Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine in a surprise television announcement at roughly 6:00 a.m. Moscow time, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. The Russian dictator described the unprovoked attack as a “special military operation for the de-Militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.”
“I’ve made the decision to conduct a special military operation,” Putin said. “Our analysis has concluded that our confrontation with these forces [in Ukraine] was inevitable.”
“This is the red line that I have spoken of many times. They have crossed it,” he said, accusing the Ukrainians of “genocide” for attacking the two new “independent republics” he unilaterally conjured into existence on Monday.
“Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,” he said.
Putin bizarrely claimed Russia’s plans “do not include occupation of Ukrainian territory” and “we are not going to impose anything on anyone by force,” even as Russia launched missile attacks at targets across Ukraine, including its capital city of Kyiv.
“A couple of words for those who would be tempted to intervene. Russia will respond immediately and you will have consequences that you never have had before in your history,” he warned.
People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. – Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a “full-scale invasion” was underway. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
“As for the military sphere, modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its nuclear potential, is today one of the most powerful nuclear powers. And moreover, it has certain advantages in a number of the latest types of weapons. In this regard, no one should have any doubt that a direct attack on Russia will lead to defeat and dire consequences for a potential aggressor,” he said, making it clear that he was threatening nuclear retaliation against the U.S. and NATO if they interfere with his attack on Ukraine.
“All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine,” Putin insisted, calling on Ukrainian forces to surrender.
“I urge you to immediately lay down your weapons and go home. All servicemen of the Ukrainian army who fulfill this demand will be able to freely leave the combat zone and return to their families,” he said.
Various observers noted that Putin delivered these remarks while wearing what appeared to be the same suit and tie he wore on Monday night when he delivered a long, delirious tirade against the legitimacy of Ukraine as an independent nation. There is some evidence that the Putin announcement televised on Wednesday night was actually recorded in advance.
(Update — 9:55 AM EST): Russia’s ministry of defense claimed in a Thursday statement that it destroyed 74 military facilities in Ukraine, according to the Russian state-owned news agency, RIA news agency. Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that the country has suffered “serious losses” following the invasion. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports: “Zelenskiy spoke in a televised address on February 24 shortly after Russian missiles had targeted air bases and military infrastructure in at least 25 cities after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special” operation to “demilitarize” its neighbor and rival.”