Assault on Kiev: Russian helicopters swoop above Ukraine’s capital as Putin launches all-out invasion from north, south and east, with cruise missiles hitting airports and military bases, tanks rolling in and scores killed

Daily Mail

Russia has today launched all-out war on Ukraine with simultaneous attacks coming from south, east and north, by land and by air. Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, tanks rolled across the border, helicopters buzzed in the air and explosions were seen across the country after Vladimir Putin gave the order to attack.

Ukrainian forces were this afternoon fighting in almost every region of the country, the police service said, fighting the Russians for control of military bases, airports and cities after an early-hours barrage of cruise missiles and guided bombs targeting ammo dumps and radar arrays across the entire country.

By Thursday afternoon, battles were ongoing in the capital Kiev, along the northern border with Belarus, in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east and around Kherson and the Dneiper River in the south.

Ukrainian forces said they were fighting for control over Gostomel air base, to the north west of Kiev, after dozens of Russian attack helicopters had swept in and landed troops there – with several being shot out of the skies by what appeared to be Ukrainian MiG fighters.

Ukrainian forces also appeared to be putting up a stiff resistance around Kharkiv, in the east, where multiple Russian tanks and armoured vehicles were pictured having been destroyed by Kiev’s forces – with bodies lying in the streets. Two Russian soldiers were also captured by Kiev’s forces in the area.

But fighting appeared to be going less well in the south, with Russian tanks breaking out of Crimea near Kherson and moving towards the Dnieper River where they linked up with more helicopters and seized power plants – with a Russian flag seen raised over Kakhovka Hydroelectric plant in the early afternoon.

Border guard units said they were fighting for control of the eastern city of Sumy against Russian forces while fierce battles were also raging in Donetsk and Luhansk against pro-Russian rebel forces who launched an attack from rebel-held enclaves.

Estimates of dead and injured were almost non-existent as of early afternoon. One Ukrainian official said ‘hundreds’ had been killed in early fighting, while another put the death toll at 40 Ukrainians and 50 Russians.

The port cities of Mariupol and Odessa, where Ukraine’s main naval bases are located, were also attacked – though Odessa appeared to remain under Ukrainian control as of Thursday afternoon. Russian tankers blockaded the Kerch Strait, leading from the Back Sea to the Sea of Azov, cutting off Mariupol.

Volodymyr Zelensky, in an address to the nation on Thursday morning, said the history of Ukraine has now changed forever and that Russia has ’embarked on a path of evil’ – comparing the Russian attack to Hitler’s forces in World War Two. But he vowed to fight back, saying the military has already inflicted ‘serious losses’ on Russia.

He called on all Ukrainian citizens willing to defend their homeland to step forward, saying guns will be issued to everyone who wants one. He also asked for civilians to give blood to help wounded troops. And he asked world leaders to impose the ‘harshest sanctions possible’ on Putin.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, addressing the nation at midday, said western allies are preparing a ‘massive’ package of sanctions against Russia and told the people of Ukraine: ‘We cannot and will not just look away.’ Johnson referred to Putin as a ‘dictator’ who would never ‘subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians’.

It came after the Russian strongman gave an extraordinary address to the Russian nation – broadcast in the early hours during a UN meeting aimed at avoiding war – in which he declared a ‘special military operation’ to ‘de-militarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine in what amounted to a outright declaration of war. The video appeared to have been pre-recorded, around the same time as Putin’s Monday address recognising Donbass as independent.

Putin also issued a chilling warning to any country thinking of coming to Ukraine’s aid, vowing ‘consequences greater than any you have faced in history’. ‘I hope I have been heard,’ he said.

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