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Latest 'This is a declaration of war against Europe'– Ukrainian President says Russian forces trying to seize Chernobyl

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for the rest of the world to help his country defend itself

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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)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

The plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident when a nuclear reactor exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe.

The plant lies 130km north of the capital of Kyiv.

The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Zelenskyy said on Twitter that “our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated.”

He said that “this is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”

Mr Zelenskyy added: “A package of additional tough sanctions against Russia from the EU is approaching.

"We demand the disconnection of Russia from SWIFT, the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and other effective steps to stop the aggressor.”

The warning comes after Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

Ukraine's government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order and whose fallout already reverberated around the world.

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.

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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)

 

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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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)

 

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.

US President Joe Biden declared that the world will “hold Russia accountable”. 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”.

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Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Ukraine declared martial law on 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.

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Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

 

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.

"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.

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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

 

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.

Mr Johnson tweeted his remarks after chairing an urgent Cobra emergency committee meeting on Thursday morning, as Moscow launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and bases with air strikes or shelling.

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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