BREAKING: Putin launches 'special military operation' inside Ukraine, rockets hit Kiev

President Biden decried the attacks as "unprovoked and unjustified" as the UN met late into the night in emergency session.
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Ukraine
Damage from Russia rocket attack, Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022.
(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday launched a "special military operation” against Ukraine that he claimed was focused on the eastern region of Donbas, but Western leaders decried the aggressions as rocket fire hit multiple cities including the capital Kyiv.

This is a developing story ...

Shortly after 7 a.m. local time, civilians in Kyiv were told to take cover as sirens went off following a night of apparent attacks.

A bridge into Kyiv has been destroyed by Ukranian troops to prevent Russian soldiers from using it to enter, the Ukranian Ministry of Defense said Friday morning on Facebook.

Ukranian troops also remain in control of Hostomel Airport in the suburb of Kyiv after Russian paratroopers landed there yesterday, according to the agency.

Videos from early Friday morning showed debris raining down on Kyiv. Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor Anton Gerashchenko told reporters "cruise or ballistic missiles" were striking Kyiv.

"Explosions were the strikes of our air force on enemy planes or drones!" the advisor later celebrated on Facebook.

Ukraine's Health Minister Viktor Lyashko on Thursday evening confirmed that 57 Ukrainians have died due to the Russian incursion while 169 more were wounded, according to the Associated Press.

Lyashko also said Ukrainian officials are repurposing health care facilities to have space for people in need of medical treatment due to the attack.

The Ukraine government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in a “full-scale war" that appears largely led by air attacks.

"Russian equipment made a breakthrough in the Kiev region," Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement shortly after 1:00 p.m., Thursday.

"Border guards together with the Ukrainian military accepted the battle," the agency said, as translated by Google.

The Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, according to the Associated Press.

In Odessa, located in southern Ukraine near the border of Moldova, officials announced that 18 people were killed in an attack by Russian forces, Radio Liberty reported. Over 40 Ukraine soliders have so far died, the wire service also reports.

Around 12 p.m., the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed to have killed 50 Russian troops. 

At that same time, reporters on the ground began posting photos on Twitter of smoke rising from buildings in Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the nation shortly before noon Thursday. He asked Ukranians to donate blood for wounded soldiers in hospitals.

Anyone who has wants a weapon to fight will be provided one by the government, Zelenskyy said. "Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities," he tweeted.

Zelenskyy also confirmed that Ukraine has severed all diplomatic ties with Russia.

Video shows that traffic is at a standstill as Ukrainians are attempting to leave Kyiv.

Sirens are going off in the Polish border town of Medyka, Reuters reported around 10 a.m. local time. The cause of the sirens is unclear at this time.

"One very concerning development is #Russia has carried out a few targeted operations uncomfortably close to the Polish border," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted without including a source shortly before the sirens reportedly went off in Poland.

Both Ukraine and Russia are facing financial problems as well.

Several journalists in Russia are reporting that they are unable to obtain U.S. dollars. In Ukraine, "temporarily suspended the country’s currency market, limited the withdrawal of cash and prohibited the issuance of foreign currencies to the general public," according to The Wall Street Journal.

The currency exchange rate has changed dramatically for Russia since the invasion began. One week ago, one U.S. dollar was equal to 76 Russian rubles. On Thursday, the rate jumped by more than 10% at one dollar to 85 rubles.

The Ukrainian hryvnia exchange rate faired better, going from about 1 USD to 28 hryvnia a week ago and increasing by less than 4% to 1 USD to 29.40 hyrvna Thursday morning.

Video released by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine shows Russian military equipment moving from Russian-occupied Crimea into Ukraine.

The National Police of Ukraine is now ordering all veterans to be given weapons to defend Ukraine. The agency urged citizens to report suspicious people on the streets and stated that "special attention should be paid to people with red elements on clothing," as translated by Google. The law enforcement organization did not give into more detail as to why red clothing may be notable.

People in Lviv, located in western Ukraine, were told to take shelter Thursday morning as sirens were heard throughout the city, CNN reports that state-run television said. People were also reportedly told to have important documents nearby. 

The U.S. embassy relocated to Lviv last week.

The full extent of Russia's military action was not immediately clear, but President Joe Biden and other Western leaders condemned the attack as an "unprovoked and unjustified" escalation against a sovereign country allied with the West.

"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering," Biden said. "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."

President Zelenskyy declared martial law Thursday morning and urged citizens to calm down in a Facebook video Thursday morning.

"Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were blasts heard in many cities of Ukraine," he said, as translated by CNN. "We’re introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country."

Zelenskyy said he has spoken with President Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish President Andrzej Duda, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Council President Charles Michel. All leaders are "Building an anti-Putin coalition," Zelenskyy said.

"Today each of you should keep calm. Stay at home if you can. We are working. The army is working. The whole sector of defense and security is working," the Ukrainian president said.

Putin released a speech early Thursday morning after reports of attacks came out of Ukraine. He accused the United States and the West of creating problems on the global stage and destroying Russian values.

"Where the West comes to establish its own order, the result is bloody, unhealed wounds, ulcers of international terrorism and extremism," Putin said, as translated by Google.

He accused the United States and Western Bloc of all being part of an "empire of lies."

"Until recently, attempts have not stopped to use [Russia] in [the West's] own interests, destroy our traditional values ​​and impose on us their pseudo-values ​​that would corrode us, our people from the inside, those attitudes that they are already aggressively planting in their countries and which directly lead to degradation and degeneration, because they contradict the very nature of man," Putin said. "It won't happen, no one has ever done it. It won't work now either."

The United Nations Security Council met late into the night in an emergency session as Ukraine accused its neighbor of a full-scale invasion while Russian officials insisted the actions were more limited to protect Russian-allied operations in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The 

Putin alluded to a broader "demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine" during a nationally televised address early Thursday morning. 

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, responded to the accusations of leading a Nazi state.

"How can I be a Nazi? Explain it to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet army, and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine," he said according to Politico.

Putin said the goal is "to protect people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years, and for this end, we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation," as reported by Russian propaganda agency Tass and translated by Google.

"Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action," Putin said during a nationally televised address in Moscow. "The People's Republics of Donbas turned to Russia with a request for help. In this regard, in accordance with Article 51, part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council and in pursuance of the friendship treaties ratified by the Federal Assembly and mutual assistance with the DPR and LPR, I have decided to conduct a special military operation."

Putin warned other countries that any effort to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences they have never seen."

The move followed a direct plea from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, who asked Putin to refrain from launching any military operations.

"The day was full of rumors and indications that… an offensive against Ukraine was imminent," he said during an emergency meeting of the security council. "In the recent past, there were several situations with similar indications, similar rumors.

"And I never believed in them, convinced that nothing serious would happen. I was wrong. And I would like not to be wrong again today. So, if indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine."

Guterres added: "Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died."

Sen. Rubio tweeted that his intelligence indicated Russia was conducting a wide-ranging military strike in multiple cities, including Kyiv.

"To clarify what is underway is a full scale & comprehensive military assault throughout #Ukraine," Rubio tweeted. "Airborne & amphibious landings, missile strikes from air, ground & naval forces, electronic & cyber attacks & a large ground force to occupy a large swath of territory."

U.S. military officials said they were still assessing the extent of Russia's action.

Putin televised address aired shortly before 5 a.m. in Kyiv, and by 7 a.m. explosions were being reported in multiple cities. CNN's international correspondent Matthew Chance was repeatedly interrupted by explosions live in Kyiv. 

"I heard four or five explosions a few moments ago," Chance said as explosions can be heard in the video background.