Ukraine, Russia war: Vladimir Putin's troops approach Kyiv, capture Chernobyl, New Zealand takes action

Russian troops are attacking Ukrainian forces and military bases throughout the eastern European country, with assaults witnessed near the capital of Kyiv as well as at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

There has been an outpouring of anger and disgust at Vladimir Putin's actions, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying Russia has attacked Ukraine as Nazi Germany did during World War II. He said Russia has "embarked on a path of evil" and Ukraine will defend itself and not give up.

New Zealand on Thursday night announced a range of measures in response to Russia's actions, including travel bans against Russian government officials, the prohibition of exporting goods to the Russian military and the suspension of bilateral engagement with Russian foreign officials. 

What you need to know:

  • Russia has invaded the eastern European country of Ukraine after earlier this week declaring two regions within it to be independent.
  • Vladimir Putin claims he doesn't want to occupy Ukraine, but demilitarise it and "de-Nazify" the nation.
  • Within moments of Putin announcing a special military operation on Thursday, explosions were heard throughout Ukraine with missile strikes recorded against several Ukrainian bases.
  • Fighting is now underway across Ukraine, with Russian forces advancing into the country from northern, eastern and southern border points. That includes from Belarus, where it's reported Belarusian forces are supporting Russia.
  • Russian troops are currently about 30km from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and have seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Ukraine's President says Russian sabotage groups are within the capital and are targeting him.
  • At least 137 Ukrainians have so far died in the conflict, with hundreds of others wounded.
  • Condemnation of Russia's actions has been swift, with world leaders preparing an onslaught of sanctions against the invading country. New Zealand has laid out several measures it is responding with, including travel bans and export controls
  • US President Joe Biden on Friday warned that Putin's ambitions are much larger than Ukraine and that he wants to re-establish the former Soviet Union. US troops won't fight in Ukraine, but Biden says he is sending more forces to NATO allies. 

These live updates have now finished.

7pm - Economists are warning the Ukraine invasion will cost Kiwis in the pocket.

"War, we know, has got a huge cost in terms of lives - what it does to the disruption to individuals - and it also causes economic disruption as well," says Nick Tuffley.

We're told the first thing many of us will notice is a tumble in the value of our KiwiSaver accounts.

Watch Kethaki Masilamini's full report here.

5:35pm - The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has released an update on New Zealand's links to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Here it is in full:


  • There are currently 26 New Zealanders registered with SafeTravel as being in Ukraine.
  • The New Zealand Embassy in Warsaw has made contact with all New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in Ukraine and has helped several depart. We are aware that at least 17 New Zealanders have left since our travel advisory shifted to “leave immediately” was issued on February 12. This included some who were not registered on SafeTravel. 
  • The Embassy is providing support to a number of these New Zealanders. A smaller number have indicated that they are waiting to see how the situation develops.
  • We currently advise New Zealanders Do Not Travel to Ukraine. We advise New Zealanders in Ukraine to shelter in place until it is safe to depart. New Zealanders should be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times and always prioritise their immediate safety. When it is safe to do so, they should depart Ukraine.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s ability to provide consular assistance to New Zealanders in Ukraine is limited. The New Zealand Embassy in Warsaw, Poland is accredited to Ukraine.
  • We urge any New Zealanders in Ukraine not registered on SafeTravel to do so immediately:

Response Measures

The Government has announced initial the measures Aotearoa New Zealand will take in response to a Russian invasion. While Aotearoa New Zealand does not have the ability to implement sanctions outside the UN framework, the Government is prepared to introduce measures in alignment with partners. Further measures are being considered. Measures currently include:


Export Controls

  • The Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued, by Notice in the Gazette, a prohibition on the export of all goods intended for use by the Russian military and security forces, including any armed force, paramilitary force, police force, or militia.
  • The Prohibition on exports applies to all goods if the end-user of the goods are the Russian military or security forces – including exports such as food and medical supplies. It is a criminal offence in the Customs and Excise Act to knowingly export a prohibited good.
  • The offence would not apply in a situation of ordinary food exports to Russia where the end-users are not military or security forces. However, it is incumbent upon business to do their due diligence to ensure they are not knowingly exporting for the Russian military and security forces i.e. if the Russian military seized the goods from its intended end-user and diverted them the exporter would not have committed an offence unless they had specific knowledge in advance this was going to happen. We would encourage all exporters to undertake due diligence to ensure they are not exporting to a prohibited entity. Anyone concerned about this should consult the Gazette notice and seek independent legal advice.

Travel bans

  • New Zealand has taken action in respect of key individuals identified as being responsible for, or associated with, actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. This list is aligned with international partners and remains under review. They will be updated regularly based on future developments. 
  • We do not typically name individuals who are banned from travel to Aotearoa New Zealand, in consultation and agreement with our partners.

Foreign Ministry Consultations

  • The Government has made the decision to suspend bilateral foreign ministry consultations with Russia until further notice.
  • Foreign Ministry consultations are a formal foreign policy dialogue held led by senior foreign ministry officials. They are an important opportunity to discuss bilateral relationships, as well as regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
  • These measures are an appropriate and proportionate first step in response to Russian aggression.  Further options in terms of diplomatic responses will remain under consideration.

5:26pm - A Ukrainian woman who survived a Russian missile strike on her home vows to do everything she can to stand by her country.

Olena Kurilo, 52, whose viral photo of her bloody face has become a symbol for the human toll of Russia's invasion, spoke to reporters after she left a hospital in Chuguev.

Covered in bandages, Kurilo said her house was completely destroyed by a bomb.

Read more here.

5:23pm - Ukrainian forces downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv in the early hours of Friday (local time), which then crashed into a residential building and set it on fire, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister.

It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned. Herashchenko wrote on Telegram a nine-storey residential building was on fire.

A series of explosions were heard in Kyiv earlier which Herashchenko said were the sounds of air defences firing at the aircraft.


5:06pm - US President Joe Biden has told lawmakers Russian forces are currently 32km from Ukraine's capital Kyiv, sources have told CNN.

4:55pm - US President Joe Biden is set to meet with other NATO heads on Friday (local time) in a virtual Ukraine summit.

4:45pm - Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said he would take up arms alongside his brother and fellow Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko to fight in what is a "bloody war" following Russia's invasion of their country Ukraine.

Vitali Klitschko, who has been the Mayor of Ukraine's capital Kyiv since 2014, said he was ready to fight.

"I don't have another choice, I have to do that.

"I'll be fighting," the 50-year-old, known as "Dr Ironfist" during his fighting days, told broadcaster ITV's Good Morning Britain.

4:30pm - A Ukrainian border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia has been hit by a missile strike killing an unconfirmed number of guards and wounding others, the Border Guard Service says.

The region has no land border with Russia but is located on the coast of the Azov Sea which the neighbours share.


4:15pm - Members of the US Congress have said they could approve hundreds of millions of dollars in additional military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine starting as soon as next week, to boost the government in Kyiv after Russia invaded.

4:01pm - Demonstrators in several major US cities have protested against the invasion of Ukraine, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the missile and troop assault.

Despite freezing temperatures, hundreds of protesters in Manhattan marched to the Russian mission to the UN, some cloaked in Ukrainian flags and chanting "stop the war" and "stop Russia now". New York City has the largest Ukrainian community in the United States.


3:56pm - Below is a wrap of everything you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine war right now:

  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed to stay in Kyiv as his troops battled Russian invaders who are advancing toward the capital in the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.
  • A picture was emerging of fierce fighting across multiple fronts. Russian forces had captured the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant on the route between Belarus and Kyiv, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said.
  • Russia President Vladimir Putin said his aim was to demilitarize and "denazify" Ukraine. He said any hindrance would be met by "such consequences that you have never encountered in your history".
  • US President Joe Biden said Putin's action was about naked aggression. He unveiled new sanctions on its banks and wealthy elite and sweeping export restrictions.
  • Biden also said Washington was working with allies on a release of oil from strategic reserves after the price shot up.
  • France President Emmanuel Macron said he held a "frank, direct and quick" phone call with Putin on Thursday to ask him to stop military operations because Zelenskiy had asked him to.
  • The UK, Canada, the EU, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and others unveiled sanctions against Russia, targeting banks, military exports and members of Putin's inner circle.
  • Putin "must and will fail", EU leaders said as they agreed new sanctions, saying he was trying to bring the continent back to the age of empires and confrontations.
  • Thousands of Ukrainians sought to escape to neighboring countries. The UN refugee agency estimated 100,000 had fled their homes.
  • Ukraine basketballers got a standing ovation in Spain after an emotional loss.
  • Stock markets tumbled and Russia's rouble hit an all-time low. US stocks turned positive as the West detailed its sanctions against Russia.

3:37pm - Two explosions have been heard in Ukraine's capital Kyiv in the early hours of Friday (local time), the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports.

Similar sounds were heard a day earlier when, according to Ukrainian officials, a military base in Brovary, a town near Kyiv, was hit by Russian cruise missiles on Thursday, leaving six people dead.


3:34pm - Russian and Ukrainian forces fought on Thursday for control of  Chernobyl, the still radioactive site of the world's worst nuclear accident and a factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But why would anyone want an inoperative power plant surrounded by miles of radioactive land?

Read more here.

3:27pm - In the US, some Republicans have blasted Democratic President Joe Biden's handling of the Ukraine crisis and called on him to "change course" in his response.

Only 34 percent of Americans - including just 12 percent of Republicans - approved of the way Biden was handling the crisis in the run-up to the invasion, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday.

3:16pm - Earlier, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a "rolling wave" of sanctions would be implemented against Russia. 

Morrison said the fresh sanctions will be placed against "oligarchs whose economic weight is of strategic significance to Moscow" and over 300 members of the Russian parliament who voted to authorise sending troops into Ukraine.

Australia is also working with the US to align with their sanctions overnight on key Belarussian individuals and entities who helped Russia and NATO to provide non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies for Ukraine, he said.

Morrison voiced concerns over the "lack of strong response" from China and criticised Beijing about reports it had eased trade curbs with Moscow by allowing imports of wheat from Russia.


3:11pm - Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been condemned by the sporting community, with President Vladimir Putin's country losing hosting rights for the Champions League football final while Formula 1 drivers said it was "wrong" to race there this year.

The Champions League final was scheduled to be held in St Petersburg in May but sources told Reuters European soccer governing body UEFA is set to move the match to another venue.

A joint statement from the football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic also called for next month's World Cup playoffs not be played in Russia.

3:05pm - Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war with Russia have started arriving in neighbouring central European countries and the region braced for many more, setting up reception points and sending troops towards the borders to provide assistance.

Poland has prepared a medical train to transport wounded Ukrainians and drew up a list of 1230 hospitals that could admit the injured.

Slovakia also said it was ready to help refugees.

Germany offered humanitarian help to countries bordering Ukraine. German media has cited estimates that between 200,000 and 1 million people may flee to the EU from Ukraine.


2:55pm - Members of Sydney's Ukrainian community have gathered outside the Channel 7 broadcasting building chanting "help Ukraine", Newshub Australia correspondent Emma Cropper says.

2:52pm - EU leaders have agreed sanctions on Moscow that target 70 percent of the Russian banking market and key state owned companies, including in defence, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says.

She told a news briefing Russia President Vladimir Putin "must and will fail".

2:50pm - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is vowing to stay in Kyiv as his troops battled Russian invaders who are advancing toward the capital in the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.

"[The] enemy has marked me down as the number one target," Zelenskiy warned in a video message. "My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.

"I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine."


2:40pm - Japan will strengthen sanctions against Russia to include financial institutions and military equipment exports, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, following a similar move by Washington in retaliation after the invasion of Ukraine.

Kishida told a news conference Tokyo would take aim at Russian financial institutions and individuals with the sanctions, which would be imposed immediately, as well as halt exports of military-use goods such as semiconductors.

Japan's move came after Washington imposed new sanctions after Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.


2:20pm - The British Ministry of Defence has released its latest intelligence update, stating that Russian forces have "highly likely" captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and taken workers hostage. This is something Ukrainian authorities reported earlier in the day.

Notably, the update suggests Russia has failed to fulfill its "Day 1 military objectives", mentioning that Ukrainian troops have halted Russian forces advancing towards Chernihiv.

2:15pm - Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday the island will join democratic countries to put sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, although he did not give details.

The crisis is being watched closely in Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and has faced increased military pressure by Beijing over the last two years. 

- Reuters

2:05pm - US President Joe Biden said on Thursday Washington is in still-unresolved "consultations" with India, when asked if Washington and Delhi were fully in sync on a response to Russia's attack on Ukraine ahead of an expected UN Security Council vote.

Biden did not elaborate, but his short response to a question at a briefing at which he announced tough new sanctions on Russia over Ukraine drew attention to an awkward division between his administration and India, a country central to its efforts to push back against China's growing power.

Read more here

1:50pm - Australia imposed more sanctions on Friday against Russia targeting several of its elite citizens and lawmakers, and said it was "unacceptable" that China was easing trade restrictions with Moscow at this time.

"We will work along with our partners for a rolling wave of sanctions and continuing to ratchet up that pressure on Russia," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a media conference. 

- Reuters

1:45pm - There is a protest underway outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington. Footage from the protest shows a large number of people with Ukrainian flags and blue and yellow signs outside the gated property.

Protesters outside the embassy.
Protesters outside the embassy. Photo credit: Supplied.

1:30pm - China's embassy in Ukraine on Friday said Chinese nationals could register for chartered flights to leave the eastern European country, after Russia unleashed the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

In a notice posted on the embassy's official WeChat account, China said travelling on the charter flights is up to the individual and registrations will be open until Feb. 27.

There are 6,000 Chinese nationals in the Ukraine, said a spokesperson from the embassy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine in a pre-dawn televised address on Thursday. Explosions and gunfire were heard through the day in Ukraine's capital and elsewhere in the country, with at least 70 people reported killed.

Earlier this week the embassy advised Chinese nationals and businesses in Ukraine against venturing to "unstable" areas, but stopped short of telling them to consider leaving the country. 

- Reuters

1:25pm - Oil prices have been rising to incredible highs in recent months and the conflict in Ukraine has sent them even higher over the last 24 hours. 

According to New Zealnd's Energy and Resources Minister, Dr Megan Woods, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and any resulting curtailment of Russian oil supply won't affect fuel supply to New Zealand. 

"New Zealand does not purchase any oil or oil products from Russia so would not be directly affected if Russian oil supply is curtailed," Woods said.

She said that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has assessed that world oil production capacity is more than sufficient to meet demand due to any disruption that may arise from the situation in the Ukraine.

With New Zealand being a member of the IEA, Woods said it holds strategic reserves offshore to manage potential disruptions in the oil market that could have an impact on the price of oil.

"We are actively consulting with its IEA partner countries and would expect to take part in any collective action called by the IEA to release strategic oil stocks in order to reduce any disruption in the market and reduce price impacts.

"Strategic reserves of oil are held for exactly this reason; to ensure there is as much fuel security and price stability as possible when there are global disruptions to oil production."

1:15pm - The Ukrainian President, who said earlier that he believes he is Russia's main target, is apparently in a secret bunker in Kyiv. The New York Times is reporting that the US Government is aware of President Zelenksy's whereabouts and is in touch with him. The Ukrainian leader said Russian groups have entered the capital, though it appears military troops remain on the outskirts. 

1:05pm - Japan will freeze assets in some Russian banks as part of sanctions against its action in Ukraine, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Friday.

Japan "strongly condemns" Russia's action in Ukraine, Suzuki told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He added that Japan is also considering effective ways to counter spiking oil prices. 

- Reuters

12:50pm - The Five Eyes group of intelligence-sharing countries are sending a strong message to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

From New Zealand, to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, all countries are taking actions.

Find out how they are responding here

12:40pm - As reported earlier, the island of Zmiinyi (also known as Snake Island) in the Black Sea has been captured by Russian forces. During his recent address Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said all soldiers guarding it were killed.

12:30pm - The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says 137 people have died so far in the Russian invasion. He says after speaking to Western leaders he felt disheartened as he saw "no one" that would fight alongside Ukraine. 

He says that Russian sabotage groups have entered the capital of Kyiv, where he remains.

"According to our information, the enemy marked me as target No. 1, my family, as target No. 2. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state."

12:20pm - The White House said on Thursday it is outraged at reports of hostages at the facilities at Chernobyl following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

- Reuters

12:15pm - Ardern says she "hasn't removed the idea that an autonomous sanctions regime may be adopted by New Zealand in the future". 

Historically, New Zealand has purchased small amounts of oil from Russia, estimated to be between 10 to 20 percent. Ardern says the bulk of oil coming to New Zealand comes from the Middle East.

Will New Zealand officials be telling China to speak to Russia in an attempt to de-escalate the situation? Ardern says no assumption should be made on the position of any countries yet.

No country is sending troops to the Ukraine for support, she says. New Zealand will look to give humanitarian assistance. 

This is the closest thing to war that many generations have seen, Ardern says.

12:10pm - Ardern rejects New Zealand is constrained by a lack of autonomous sanctions regime. She says travel bans can be extended as required. The amount of diplomatic engagement can be restricted. She says previous regimes proposed didn't cover human rights situations.

What we are doing as a nation is in line with other countries, Ardern says. The world is sending a very clear message to Russia that what it is doing is wrong.

The PM can't say if anything from New Zealand has been exported to the Russian military in the past.

Ardern says expelling the Russian Ambassador is a possible option, but it's not something New Zealand has decided to do yet.

She says the degree to which there is unity against Russia is standing out to her. These actions taken by New Zealand do "send a strong message" and it is important that New Zealand is part of it, Ardern tells reporters.

Ardern says New Zealand is taking "immediate action" but that does not rule out the ability to consider an autonomous sanctions regime in the future. 

12:05pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Russian invasion of Ukraine is "illegal" and that more than 80 strikes have been carried out against Ukrainian targets. Russia is advancing across at least three axis, she says. There is heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine and fighting around airports.

New Zealand joins others in the condemnation of the attack and has taken a range of measures against Russia.

Ardern says "an unthinkable" number of lives could be lost due to Russia's decision. New Zealand calls on Russia to pull back.

The invasion poses a threat to peace in the region and will trigger a humanitarian crisis, she tells reporters.

In the lead up to the invasion, Russia ignored diplomacy and must now face the consequences of its behaviour, Ardern says.

She mentions the actions New Zealand has taken so far, including travel bans on Russian officials and those associated with the invasion, the prohibition of exports of goods to Russian military and security forces, and the suspension of bilateral foreign ministry engagement until further notice.

"There will be a significant cost imposed on Russia for their actions."

Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, Ardern says.

11:55am - While we wait for the Prime Minister, here's a look at the statement she and the Foreign Affairs Minister released late on Thursday night: 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta say Aotearoa New Zealand condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and will join partners in introducing a range of measures in response.

 "New Zealand strongly condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine and joins the international community in calling on Russia to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine," Jacinda Ardern said.

"This is an unprovoked and unnecessary attack by Russia. By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia's decision.

"We call on Russia to do what is right and immediately cease military operations in Ukraine, and permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life.

"It is through diplomacy, not unnecessary death and destruction, that all parties can find resolution," Jacinda Ardern said.

"New Zealand has consistently expressed our strong support for international efforts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis diplomatically. Given Russia has demonstrated a disregard for these efforts they must now face the consequences of their decision to invade," Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

New Zealand will implement a number of measures in response to Russia's actions, including: 

  • Introduce targeted travel bans against Russian Government officials and other individuals associated with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in line with a number of our partners;
  • Prohibit the export of goods to Russian military and security forces; and
  • Suspend bilateral foreign ministry engagement until further notice; 

"In applying these measures, New Zealand joins other members of the international community, in responding to this breach of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Nanaia Mahuta said.  

"Given serious concerns that a military conflict in Ukraine could lead to a humanitarian crisis, I have also asked officials to provide advice on humanitarian response options, and how New Zealand could potentially contribute in this area.

"Officials have been engaging with affected businesses about the possible economic and trade impacts a military conflict could have on them. Russia is our 27th largest export market, with dairy accounting for about of half of those exports.

"Our thoughts today are with the people in Ukraine impacted by this conflict.  We repeat our call for Russia to act consistently with its international obligations, cease military operations in Ukraine and return to diplomatic negotiations as a pathway to resolve this conflict," Nanaia Mahuta said.

11:50am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's press conference will begin at 12pm. You will be able to watch it above shortly. App users should click here

11:45am - Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised questions about cyberwarfare, hacking, international sanctions and more - and now an official national Twitter account has joined the fray.

Ukraine's verified account tagged Russia's, asking users to let the country know what they think of it amid the violence.

Read more here.

11:30am - The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia intends to "encircle and threaten Kyiv".

"We believe Moscow has developed plans to inflict widespread human rights abuses – and potentially worse – on the Ukrainian people," he said, according to CNN.

He made the comments during a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"Russia’s actions are an affront to democracy, to human rights, to human decency.

"For months, Russia has engaged in the pretense of diplomacy while insisting that they had no intentions of invading Ukraine. All the while, the Kremlin has been preparing this cold-blooded attack, the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Second World War."

11:25am - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has signed a decree on the general mobilisation of the population in the wake of Russia's invasion, the Interfax Ukraine news agency said on Thursday.

Citing a decree on the presidential website, the agency said the mobilisation would be carried out within 90 days of the decree coming into force. 

- Reuters

11:20am - Intelligence indicates Ukraine is facing an uphill battle, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark says, as Ukrainians face the terrifying force of a deadly Russian onslaught.

Clark, a former UN administrator, says Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Ukraine to be a "compliant state" and not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Read what her message was to Putin here

11:10am - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday (local time) said lawmakers want to provide Ukraine with $600 million for "lethal defense weapons" to battle Russia's unfolding attack.

"What we're doing with Ukraine is making sure that we have humanitarian assistance to help the people; that we have lethal defense weapons going into Ukraine to the tune of $600 million for them to fight their own fight," she said, speaking to reporters in San Francisco.

- Reuters

11:05am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide an update on New Zealand's response to the invasion of Ukraine at 12pm. Newshub will livestream that press conference if possible. 

11am - Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and the country's parliament have authorised martial law in Ukraine following Russian's invasion.

It's now emerging that Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 are being prohibited from leaving the country. Authorities have been calling for civilians to be ready to fight against Russia.

10:50am - The National Party has been calling on the NZ Government to introduce an autonomous sanctions regime so Aotearoa could directly impose sanctions of its own without requiring UN Security Council approval. 

The Greens' Golriz Ghahraman has just tweeted, saying New Zealand should stick to a multilateral system. 

"On sanctions against Russia: NZ should work together within the multilateral system with our global community rather than to set a precedent for unilateral sanctions that weaken rule of law- Russia and the US acting unilaterally is exactly what we need less of.

"Also sanctions most often hurt ordinary people more than the likes of Putin - Russians are out protesting this war right now at the risk of death and torture."

10:45am - While Russian troops continue to flow into Ukraine from a number of different sides, Ukraine is defending itself. Here's several social media posts highlighting the Ukrainian forces' attempts to fight back against Russia. Note, some of these reports are unverified.

It's also still unclear what the current status is of Hostomel airport, in the Kyiv region. There have been reports throughout the morning suggesting at one point that Ukraine had recaptured the site from Russia, but that was later clarified, with an official saying fighting was ongoing.

10:35am - According to a BBC report, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has said Putin is using the war between Russia and Ukraine to "cover up the theft from Russian citizens and divert their attention from problems that exist inside the country".

Navalny, who made his comments from prison while standing trial, said Putin's actions will have a "huge number of victims, destroyed futures and the continuation of this line of impoverishment of the citizens of Russia".

He was jailed on old fraud charges after surviving a poison attack believed by the West to be perpetrated by the Kremlin. He is facing new charges. 

10:30am - Charity Save The Children says all children in Ukraine - at least 7.5 million under 18 - are in "grave danger" of physical harm, severe emotional distress and displacement due to Russia's actions. 

"Our most immediate concern is the risk to their health and wellbeing - in conflict, everything is on the table - death, injury, sexual violence, protection risks. Children are terrified," said eastern Europe director Irina Saghoyan.

"They are hearing explosions, they are being asked to flee with just the clothes on their backs. The risk to their mental health and potential for long-term trauma cannot be under estimated."

The charity is calling for an immediate end to hostilities and while they are ongoing say every actor must adhere to international humanitarian law.

10:15am - President Joe Biden unveiled harsh new sanctions against Russia on Thursday after Moscow launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine, imposing measures to impede Russia's ability to do business in the world's major currencies along with sanctions against banks and state-owned enterprises.

"This is a premeditated attack," Biden told reporters at the White House, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected attempts by the West to engage in dialogue and had violated international law. "Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences."

Biden said the sanctions were designed to have a long-term impact on Russia and to minimise the impact on the United States and its allies. And he said Washington was prepared to do more.

Read more - and watch Biden's speech - here.

10:05am - We've heard a bit in the last hour from Ukrainian authorities, but a US Defence official has just given a briefing.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the official said Russian forces are continues to cross the border into the country and are advancing towards the Ukrianian capital of Kyiv. He said it's estimated that Russia has fired more than 160 missiles at Ukrainian targets.

The official said reports from the Ukrainian government that Russian forces have captured Chernobyl cannot be verified by the US.

10am - France's foreign minister said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, when making threats about using nuclear weapons, needs to understand that NATO, too, is a nuclear alliance, but he ruled out NATO-led military intervention to defend Ukraine.

Asked whether Putin's threat of "such consequences that you have never encountered in your history" was tantamount to threatening Russian use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was indeed understood as such.

"Yes, I think that Vladimir Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance. That is all I will say about this," Le Drian said on Thursday on French television TF1.

- Reuters

9:55am - Reuters is reporting the Kremlin as saying that Vladimir Putin and France's Emmanuel Macron have spoken, with Putin giving the French President an "exhaustive" list of reasons why he has invaded Ukraine. The phone call was apparently at Macron's request and the pair have agreed to stay in touch.

The French said Macron rang Putin after speaking to the Ukrainian President. Macron told the Russian leader to immediately stop his military operation. 

9:50am - Ukraine's military said on Thursday that Russian forces aimed to block the Ukrainian capital Kyiv while creating a land corridor on the southern coast towards the annexed Crimea peninsula and the Transdniestria region of Moldova.

Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders on three sides on Thursday after Moscow mounted an assault by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. 

- Reuters

9:45am - People have been streaming out of eastern Ukrainian centres in recent day as Russian forces advance. 

People are evacuating Ukrainian centres.
People are evacuating Ukrainian centres. Photo credit: Getty Images.
Ukraine, Russia war: Vladimir Putin's troops approach Kyiv, capture Chernobyl, New Zealand takes action
Photo credit: Getty Images.
Ukraine, Russia war: Vladimir Putin's troops approach Kyiv, capture Chernobyl, New Zealand takes action
Photo credit: Getty Images.

9:25am - After earlier saying that Hostomel Airport, which is in the Kyiv region, was being fought over by Russian and Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian Presidential office now says it's been recaptured by Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that satellite imagery shows damage to fuel storage areas and airport infrastructure in the city of Chuhuiv, in north-east Ukraine..

9:15am - The latest official update from the Ukraine Defence Minister is that a new wave of attacks by Russian forces is expected soon and it's believed that will include further air strikes. 

The Ukraine National Police have also said Russian forces have captured Zmiinyi Island, which is a tiny island in the Black Sea belonging to Ukraine. It's located near to Ukraine's border with Romania.

9:05am - More than 1600 Russians have now reportedly been detained by police after protesting against the current war with Ukraine. Authorities have also threatened to block media reports of the conflict, claiming coverage to be "false information", according to Reuters. 

Rallies have been held in 53 cities across Russia against Putin's military operation. 

"I was detained on my way out of the house," Marina Litvinovich, a Moscow-based activist, wrote on Telegram after she called on Russians in a Facebook post on Thursday morning to protest later that evening.

"We will be cleaning up this mess for years to come. Not even us. But our children and grandchildren," she said as she announced the protest. "All we see is the agony of a dying man. Alas, Russia is in agony."

8:55am - The UK Ministry of Defence has released this graphic highlighting the various advances by Russian troops. You can see that troops are flowing over the border from both Russia and Belarus. This is far beyond the so-called 'peacekeeping' mission that Putin announced on Tuesday that was targeted towards two eastern Ukrainian states that he declared to be independent.

8:45am - Ukraine's operational nuclear power plants are running safely and securely and there has been no "destruction" at the remaining waste and other facilities at Chernobyl, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, citing Ukraine's nuclear regulator.

"Ukraine has informed the IAEA that 'unidentified armed forces' have taken control of all facilities of the State Specialized Enterprise Chornobyl NPP, located within the Exclusion Zone," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

"The counterpart added that there had been no casualties nor destruction at the industrial site."

- Reuters

8:40am - Here are some of the latest pictures out of Ukraine:

Fire is seen coming out of a military installation near the airport in Mariupol.
Fire is seen coming out of a military installation near the airport in Mariupol. Photo credit: Reuters.
Ukrainian tanks move into Mariupol.
Ukrainian tanks move into Mariupol. Photo credit: Reuters.
A view shows the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service site damaged by shelling in Kyiv region, Ukraine.
A view shows the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service site damaged by shelling in Kyiv region, Ukraine. Photo credit: Reuters.

8:30am - It was being reported earlier that the Hostomel Airfield near to Kyiv had fallen to Russian troops. An adviser to the Ukrainian Presidential office has just clarified that fighting remains ongoing there. 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs previously said that the country's national guard shot down three Russian helicopters out of 34 that had crossed the border line.

"We were forced to inflict artillery fire on the airport where the enemy forces landed."

8:25am - Biden previously said that he would strengthen NATO by sending additional forces to eastern allies. The US Secretary of Defence has now ordered the deployment of 7000 US troops to Europe. Many of those will head to Germany.

8:15am - The latest official death toll from the Ukraine Health Minister is that 57 people have been killed and 169 wounded. However, that is likely a significant undercount. There are parts of Ukraine that are now under Russia's control and it is hard to assess how many fatalities have happened there.

8:10am - Several thousand Ukrainians have crossed into neighbouring countries, mainly Moldova and Romania, while an estimated 100,000 have fled their homes and are uprooted in the country after Russia's invasion, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday.

Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the figures were compiled from reports from national authorities and its staff and partner agencies. "It's a ballpark figure," she told Reuters

- Reuters

8:05am - The White House said on Thursday a media report suggesting that President Joe Biden was presented with options to carry out cyberattacks to disrupt Russia's ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine, was "wildly off base."

NBC News reported earlier that Biden was presented with options that included disrupting internet connectivity across Russia, shutting off electric power, and tampering with railroad switches to hamper Russia's ability to re-supply its forces.

The report cited four people familiar with the deliberations.

"This report is wildly off base and does not reflect what is actually being discussed in any shape or form," White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

- Reuters

8am - Biden says the US will attempt to prevent this situation turning into a larger conflict by strengthening NATO's eastern flank. He has no plans to speak with Vladimir Putin.

Biden has "no idea" what Putin is threatening. He said that after being asked if Putin was potentially threatening nuclear war when he warned on Thursday that foreign interference will be met with serious consequences.

The President denies that he has underestimated Putin. 

"He has much larger ambitions than Ukraine," Biden says.

Putin wants to re-establish the former Soviet Union, the President tells reporters.

He says there is a complete rupture in US-Russia relations. 

7:50am - Biden reiterates that US will not be sending troops to Ukraine, but is strengthening forces in eastern NATO countries. 

He says US "stands up to bullies" and for freedom. If Russia pursues a cyber attack against the US, Biden says the US will respond.

Biden says this was never about genuine security concerns on the Russian part. Putin "portrays a sinister vision for the future of our world", but Biden promises to oppose that along with US partners. 

Putin's choice to choose war will ultimately leave Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger, Biden says. 

"Freedom will prevail."

7:45am - US President Joe Biden says Russia has committed a "premeditated attack", having moved 175,000 troops to the border and brought in field hopsitals. Biden says Putin has ignored attempts at finding a diplomatic solution. Russia has shelled eastern Ukraine and used cyber attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure, Biden says.

"Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war," Biden tells the world.

He has authorised new sanctions on Russia and mentions New Zealand is also taking action along with a number of other countries.

The sanctions being imposed are designed to maximise long-term economic impact on Russia, while minimising impact on Europe and the US, Biden says. A number of Russian banks, holding more than a trillion US dollars, are being hit with sanctions. 

7:40am - A residential area of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine was hit by shelling on Thursday as residents worried that Russian forces will try to take the strategic port city.

Local authorities said 26 people were being treated for wounds in hospital after an eastern district of Mariupol was shelled and "an attempt by Russian troops to break through" into the city was thwarted.

A diplomatic source later told Reuters that the city outskirts had come under heavy fire and that hundreds of explosions had been heard.

Residents are on edge after Russia's invasion of Ukraine because Mariupol, a city of around half a million people, lies only about 10 km (six miles) from areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Many shops did not open on Thursday and some people packed their belongings into cars to flee the city.

"We are going into hiding," said one middle-aged woman.

- Reuters

7:30am - Ukrainian forces are defending against an invasion on three sides by a Russian military that is bigger, better armed and steeped in recent combat experience from Syria's civil war.

Missiles struck Ukrainian cities on Thursday, and Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders from Russia and Belarus and landing on its Black Sea and Azov Sea coasts.

Russia's objective remained unclear but the capital Kyiv was clearly a principal target, with President Vladimir Putin saying he intended to "strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine".

"The Russian military command will be wanting to move very quickly, particularly to isolate and then take over Kyiv, to prevent a coherent Ukrainian defence from forming and, if they can, disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reserves," said Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said Hostomel airfield, northwest of the capital, had been captured by Russian forces - something Barry said would enable them to fly in extra hardware including light armoured vehicles to intensify the assault.

The Russian advances along the Azov Sea coast and near Kharkiv in the northeast also suggested an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east of the country, he said.

The United States estimated Russia had more than 150,000 troops massed around Ukraine's borders on the eve of the invasion, plus tens of thousands of Russian-backed fighters in breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's total active armed forces number 196,600, according to the authoritative IISS Military Balance report released last week.

But while highly motivated to defend the country, and newly equipped with Turkish drones and U.S. and British anti-tank missiles, analysts say they are gapingly vulnerable, in particular to air and missile attack. Ukraine's navy is limited to one major warship and a dozen patrol craft, against the might of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.


Ukraine's experience from eight years of fighting with separatist forces in the east has been dominated by static World War One-style trench warfare.

By contrast Russia's forces showed in Syria, where they intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, that they are capable of moving swiftly across large distances, assembling floating bridges to cross rivers, and synchronising ground manoeuvres with air and drone attacks.

Russia's air force delivered tens of thousands of air strikes, inflicting thousands of civilian casualties, according to the Syrian opposition. Tens of thousands of Russian service personnel saw duty in Syria, and senior land, air and special operations (Spetsnaz) personnel were cycled through tours of duty, according to Barry.

Russian soldiers gained extensive experience of urban warfare alongside Assad's allies from Lebanon's Hezbollah, which could prove valuable if battles ensue for major Ukrainian cities.

Analysts at Janes, a defence intelligence provider, said Russia had also used the Syrian intervention to test new and modernised air, ground and naval equipment including next-generation Su-57 fighter jets and Kalibr cruise missiles.

"To prevail against Russia, the Ukrainian forces are going to have to display a very high standard of tactics, be very bold and resolute and have a campaign plan that is superior to Russia's," said Barry.

"The one advantage the Ukrainians have got is they're fighting for their own country on their soil. Secondly, it appears large numbers of civilians are volunteering to fight alongside the armed forces, and that may make any Russian attacks on urban areas more difficult." 

- Reuters

7:25am - US President Joe Biden is expected to address the world in the next few moments. We have added a YouTube livestream of that to near the top of this page. Refresh the page if you can't see it.

Earlier, Biden said that G7 leaders had agreed to move forward on "devastating packages of sanctions" and other economic measures to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

7:20am - Kiwi journalist in Kyiv Tom Mutch told AM he was woken by the sounds of missiles raining down.

He said people in Ukraine are "walking around the streets carrying weapons now".

"People are very, very concerned for their safety because we just don't know what Russia will use…people here are extremely worried that being said there is no immediate sense of panic. There's been no looting or rioting… or fighting or signs of disunity.

Mutch said it's devastating to see the damage already done by Russia.

7:15am - Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is speaking to AM.

She says Putin wants Ukraine to be a "compliant state" and not be part of NATO. She says he has manufactured excuses for why he needs to invade. 

"He could go all the way to occupy the country," Clark says.

While Putin has said he didn't want to occupy Ukraine, Clark points out that much of what Putin has recently said has turned out to be false.

The former PM says Russia appears to want to cut off much of the Ukrainian army, which is in the east of the country. Russian troops have been entering from the north, east and south.

"I think [Putin] is very serious. If he is getting any advice, it is very bad advice," Clark tells AM.

Putin has dug in over his view that the demise of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, Clark says.

"If he can control Ukraine, one then worries about Moldova."

Moldova is directly south of Ukraine. 

"This is without doubt the most boldness and most ruthless of these moves [to recreate the Soviet Union]."

7:05am - Ukraine's port city of Mariupol is coming under heavy fire with hundreds of explosions reportedly heard there.

It comes after the United States earlier said it believes Russia's key objective is to "decapitate" Ukraine's government.

"The indications we've seen thus far, in just these first, not even 12 hours, are in keeping with our assessment earlier, that would be his goal: to decapitate this government," a senior defence official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The targets, thus far... have been primarily focused on military and air defense. So barracks, ammunition warehouses, nearly 10 airfields targeted."

7am - If you're just joining us, here are the key points courtesy of Reuters:

* Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders on three sides on Thursday after Moscow mounted an assault by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

* Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets. Kyiv reported troops pouring across the borders with Russia and Belarus from the north and east, and landing on the coasts from the Black Sea in the southwest and Azov Sea in the southeast.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin said his aim was to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine.

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was listening to the sound of a new iron curtain falling as Russian troops advanced across his country, and he warned that other European countries may be next.

* U.S. President Joe Biden said the Group of Seven industrialized nations had agreed to move forward on "devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account."

* NATO will reinforce troops on its eastern flank but has no plans to deploy any in Ukraine, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

* European Union leaders will agree to further sanctions on Russia that would have "massive and severe" consequences for Moscow, according to a draft of their summit conclusions.

* Russia would respond with "tit-for-tat" measures, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

* The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by Russian forces, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office said.

* European countries began preparing to receive people fleeing Ukraine.

* The mayor of Kyiv imposed a curfew after Russia invaded Ukraine and the capital echoed throughout the day to the sound of gunfire, sirens and explosions.

* Stock markets tumbled. Russia's rouble hit an all-time low.

* The global finance sector was struggling to respond to the invasion, with share prices suffering heavy falls.

* Major buyers of Russian oil were struggling with bank guarantees, according to sources.

* Ukraine has shut its ports.

6:55am - There are concerns that fighting at Chernobyl could result in damage to a storage unit for dangerous radioactive wate. 

Earlier, an advisor in the Ukraine's interior ministry said that if an artillery shell should hit the unit, "radioactive dust could cover the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and the countries of the European Union".

Russia has only just seized the zone, so it's unclear what type of damage has been sustained at the nuclear power plant. 

6:50am - International relations expert Robert Patman told AM that  Russia's invasion of Ukraine could spill over into neighbouring countries.

"I don't anticipate at the moment that NATO troops or US troops would actually be fighting against Russia in Ukraine. But this conflict has the potential to spill over, many eastern European countries have deep hostility towards Russia under Putin and strongly support the Ukrainian democratic Government."

Patman said sanctions could be very significant but will take time to have an effect.

"The sort of sanctions both the United States, the United Kingdom and other EU leaders are considering could be very significant, effectively cutting Russia off from the international financial system to some degree. But that will take time to work and Putin has got international reserves… the Russian economy with the rise in oil prices has been doing well recently."

He said there is a "tremendous imbalance" between the Ukrainian and Russian military.

"Although Russia is making early strides, that is to be expected given the military imbalance between the sides and if we look at other conflicts - the United States had no problem overwhelming Iraq… But that did not stop a full-blown insurgency from breaking out which eventually pushed The US out of that country.

"If we look at the Russian situation I have no doubt that they could overwhelm Ukraine in the not too distant future, that remains to be seen of course… but even if they do that does not mean that the Russians will achieve their political objective which is to essentially make Ukraine a benign buffer state. "

6:40am - It's nigh on impossible to say how many Ukrainians have been killed so far in the conflict. Ukraine earlier said that at least 40 soldiers and 10 civilians had been killed, but that's likely a significant undercount. World leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have warned of a "catastrophic" loss of life.

Russia's defence ministry says it has neutralised Ukraine's air defence system while also destroying 74 military bases. 

6:35am - The West will deploy all resources available to ensure that the conflict in Ukraine does not spread to other countries in Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.

"Putin should not underestimate the determination of NATO to defend all its members. This applies expressly to our NATO partners in the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. No ifs or buts," the chancellor said.

Scholz also said Russian President Vladimir Putin alone and not the Russian people bore the responsibility for the attack on Ukraine, but he "would not win."

"With the attack on Ukraine, President Putin wants to turn back time. But there is no going back to the 19th century, when great powers ruled over the heads of smaller states," Scholz said.

- Reuters

6:25am - In just the last few moments, the Ukrainian President's office has said the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by Russian forces and it's impossible to say whether it is safe.

Earlier, President Zelenskyy described Russia's attempt to seize Chernobyl as a "declaration of war against the whole of Europe".

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was shelled on Thursday.
The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was shelled on Thursday. Photo credit: Getty Images.
Russian military forces roll in Ukraine.
Russian military forces roll in Ukraine. Photo credit: Getty Images.
Russian military forces roll in Ukraine.
Russian military forces roll in Ukraine. Photo credit: Getty Images.

6:15am - Vladimir Putin and the UK's Boris Johnson have both recently spoken about the events in Ukraine. Here are some of the key points from both leaders:

Putin said Russia was "forced" to invade the Ukraine as previous attempts to change the situation there have proven fruitless. Putin has consistently claimed Russia has been threatened by Ukraine, despite Ukraine saying it is the opposite that is true.

Facing the threat of massive sanctions, Putin says Russia intends to stay part of the international system and that countries should not push it out.

The British Prime Minister, Johnson, spoke to the House of Commons and said Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of history and the world. He said the Russian President will never cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.

He went on to announce a range of sanctions against Russia, including totally excluding Russian banks from the UK financial system, imposing asset freezes on the banks, limit the depsoits Russian nationals can hold in UK bank accounts.

6:10am - Putin used two lengthy addresses this week to try and explain to his people why Russia needed to invade Ukraine. The Guardian, however, reports that it found no support for the war among those in Moscow.

Reuters is also reporting on anti-war protests that have broken out across 24 Russian cities. Police there have detained at least 167 people at the protests.

6:05am - Ukrainian politicians are obviously furious with the invasion of their country. Among them President Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Kuleba. Here's what they had to say earlier:

5:55am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live updates of the conflict occuring in eastern Europe after Russia on Thursday invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

The full invasion began at roughly 4pm on Thursday (NZT) and a lot has happened overnight. Here is Reuters' latest wrap of the situation:

Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders around nearly all of the country's perimeter on Thursday after Moscow mounted a mass assault by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets. Kyiv reported columns of troops pouring across the borders with Russia and Belarus stretching from the north and east, and landing on the coasts from the Black Sea in the southwest and Azov Sea in the southeast.

Fierce fighting was taking place in the regions of Sumy and Kharkiv in the northeast, Kherson and Odessa in the south, and at a military airport near the capital Kyiv, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said troops were trying to fend off Russians attempting to capture the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, just 90 km (60 miles) north of the capital. Regional officials said Ukrainian authorities had lost control of some territory in the Kherson region near Russian-occupied Crimea.

After President Vladimir Putin declared war in a pre-dawn televised address, explosions and gunfire were heard throughout the morning in Kyiv, a city of 3 million people.

The highway out of the city choked with traffic as residents fled.

The assault brought a calamitous end to weeks of fruitless diplomatic efforts by Western leaders to avert war, their worst fears about Putin's ambitions realised.

"Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in the WW2 years," tweeted Zelenskiy.

"Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks."

Calling on Ukrainians to defend their country, he said arms would be given to anyone prepared to fight. He also urged Russians to take to the streets to protest against their government's actions.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the Russian action an "unprovoked and unjustified attack". EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would impose a new round of sanctions that would hit Russia's economy severely.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: "These are among the darkest hours of Europe since the Second World War."


In his address, Putin said he had ordered "a special military operation" to protect people, including Russian citizens, subjected to "genocide" in Ukraine - an accusation the West calls baseless propaganda.

"And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine," Putin said. "All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine."

A resident of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city and close to the Russian border, said windows in apartment blocks were shaking from constant blasts.

Blasts could be heard in the southern port of Mariupol, near a frontline held by Russian-backed separatists. Civilians in Mariupol packed bags: "We are going into hiding," a woman said.

Ukrainian officials said Russian helicopters attacked Gostomel, a military airport near Kyiv, and Ukraine downed three of them. Ukrainian border officials said the Russians were trying to penetrate Kyiv region and Zhytomyr region on the Belarusian border. They were using Grad rockets.

Unconfirmed reports of casualties included Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian bombardment and border guards defending the frontier.

Authorities in the southern Odessa region said 18 people were killed in a missile attack. At least six people were killed in Brovary, a town near Kyiv, authorities there said. Ukraine reported five people killed when one plane was shot down.

Ukraine's military said it had destroyed four Russian tanks near Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region, and downed six Russian warplanes in the east.

Russia denied reports its aircraft or armoured vehicles had been destroyed. Russian-backed separatists claimed to have downed two Ukrainian planes.


Even with a full-blown invasion under way, Putin's ultimate aim is obscure. He said he did not plan a military occupation, only to disarm Ukraine and purge it of nationalists.

The outright annexation of such a vast hostile country could be beyond Russia's military capabilities. But if the aim is just to replace Zelenskiy's government, it is hard to see Ukrainians accepting any new leadership Moscow might try to install.

"I think we must fight all those who invade our country so strongly," said one man stuck in traffic trying to leave Kyiv. "I would hang every single one of them from bridges."

Biden has ruled out sending U.S. troops to defend Ukraine, but Washington has reinforced NATO allies in the region with extra troops and planes. The West has pledged to impose severe sanctions.

"Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way," Biden said.

Russia is one of the world's biggest energy producers, and both it and Ukraine are among the top exporters of grain. War and sanctions will disrupt economies around the world already facing a supply crisis as they emerge from the pandemic.

Stocks and bond yields plunged; the dollar and gold soared. Brent oil surged past $100/barrel for the first time since 2014.

At least three major buyers of Russian oil said they had been denied letters of credit from Western banks, needed for shipments to go ahead.


A democratic nation of 44 million people, Ukraine is Europe's biggest country by area after Russia itself. It voted for independence at the fall of the Soviet Union and aims to join NATO and the European Union, aspirations that infuriate Moscow.

Putin, who denied for months he was planning an invasion, has called Ukraine an artificial construct carved from Russia by its enemies, a characterisation Ukrainians see as an attempt to erase their more than 1,000-year-old history.

While many Ukrainians, particularly in the east, speak Russian as a native language, virtually all identify as a separate nationality.

In Kyiv, queues of people waited to withdraw money and buy supplies of food and water. Cars stretched for dozens of kilometres (miles) on the highway leading from the capital west towards Poland, where Western countries have prepared for the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

"We're afraid of bombardments," said Oxana, trying to flee and stuck in her car with her three-year-old daughter on the backseat. "This is so scary."

Three hours after Putin gave his order, Russia's defence ministry said it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukrainian air bases and degraded its air defences.

Ukrainian media reported that military command centres in Kyiv and Kharkiv had been struck by missiles, while Russian troops had landed at Odessa and Mariupol.

Russia announced it was shutting all shipping in the Azov Sea. Russia controls the strait leading into the sea where Ukraine has ports including Mariupol. Ukraine appealed to Turkey to bar Russian ships from the straits connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

- Reuters