Russian President Vladimir Putin announces ‘military operation’ in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday has announced a military operation in Ukraine to defend separatists in the east of the country, AFP reported.

In a surprising statement on television earlier today, he said, “I have made the decision of a military operation,” and vowed retaliation against anyone who interfered. He also called on Ukrainian military to lay down its arms.

Putin’s statement comes after the Kremlin said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military help against Kyiv.

In response, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky late night made an emotional appeal to Russians not to support a “major war in Europe”.

Zelensky, speaking in Russian said that the people of Russia are being lied to about Ukraine and that the possibility of war also “depends on you”.

“Who can stop (the war)? People. These people are among you, I am sure,” he added.

Zelensky said that Moscow now had around 200,000 soldiers near Ukraine’s borders.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are stationed near Ukraine’s borders, AFP reported, and the West had earlier said that an attack was imminent.

Putin has been internationally criticised over the crisis, with some Western leaders saying he was no longer rational.

During the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance, too many people have already died.”

Before Putin’s announcement of military operations, Ukraine had asked its citizens living in Russia, who were approximately three million to leave the country.

During a joint media appearance, President Zelensky had said, “We are united in believing that the future of European security is being decided right now, here in our home, in Ukraine.”

Ukraine has around 200,000 military personnel and Wednesday’s call up could see up to 250,000 reservists aged between 18 and 60 receive their mobilisation papers, the agency reported.

According to reports, Russia’s total forces are much larger around a million active-duty personnel and have been modernised and re-armed in recent years.

(Inputs from AFP)

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