Hundreds of civilians have been reported dead in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion, despite the country’s military claiming to be fighting back by shooting down planes in the country’s east.
In a televised address, Putin announced a’special military operation’ in Ukraine’s east, following which explosions were reported on the outskirts of a number of cities, including Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, and the capital Kyiv.
In order to prevent potential Russian aircraft landings, the country’s airports have been temporarily closed, and Russia has closed its airspace around the border to civilian access for the next four months.
Following Putin’s announcement, Ukraine’s military claimed to have shot down a Russian plane in eastern Ukraine, as well as five Russian planes and one helicopter in the eastern Luhansk region.
Russia’s defense ministry, on the other hand, has denied that one of its planes has been shot down.
According to Russian news reports, it claimed to have attacked military infrastructure at Ukrainian air bases and weakened Ukraine’s air defenses, as reported by LBC.
Russian planes being shot down is ‘possible but unlikely,’ according to Sky News correspondent Stuart Ramsay.
Luhansk, where Ukraine claims to have shot down six planes, is held in part by Russian-backed separatists and was recently recognized as independent by Putin.
In the early hours of Thursday, February 24, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, confirmed that Russia’s ‘invasion [had] begun’ with’missile strikes on Kyiv.’
In a Facebook post, Gerashchenko said that control centers in Kyiv and Kharkiv, such as airfields and military headquarters, had been hit by shelling, and that artillery fire had been fired along the border.
According to a CNN contact at the interior ministry, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the hours since Russian and Belarusian tanks crossed the border into the country.
‘Hundreds of casualties have been reported across the country as a result of these attacks,’ CNN reported, citing the official.
Leaders and officials in the West have condemned Putin’s decision to invade, with the Ukrainian foreign ministry declaring, « This is an act of war, an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, a gross violation of the United Nations Statute and the fundamental norms and principles of international law. »