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Ukraine Latest 'Brutal assault without justification' – Joe Biden announces new sanctions as Russian forces take Chernobyl

President Biden says the new sanctions will target banks which hold over $1tn in assets, as well as Russian elites and their families

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People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Andrew Marienko/AP)

People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Andrew Marienko/AP)

People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Andrew Marienko/AP)

US President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions as Ukrainian forces battle Russian invaders on three sides.

Biden spoke out after the Kremlin mounted an assault by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

European Union leaders also agreed tonight to impose new sanctions on Russia's financial, energy and transport sectors and impose export controls, as well as blacklisting more Russians over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"These sanctions cover the financial sector, the energy and transport sectors, dual-use goods as well as export controls and export financing, visa policy, additional listings of Russian individuals and new listing criteria," said a statement by the 27 national EU leaders meeting in Brussels.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war in a pre-dawn televised address, explosions and gunfire were heard throughout the morning in Kyiv, a city of three million people.

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Smoke rises from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Smoke rises from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Smoke rises from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

 

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets and authorities reported columns of troops pouring across Ukraine's borders from Russia and Belarus to the north and east, and landing on the southern coasts from the Black Sea and Azov Sea.

In an address in Washington this evening, Mr Biden described the invasion as “brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without justification”.

Mr Biden said the new sanctions would target banks which hold over $1tn in assets, as well as Russian elites and their families.

He said: “Putin has been planning this for months. He rejected every good faith effort the United States made to avoid needles conflict, for weeks we have been warning that this would happen.

"We saw flagrant violation of international law. Putin declared his war within moments missile strikes begin to fall on historic cities across Ukraine. Putin is the aggressor.

"The United States is not doing this alone, 27 members of the EU join to amplify the joint impact of our response. We will limit Russia's ability to do business in dollars and euros.

"We have now sanctioned Russian banks, we've cut off Russian's largest bank from the US financial system that means every asset they have in America will be frozen.

"These are people who personally gain from criminal policies. On Tuesday we stopped the Russian Government from raising money from American and European investors. Between our actions we estimate that we'll cut off more than half of Russia's technical imports. It'll hurt their ability to build ships reducing their ability to compete economically.”

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Uniformed people throw items into a fire outside an intelligence building on the premises of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's unit, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Uniformed people throw items into a fire outside an intelligence building on the premises of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's unit, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Uniformed people throw items into a fire outside an intelligence building on the premises of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's unit, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

 

Mr Biden’s address came after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Ukrainians to defend their country and said arms would be given to anyone prepared to fight.

"What we have heard today are not just missile blasts, fighting and the rumble of aircraft. This is the sound of a new Iron Curtain, which has come down and is closing Russia off from the civilised world," Mr Zelenskyy said.

As night fell in Ukraine, the picture of what was happening on the ground was sketchy.

Russia's defence ministry said it had destroyed 83 land-based Ukrainian targets and had achieved all its goals, according to Interfax news agency.

An adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office said Russian forces had captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, just 90km north of the capital, and Hostomel airport in the Kyiv region, where paratroopers had earlier been landed.

Fierce fighting was taking place in the regions of Sumy and Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson and Odessa in the south.

The highway heading west out of Kyiv was choked with traffic across five lanes as residents fled.

In unleashing Moscow's most aggressive action since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, President Vladimir Putin deflected global condemnation and cascading new sanctions – and chillingly referred to his country’s nuclear arsenal.

 

He threatened any foreign country attempting to interfere with “consequences you have never seen.”

Sirens wailed in Ukraine’s capital, large explosions were heard there and in other cities, and people massed in train stations and took to roads, as the government said the former Soviet republic was seeing a long-anticipated invasion from the east, north and south. It reported more than 40 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded so far.

Ukrainian police said Russia had carried out 203 attacks since the beginning of the day, with fighting going on almost everywhere throughout Ukraine's territory and there are fears Russian forces could be air-dropped into the country and then try to penetrate the government district in Kyiv.

Ukraine's defence minister said some Russian forces had been taken prisoner in heavy fighting. Ukrainians have started fleeing their homes, and the UN Refugee Agency says it is working to provide aid, with predictions millions of people could become displaced from the country of 44 million people.

Central European countries braced for the arrival of refugees, with Poland setting up reception points on its border, and Hungary and Slovakia planning to send troops to manage the likely influx.

In a televised address as the attack began, Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would “lead to consequences you have never seen in history” and saying the move was in response to threats from Ukraine and aimed at the “denazification” of the country.

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Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

 

Separately, a border guard stated Russian military columns have crossed the Ukrainian border into Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.

Missiles landed in parts of the capital Kyiv, and panic gripped the eastern city of Kharkiv with many people trying to leave.

Security camera footage shows Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia's action as a violation of international law and a threat to European security.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia “wants to destroy our state” and appealed to the rest of the world to provide defence assistance to Ukraine against the Russian “aggressor”.

Ukraine declared martial law in the country, with the foreign minister describing it as a "full-scale invasion".

The country’s border guard agency said the Russian military attacked the country from neighbouring Belarus.

The agency said that the Russian troops unleashed an artillery barrage as part of an attack backed by Belarus and Ukrainian border guards were firing back, adding that there was no immediate report of casualties.

 

Russia's military said it had targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and had not targeted populated areas.

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as well as Odesa and Kharkiv following Mr Putin's announcement that the military operation had begun.

The sound of distant blasts were picked up in a live broadcast from US outlet CNN, causing reporter Matthew Chance to put on a flak jacket.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Russian strikes have "suppressed air defence means of the Ukrainian military”, adding that the infrastructure of Ukraine's military bases has been "incapacitated".

It denied claims that a Russian warplane was shot down over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, reported it has shot down five Russian aircraft while fending off the attack on the country.

NATO will further reinforce its troops on the alliance's eastern flank, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday after Russia launched an attack on Ukraine.

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The aftermath of Russian shelling, outside Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The aftermath of Russian shelling, outside Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The aftermath of Russian shelling, outside Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

"In the coming days and weeks, there will come even more (soldiers), so we will further increase and we are increasing our presence in the eastern part of the alliance," he told reporters in Brussels.

NATO also activated its defence plans to facilitate a swifter movement of troops, Mr Stoltenberg said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Mr Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a "catastrophe for our continent", as he called on world leaders to meet and plan a response.

He also announced sanctions on over 100 Russian individuals and entities after Moscow launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea.

"Overall we will be imposing asset freezes on more than 100 new entities and individuals on top of the hundreds that we've already announced," Mr Johnson told the House of  Commons.

"This includes all the major manufacturers that support (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war machine. Furthermore, we are also banning Aeroflot from the UK."

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor said media outlets must check the veracity of their reports about the situation in eastern Ukraine and only publish information from official Russian sources.

Roskomnadzor said the distribution of false information online would lead to immediate restrictions.

"We emphasise that it is namely Russian official information sources that hold and disseminate reliable and up-to-date information," Roskomnadzor said.

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