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Russians blitz Ukraine: 11 airbases, airports, cities destroyed in 12 hrs

A determined Putin launched air strikes on cities across Ukraine but is likely to only annexe areas in close proximity to rebel-held regions, and carve out a contiguous territory up to Crimea from Donbas. As cruise and ballistic missiles hit airfields and military headquarters near Capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law and exhorted the masses to join the war to defend their country against the aggression at any cost. The West and allies that had been feeding the media with a rhetoric of impending invasion for a fortnight, kept watching when it really happened!

KYIV, Feb 24: At daybreak on Thursday in a televised address President Vladimir Putin said he had no other option but to order a "special military operation" against Ukraine as his appeals seeking assurance of security from the West failed to elicit any response. "I have decided to proceed with a special military operation," of sending "peacekeeping forces" inside Ukraine. He ordered a "demilitarisation" of Ukraine, and asked Ukrainians to put down their arms.

Soon the attacks began by air, land and sea and several explosions were heard in Kyiv, Capital of Ukraine. Air raid sirens rang out. Bombs and missiles hit military installations and residential areas in cities across the country forcing frightened citizens to flee their homes, leaving a deserted look to many streets, even as ground forces moved in from the north, south and east, seizing territories contiguous to Crimea in the south and rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas in the east.

Troops also landed in the Ukraine Black Sea port of Odessa and in Mariupol in Donetsk. Chuguiv was another town battered by the blitzkrieg. In the key port city of Mariupol civilians were being evacuated.

From Crimea the troops pushed into the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson where 13 civilians and nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Some stretches beyond the Crimean border were also seized. Kherson fell to the invaders. The Russians penetrated deep in the north-west, and fighting was reported at Chernobyl, the seat of the former nuclear power plant. Sumy, north-east of Kyiv, also reported air strikes. Other areas devastated were: Lutsk, Ivano Frankivsk, Hostomel Anpv, Vasilko Vsky airport, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kramatorsk, Senkivka border. No place in the largest European country was spared!

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed its forces destroyed 74 military facilities, including 11 airbases. The Government had to close its airspace to civilian flights following bomb attacks on its cities. An Air India flying to Kyiv to evacuate Indians had to return half way as the airport closed.

Ukrainian officials said that Russia fired cruise and ballistic missiles at airfields and military headquarters near the Capital, Kyiv.

Russia attacked more than a dozen cities and towns across the country from land, air and sea.

Ukraine said 40 of its soldiers are dead in a day in rebel offensive and 'around 50 Russian occupiers' were also killed. Ten civilians were killed by Russian shelling. An Ukrainian military plane was shot down, killing five people.

Even as Ukraine declared "This is a war of aggression," Russian troops in the east advanced by up to three km. Fighting on the ground is going on in several regions.

"I woke up because of the sounds of bombing. I packed a bag and tried to escape," said Maria Kashkoska, as she sheltered inside the Kyiv metro station, reported AFP:

"I have decided to proceed with a special military operation," Putin said in a television announcement in the early hours of Thursday. Shortly afterwards, the first bombardments were heard in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, and several other cities.

President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law in the face of the widespread attacks. The mayor of Ukraine's Capital of Kyiv ordered curfew in the city.

Russian Defence Ministry said that the Russian troops were providing supporting fire to the rebels who are fighting the Ukrainian forces, in fact since 2014.

On Wednesday soon after the parliamentary authorisation to Putin enabling him to send troops anywhere outside Russia he wanted, troops had started moving into the rebel-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas province of eastern Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday his forces will join the Russians when needed.

Meanwhile, Russian police detained about 400 for holding anti-war protests in 39 Russian cities. Dozens of protesters were also detained in Moscow.

Ukraine's trained reservists

According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Russian army strength is 280,000 and the total military personnel number 900,000 and has 2,840 battle tanks. Compared with Russia's, Ukraine has very few tanks. Zelensky had recently launched a programme to raise the armed forces strength to 361,000. Its defence budget is one-tenth of Russia's at $ 4.3 billion. Although Ukrainians are today more motivated, at the time of Crimean invasion the army was little trained that they could not offer any resistance when Russia took it away just like that in 2014. It has since enlisted 900,000 trained reservists, who have now been urgently called upon to join services.

Stock markets crash

Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent shock waves through global markets. Stock market across the world crashed. Sensex shed around 2,000 points. The ruble fell nine per cent and stocks plummeted by 50% at the Moscow Stock Exchange. Petrol, edible oils and food prices are set to rise in India.

Oil hit $105 a barrel and natural gas prices soared. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 3.2 percent. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 tumbled 2.5 per cent at the start of trading, but later the initial panic seemed to ease. Gold prices shot up.

ALSO SEE:-

AI flight to evacuate Indians recalled mid-way as Ukraine fighting intensifies

Ukraine-rebel fighting: West slaps sanctions as Moscow recognises Luhansk, Donetsk

India asks relatives of embassy staff to leave Ukraine immediately

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