NATO is bolstering its military presence to defend allied countries in eastern Europe, if necessary, the military alliance said, hours after Russian forces launched an invasion of Ukraine.
“We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the alliance, as well as additional maritime assets,” NATO said in a statement
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels that Russia’s attack is “a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion” and that NATO activated its defense plans for member nations.
"We will further increase, and we are increasing, our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, and today we activated NATO’s defense plans that gives our military commanders more authority to move forces and to deploy forces when needed,” Stoltenberg said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used a televised address to announce what he called a “special” military operation in eastern Ukraine, in response to what he termed Ukrainian threats. He warned other countries not to intervene, declaring they will face “consequences they have never seen” if they do.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the government was introducing martial law throughout the country after "Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in the World War Two years.”
"As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks," said Zelenskyy, who also said the government would arm “anyone who wants to defend the country.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russian forces "want to cut off part of the country and they are moving in big convoys." Podolyak said, "we are seeing attempts to destabilize the situation in big cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv."
U.S. President Joe Biden said the people of Ukraine are suffering “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “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. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the 27-nation bloc is preparing “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented.” He said of the situation, “These are among the darkest hours for Europe since the end of World War Two.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he spoke with Zelenskyy about possible responses to the invasion and that Putin opted for “a path of bloodshed and destruction
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that Putin had launched “a full-scale invasion of Ukraine” and that the global community must respond to Russia with “devastating sanctions” and more military, financial, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced the attack, calling it a "dark day for Europe" and expressed his country's "full solidarity with Kyiv." Scholz said Germany and its allies would show that "Putin has made a serious mistake with his war."
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis condemned Russia's attack, saying it "chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.
"Czech President Milos Zeman, a leading Russian advocate among EU leaders, admitted he “was wrong” about Russia, which he said committed "an unprovoked act of aggression." He called for tougher sanctions against Russia, maintaining "it's necessary to isolate a lunatic and not just to defend ourselves by words but also by deeds."
French President Emmanuel Macron declared, "The events of last night mark a turning point in the history of Europe,” and he vowed, "We will respond to this act of war without weakness, with cold blood, determination and unity.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has close ties with Russia and Ukraine, said Russia's military actions amount to a "heavy blow" to regional peace and stability and reiterated, “Our call for a resolution of the problems between Russia and Ukraine.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised that Italy and other NATO allies
“will do whatever it takes to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty, Europe's security, and the integrity of the international order based on the rules and values we all share."
During an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded with Putin to end the conflict. “I say, President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia. In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century,” Guterres said.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, who also happens to be the president of the Security Council this month, presided over the council’s emergency meeting where his president’s actions were denounced by nearly every member.
“We don’t know all the details today, but briefly I’d like to inform you that from his statement, it says the occupation of Ukraine is not in our plans,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzaia said. “The aim of the special operation is to protect the people who for eight-plus years have been suffering genocide from the Kyiv regime, and from this we will de-militarize and de-genocide Ukraine, and also hold accountable those who carried out so many crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”
Ukraine’s envoy told the council it was too late to speak about de-escalation, as the Russian war had begun. “There is no purgatory for war criminals, they go straight to hell, ambassador,” Sergiy Kyslytsya told Nebenzia.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying refused to describe Russia’s military actions against Ukraine as an “invasion,” telling reporters
"You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word invasion.”
She also said China is closely monitoring the latest situation” and that “We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control."
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Russia's attack on Ukraine was "a grave violation of the international order. Israel is a country well-versed in war. War is not the way to resolve conflicts," noting there was still a chance for a negotiated solution.
Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, urged all parties in the conflict to protect civilians. “ICRC teams are responding to urgent humanitarian needs and they must be able to continue their life-saving work,” he said.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Russia's attack on Ukraine is a "flagrant violation of international norms." She said, “There is an increase in traffic flow” at border crossing points with neighboring Ukraine, and she vowed her country would “help people who need our support.”
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said Putin’s threat to retaliate to anyone who may meddle in his invasion amounted to a threat to “launch a nuclear war.”
European Central Bank policymaker Yannis Stournaras said the war "is going to have a short-term inflationary effect, that prices will increase due to higher energy costs.” He added, "But in the medium to long term I think that the consequences will be deflationary through adverse trade effects."
Multiple U.S. lawmakers condemned Russia’s attack, including Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said Putin’s decision was driven by "fear of allowing a neighboring independent, sovereign nation to pursue democracy and freedom."
Senator Marco Rubio, another Foreign Relations Committee member, said, “Ukraine is outgunned and outmanned. But they are brave and tough fighters, and as the world will soon learn, they have already inflicted damage on Russian invaders.”
White House correspondent Anita Powell, VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer, Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb, State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching, VOA refugee correspondent Heather Murdock in Slovyansk and Jamie Dettmer in Kyiv contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.