Fighting between Russian, Ukrainian forces reported across country; casualties unclear

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Carrying out a "special military operation" ordered by President Vladimir Putin, Russian forces on Thursday conducted more than 200 attacks inside Ukraine -- as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut all diplomatic ties with Moscow.

Just a few hours into the attack, Russian officials claimed that forces had "neutralized" Ukrainian air defenses and airfields, The Guardian reported. Putin said the incursions were intended to "demilitarize" Ukraine.


The attacks came in the form of airstrikes in western Ukraine, in the areas of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, while armored Russian vehicles pushed their way in at the northern border from Belarus with support from Belarusian troops.

Russian troops and military vehicles also entered Ukraine from Crimea, the former Ukrainian territory that Moscow annexed by force nearly a decade ago.

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News outlets have reported varying numbers of casualties and the Ukrainian government had not yet given any official count by mid-Thursday.

Zelensky said that Ukraine-Russia relations -- which have often been adversarial since Ukraine declared its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- were immediately cut off.


"The state of Ukraine severed diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, which treacherously attacked," a statement read on Zelensky's presidential website. "The armed forces of Ukraine are fighting hard battles repelling attacks by the Russian army throughout our country."

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Zelensky said in a Twitter message that he's forming an "anti-Putin" coalition -- and said he's spoken with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about "concrete sanctions" and assistance for the Ukrainian military.

"We are waiting for decisive action," he added.

The Ukrainian military said in a tweet that it's using unmanned aerial vehicles against Russian forces around the Black Sea, as well as conducting "intense hostilities in the areas of the enemy's advance."

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NATO on Thursday heavily condemned Putin and Russia for the invasion, calling it a "brutal act of war." The alliance said that it will hold an emergency meeting on Friday.

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