This piece is being updated.
As the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Russia late last night (Feb. 23), president Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a military operation in Ukraine. Explosions were heard in Kharkiv, Odessa, and the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv before sunrise. At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers are reported to have been killed.
The West has roundly condemned Putin’s actions, while allies such as China are treading more lightly. Further international sanctions against Russia are likely to be announced later today.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called Russia’s attack a “brutal act of war” which amounts to “a grave breach of international law.”
The alliance said it is deploying additional land and air forces to eastern Europe, and that it is holding consultations with member countries including Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, all which border Ukraine. NATO leaders will meet Feb. 25 to discuss the evolving security situation.
US president Joe Biden said the world would “hold Russia accountable,” while EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen condemned the “barbaric attack” and promised sanctions.
Biden announced a new set of sanctions this afternoon targeting Russia’s two biggest banks, Sberbank and VTB. Biden said the US and its allies will also restrict exports from the country, and sanction wealthy oligarchs. The UK also said it plans to freeze assets on major Russian banks including VTB, but didn’t mention Sberbank.
India’s representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, said yesterday his country had “deep concerns” about the situation in Ukraine, but didn’t go further to criticize Russia.
India is currently awaiting delivery of new defense equipment from Russia, including five missile systems.
China urged all sides of the conflict to “exercise restraint” to prevent the conflict from escalating further, but didn’t characterize the attack as an invasion.
“This is perhaps a difference between China and you Westerners. We won’t go rushing to a conclusion,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said at a press briefing.
Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping signed a pact ahead of the Beijing Olympics opposing the US and its international alliances.
African Union leaders issued a statement expressing their “extreme concern” at the situation in Ukraine, and called on Russia and its international partners to respect “the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine.”
Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN gave a scathing condemnation of the Ukraine-Russia crisis on Feb. 21, comparing it to colonialism in Africa.