Ukraine says 40 people killed so far in first hours of Russian invasion

Ukrainian government says casualties come amid a ‘full-scale invasion’ by Russian forces

Sravasti Dasgupta
Thursday 24 February 2022 14:47
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Video appears to show missile hitting airport in western Ukraine
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About 40 people have been killed so far in the first hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an adviser to president Volodymyr Zelensky said at midday on Thursday.

The adviser, Oleksii Arestovich, said there were also several dozen people wounded.

He didn’t specify whether the casualties included civilians, but it comes as the emergency services said a boy was killed in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region after shelling struck an apartment building.

The Ukrainian government said the casualties come amid a “full-scale invasion” by Russian forces bombarding its airports and targeting major cities, entering the country from the east, north and south.

Mr Zelensky said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country, and earlier declared martial law.

“The future of the Ukrainian people depends on every Ukrainian,” he said, urging all those who can defend the country to come to the Interior Ministry’s assembly facilities.

The update on casualties came at around midday local time. Russian president Vladimir Putin had declared the start of the invasion at 6am Moscow time in a televised address, calling it a “special military operation” to defend breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine.

Shortly afterwards explosions were heard outside the capital Kiev, as well as in Kharkiv in the east and Odessa in the south.

Ukraine’s border guards have released video footage of what they say are columns of Russian military vehicles moving into the country.

The Russian military claimed midway through the morning to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defence system and demobilised around six airbases, while thousands of Ukrainians have fled cities for the countryside. This claim could not be independently verified.

This map shows major cities in Ukraine as well as Moscow-backed separatist regions. As of early this week, rebels held only parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions highlighted

European airspace authorities have declared Ukraine an active conflict zone, and all flights to and from the country have been cancelled.

World leaders have condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which they say could lead to mass casualties on both sides.

US president Joe Biden called out Russia’s moves as “unprovoked and unjustified” and promised to hold it “accountable”, while UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by Mr Putin’s decision to invade.

Mr Zelensky earlier called on world leaders to help him protect Ukraine’s airspace, while his foreign minister said the international community needed to hit Russia with sanctions and provide Ukraine with military and financial aid.

Ukraine’s Soviet-era air defence system and air force dwarf in comparison to Russia’s military inventory.

This infographic, created for The Independent by statistics agency Statista, shows the relative military strength of Ukraine and Russia

The president’s adviser, Mr Arestovich, said Russian troops have advanced up to 5km (3 miles) into Ukrainian territory in the Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, and possibly in other areas as well.

While residents in Ukraine were seen fleeing, the Russian defence ministry claimed that it has not been targeting cities and was using “precision” weapons in its assault.

It claimed that “there is no threat to the civilian population”.

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