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24th Feb 2022

Ukraine invasion: Everything we know so far and what it means for the UK

Ava Evans

The conflict world leaders were desperate to advert has began

Russia has begun a multi-pronged offensive in Ukraine, ending hope the invasion could be prevented and sending panic across the globe.

Could the UK soon be at war with Russia?

Here’s what we know so far.

Putin invaded Ukraine in the early hours of this morning

At 05:55 Moscow time (02:55 GMT), Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “military operation” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in a televised speech.

The region is home to many Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and parts of it have been under Russian occupation since 2014.

Putin described the invasion as an act of “self-defence”, warning Ukrainian soldiers in the area that a clash was “only a question of time”.

He also said he planned to “de-Nazify” the country and warned the West will face “consequences never encountered in your history” should they try to intervene.

Missiles were launched overnight and tanks and troops are on the move

Overnight, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had launched missile strikes across the country.

Explosions could be heard in the North, South, and East of the country – in what  Zelensky has described as an attack on infrastructure.

Russia’s defence ministry has denied attacking Ukrainian cities and instead claims it has only targeted military infrastructure, air defence, and air forces, the BBC reports.

It’s understood tanks and troops are entering Ukraine across all borders that meet with Russia in an offensive that was preceded by artillery fire. Border guards have reportedly been injured.

Putin had earlier assembled over 150,000 combat troops on the borders of Ukraine, with another 34,000 separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Half of Moscow’s air force is also deployed in the region.

In 2003, the US-led invasion of Iraq deployed around 175,000 troops – meaning the Ukrainian invasion could be the biggest war since the turn of the century.

Are there any casualties?

Reports from the Ukrainian government suggest there have already been civilian casualties and that more than 40 soldiers have been killed, Sky News reports. Several dozen are also said to have been injured.

Earlier reports suggested several people have been killed by an aerial attack from Russia overnight.

Ukrainian police, meanwhile, have said at least eight people have been killed.


Reports vary widely, but an official death toll is not yet known.

Ukrainian armed forces have also said they have shot down five Russian planes and helicopters, but Russia has reportedly denied this.

Panicked residents are trying to flee and take shelter

In the capital, Kyiv, an emergency siren went off, and pictures have emerged of gridlocked roads as residents try and get closer to the Polish border where it is seen as safer.

President Volodymyr Zelensky told people to stay at home unless they are involved in critical work, but a state of martial law has been declared.

People are said to have been rushed to bomb shelters and into basements.

World leaders have condemned the invasion

US President Joe Biden said the Ukrainian President “reached out to me tonight and we just finished speaking. I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces”.

Biden added: “I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the UN Security Council.”

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said: “Canada condemns – in the strongest possible terms – Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine. These unprovoked actions are a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and of Russia’s obligations under international law and the Charter of the UN.”

European Union President Ursula von de Leyen said the EU would hold Putin to account, announcing a package of sanctions would be introduced later today.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said: “Nato Allies will meet to address Russia’s renewed aggression”,

How will the UK help?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Thursday and was due to deliver a pre-recorded message to the public at 11. He is also due to give a statement in the House of Commons at 5pm.

Previously, Johnson has made clear the UK will not send troops to Ukraine – as the country is not part of NATO, but they have been training Ukrainian forces in the region for years.

Despite this, the UK has been building up troops in surrounding countries, providing intelligence, and sending Ukraine “self-defence” weapons.

While we haven’t committed to “boots on the ground”, the PM has announced a sanctions package targeting five Russian banks, freezing their assets. Three oligarchs saw travel bans and their assets in the UK frozen.

It’s understood the same measures are being planned for a number of Russian politicians who voted to declare Donetsk and Luhansk independent on Monday. Johnson will face increasing pressure to sanction more, and sanction fast as events unfold.

Labour has urged the Prime Minister to go further

In a statement, Sir Keir Starmer said Putin’s decision to send in troops “will have horrendous and tragic consequences that will echo throughout the world and throughout history”.

“All those who believe in the triumph of democracy over dictatorship, good over evil, freedom over the jackboot of tyranny must now support the Ukrainian people,” he said.

“The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Putin.

“The influence of Russian money must be extricated from the UK. And those who have for too long turned a blind eye to Russia’s actions must reckon with their own consciences.”

Are we at war?

Sir Richard Sherriff, who served as NATO’s deputy supreme commander from 2011 to 2014, said the invasion of Ukraine overnight could turn into a “catastrophic war”, the likes of which have not been seen in Europe since 1945.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Richard warned there is a possibility Britain could soon be at war.

He said: “Absolutely there is a possibility that we as a nation will be at war with Russia.

“If Russia puts one bootstep across Nato territory we are all at war with Russia – every single member of Nato alliance”

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