Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to retaliate against those who interfere with the Russia-Ukraine operation, in a surprise televised address on Thursday, news agency AFP reported. Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine with explosions heard soon after in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and other parts of the country.
This prompted outrage from the President of the United States, Joe Biden, who warned of a “catastrophic loss of life”, the AFP report said.
At the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) emergency meeting held late Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a personal appeal to Putin to stop his troops from entering Ukraine, AFP reported.
Putin had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders of Ukraine.
"I have made the decision of a military operation," the AFP report quoted Putin as saying in the surprise television announcement shortly before 6:00am (0300 GMT) in Moscow.
In the televised address, the Russian President called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms. He justified the invasion by claiming a "genocide" in Ukraine's east, the AFP report said.
Earlier, the Kremlin had said that rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military help against Kyiv.
Within about 30 minutes of Putin's announcement, an AFP reporter in Kyiv heard explosions. According to AFP reporters, explosions were also heard in the eastern city of Mariupol and the Black Sea port of Odessa.
The AFP report said that Biden immediately warned of "consequences" for Russia and said the world would "hold Russia accountable" for its actions.
Biden said that Russia’s move would cause "catastrophic loss of life and human suffering”, according to the AFP report.
Jens Stoltenberg, chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), condemned Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack'’ on Ukraine, AFP reported.
Ukraine, at the UN, called on the world body "to do everything possible to stop the war", the AFP report said.
On Wednesday night, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made an emotional appeal late to Russians not to support a "major war in Europe", the AFP report said.
For weeks, Putin had defied a barrage of international criticism over the crisis. Some Western leaders said that he was no longer rational.
Putin’s announcement of the military operation came ahead of a last-ditch summit involving European Union leaders in Brussels planned for Thursday, AFP reported.