President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the launch of Russia’s military assault on Ukraine, which Russia has referred to as a “special military operation.”
Russian troops have crossed Ukrainian borders and carried out strikes on the country’s military structures and border guard units. Ukraine’s interior ministry has said that it is under attack from cruise and ballistic missiles, and its foreign minister has called the move a “full-scale invasion.”
At least seven people have been killed in the attacks, and 19 are missing, according to Ukrainian police.
In a statement aired on Russian TV around 5:00 Ukrainian time, President Vladimir Putin said that he did not intend to occupy Ukraine, but claimed that “a hostile anti-Russia is being created on our historic lands.”
He justified the attacks as being an effort to “demilitarise and de-nazify” Ukraine, referring to a false narrative suggesting that the country is being controlled by the far right.
“To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me,” he added.
Actions condemned across Europe
President Macron released a short statement on Twitter which read: “France strongly condemns Russia’s decision to start a war in Ukraine. Russia must put an end to its military operations immediately.
“France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. France will remain at the side of Ukrainians and will act with our partners and allies so that the war ends.”
La France est solidaire de l'Ukraine. Elle se tient aux côtés des Ukrainiens et agit avec ses partenaires et alliés pour que cesse la guerre.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 24, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that martial law has now been imposed across the country, and in a statement urged citizens not to panic.
“We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine,” he said.
French Communist Party election candidate Fabien Roussel Tweeted that: “The Russian president has chosen war. He is choosing to violate international law. It is a serious situation which could become another world war. We must do everything to de-escalate.”
Le président Russe fait le choix de la guerre. Il fait le choix de violer le droit international.— Fabien Roussel (@Fabien_Roussel) February 24, 2022
C'est une situation grave, qui pourrait devenir une nouvelle guerre mondiale.
Nous devons tout mettre en œuvre pour la désescalade. #Les4V
La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon also condemned Russia’s “unacceptable escalation,” and called for “diplomatic” measures to achieve “an immediate ceasefire and the retreat of all foreign troops in Ukraine.”
Last night (February 23), the French foreign ministry urged people not to go to Ukraine until further notice, and called for French nationals in Ukraine to leave “without delay.”
The ministry also stated that the French embassy in Ukraine is working hard to continue cooperating with Ukrainian authorities” to get French citizens out of the country.
What has happened over the past few hours?
The Ukrainian government has said that “Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”
It is believed that Russian military vehicles had entered the country at the northern city of Kharkiv, the eastern city of Luhansk, through Crimea – which was already annexed by Russia in 2014 – and also through Belarus.
Kyiv’s Boryspil airport is one of the airfields that has been bombed, according to the Ukrainian army, along with other sites in the capital, Kharkiv, Dnipro in the centre and Mariupol in the south east.
However, the Ukrainian army has also claimed to have shot down five Russian army planes and a helicopter in the east of the country.
President Zelensky has stated that there are around 200,000 Russian troops at Ukrainian borders and called for a global “anti-Putin coalition” to “force Russia towards peace.”
Ukraine had warned last night that this military action could be the start of a “major war in Europe” and declared a state of emergency in the country.
This means that people will be subject to personal document checks, mass gatherings will be banned and radio communication systems will be restricted.
Sirens were heard across Kyiv, where some people decided to shelter in the underground network, and others queued in their cars to leave the city.
Some of Ukraine’s neighbouring nations are now preparing to welcome refugees from the country.
What happens next?
NATO ambassadors from its 30 member countries will attend an emergency meeting this morning (February 24) in Brussels.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also denounced a “reckless, unprovoked attack” on Russia’s part, and will hold a press conference at midday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that Russia “must withdraw its military,” and the EU’s member states are due to attend another emergency meeting later today.