More than 40 Ukraine soldiers, nearly 10 civilians killed

  • Russia's defence ministry said earlier it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukraine's air bases and 'suppressed' its air defences
Published February 24, 2022

KYIV/DONETSK/MOSCOW: More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around 10 civilians died in the first hours of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters on Thursday.

"I know that more than 40 have been killed and several dozen wounded.

"I am aware of nearly 10 civilian losses," presidential administration aide Oleksiy Arestovych told reporters.

Earlier updates

Ukraine's military earlier stated that it had destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country's east.

Russia has denied reports that its aircraft or armoured vehicles have been destroyed.

Ukraine's border guard service said that three of its servicemen had been killed in the southern Kherson region and that several more were wounded.

Russia's ground forces crossed into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine's border guard service said, hours after President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a major offensive.

Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south, the agency said.

It said one of its servicemen died in a shelling attack along the Crimean border, the first officially confirmed military death of the Russian invasion.

Ukraine has suffered heavy casualties in its eight-year conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the separatist east, but has reported no fatalities along its southern border with Crimea for some years.

After holding a series of emergency calls with world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, the Ukrainian leader convened a meeting of the top military brass, his office said.

"The armed forces of Ukraine are waging heavy combat," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said. "We have losses," he added, without giving details.

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"In several places, the Russian armed forces have been repelled."

Ukrainian officials said Russia was primarily targeting military infrastructure and silos, managing to push five kilometres deep along the norther frontier.

Russia says taking out military infrastructure at Ukraine's air bases

Russia's defence ministry said earlier it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukraine's air bases and "suppressed" its air defences, Russian news agencies reported.

The ministry denied reports that its aircraft had been downed over Ukraine. Earlier, Ukraine's military had said five Russian planes and one helicopter were shot down over its Luhansk region.

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"The air defence assets of the Ukrainian armed forces have been suppressed," Interfax news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

"The military infrastructure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' air bases has been taken out of action.

"Information in foreign media about a Russian plane allegedly being shot down is not true."

The Russian defence ministry had said it was targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons after Putin announced a military operation against the country.

"Military infrastructure, air defence facilities, military airfields, and aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being disabled with high-precision weapons," the defence ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The statement comes after Russian President Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine on Thursday in what appeared to be the start of war in Europe over Russia's demands for an end to NATO's eastward expansion.

Shortly after Putin spoke in a special televised address on Russian state TV, explosions could be heard in the pre-dawn quiet of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Gunfire rattled near the capital's main airport, the Interfax news agency said.

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Explosions also rocked the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and civilian aircraft were warned away as the United States said a major attack by Russia on its neighbour was imminent.

Fire is seen coming out of a military installation near the airport, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS
Fire is seen coming out of a military installation near the airport, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. REUTERS

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Putin said he had authorised a special military operation in breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces were only a matter of time.

Hours earlier, pro-Russian separatists issued a plea to Moscow for help to stop alleged Ukrainian aggression - claims the United States dismissed as Russian propaganda.

Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to protect the people and demanded Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.

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"All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine," Putin said.

He repeated his position that NATO expansion to include Ukraine was unacceptable and said Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from Ukraine.

The scope of the Russian military operation was not immediately clear. Moscow has long denied that it has plans to invade despite massing tens of thousands of troops near its neighbour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that Moscow had approved an offensive and had not replied to an invitation for talks.

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"Today I initiated a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. The result was silence," he said.

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Watch: Ukrainian military tank and armoured vehicle parked on street in Mariupol as President Vladimir Putin announces a military operation

Later, Zelensky said Russia was attacking his country's "military infrastructure" and border guards, but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.

In a video message posted on Facebook after Putin announced the launch of a military operation against Ukraine, Zelensky also introduced martial law across the country, adding that he had spoken by phone with US President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, Biden said his prayers were with the people of Ukraine "as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces".

"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable."

He said he would announce further sanctions on Russia on Thursday, in addition to financial measures imposed this week.

The Russian operations began as the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis in New York.

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A draft resolution calling out Moscow over its actions toward its neighbour is doomed to fail due to Russia veto power, however a Security Council diplomat said it would put Russia on notice that it is "not in compliance with international law."

'Provide safety'

Ukraine restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to "potential hazard", hours after a conflict zone monitor warned airlines should stop overflights over the risk of an unintended shooting down or cyber attack.

An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto and a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv turned out of Ukraine's airspace around the time a notice was issued, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Russia also partially closed its airspace in the Rostov flight information region to the east of its border with Ukraine "in order to provide safety" for civil aviation flights, according to its notice to airmen.

Convoys of military equipment including nine tanks were seen moving towards Donetsk earlier on Wednesday from the direction of the Russian border, a Reuters witness reported.

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Shelling has intensified since Monday when Putin recognised two separatist regions as independent and ordered the deployment of what he called peacekeepers, a move the West calls the start of an invasion.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke separately with her counterparts from Britain and Canada, while G7 leaders are also due to talk on Thursday.

Satellite imagery taken on Wednesday showed new deployments in western Russia, many of them within 10 miles (16 km) of the border with Ukraine and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, U.S. satellite company Maxar said.

The images showed field deployment, military convoys, artillery and armoured personnel carriers with support equipment and troops. The images could not be independently verified by Reuters.

A 30-day state of emergency in Ukraine restricting the freedom of movement of conscripted reservists, curbing the media and imposing personal document checks, according to a draft text, begins on Thursday.

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The Ukrainian government has also announced compulsory military service for all men of fighting age.

Western countries and Japan imposed sanctions on Russian banks and individuals but have held off their toughest measures until an invasion began.

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The United States stepped up the pressure on Wednesday by imposing penalties on the Russian firm building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its corporate officers.

Germany on Tuesday froze approvals for the pipeline, which has been built but was not yet in operation, amid concerns it could allow Moscow to weaponize energy supplies to Europe.

Europe warns airlines not to fly over or near Ukraine

Meanwhile, in Paris, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) warned airlines on Thursday to avoid flying over Ukraine and exercise "extreme caution" in airspace within 100 nautical miles (185 km) of the Belarus-Ukraine and Russia-Ukraine borders.

UN chief urges Russia to cease military operations in Ukraine

UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia to end aggression in Ukraine.

"President Putin, in the name of humanity bring your troops back to Russia," the secretary-general said after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the crisis.

"In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century," he said, adding the conflict "must stop now."

This is a developing story, and will be updated accordingly

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