Special Daily Brief On Ukraine: War has started
In today’s brief with the abrupt start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we look at confirmed reports and reactions of the various countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the vicinity of the conflict.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, President Putin gave a short address in which he reacted to pleas from leaders of Luhansk and Donetsk Republics. He declared a “decision to conduct a special military operation”. The goal of this intervention is meant to be the de-Nazification and demilitarization of Ukraine with no intention to occupy Ukraine. He also both threatened and warned all countries that interfering in Ukraine would result in “consequences greater than any you have faced in history”. Some observers speculated that Thursday’s message may have been pre-recorded as his tie, posture as well as the background is exactly the same as the one used by President Putin’s during his inflammatory speech on Monday.
Russian cruise and ballistic missiles were seen hitting targets around major Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian authorities reported artillery bombardments and Russian troops launching attacks into Ukraine from Belarus in the North, the Eastern border with Russia, and in the South from the. Crimean Peninsula. At the moment the targets appear to be military installations and infrastructure near major cities including Kharkiv, Mariupol and Dnipro, Odessa, and the capital Kyiv.
In reaction, Ukraine cut diplomatic ties with Russia. President Zelensky used a video address to appeal to the Russian public after a failed attempt to reach his Russian counterpart. He also vowed to defend the country, saying: “If someone attempts to take away our land, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. By attacking, you will see our faces, not our backs, but our faces.” In the hours since the beginning of the invasion, martial law was declared and President Zelensky spoke to the US President Bidden.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister declared “This is not a Russian invasion only in the East of Ukraine, but a full-scale attack from multiple directions,” Dmytro Klueba wrote on twitter.
On 24 February 2022, NATO Allies including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia requested to hold consultations under Article 4 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is a consultation procedure that all A NATO Allies can invoke if, “in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”
Poland is setting up 8 refugee centres , categorized as “reception points“ near its border points with Ukraine, to help with food, shelter and information for expected refugees. Poland is keeping its diplomatic mission open in Kyiv.
Hungary is sending troops to its Eastern border to create corridors. Defence Minister Tibor Benko said that Hungary must prepare to receive tens of thousands of refugees if necessary. Hungary also said its mission to Ukraine remains open.
Czech President Zeman a long-time supporter of President Putin criticized Russian aggression in an unprecedent statement. He stated that “It is necessary to condemn not only with words but with actions as well”. Adding that although he values Russian people for their sacrifice in World War II and admires Russian culture, none of those things allow for the Russian Federation to enter another sovereign state. President Zeman further stated that ,“Russia committed a crime against peace”.
Slovakia has reported increased number of people trying to cross its Eastern border with waiting times at over two hours. The three highest Slovak political leaders, President Čaputová, Prime Minister Heger and Leader of the National Assembly Kollar issued a joint statement affirming that, “Today Ukraine has every right to defend itself”. They declared that the narrative that Russia was provoked by Ukraine cannot be believed even by those who are actively promoting disinformation efforts.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Petko said that Bulgaria is preparing for the arrival of refugees and will have hotels and other tourism infrastructure prepared . Bulgaria does not share borders with Ukraine, but it is a Black Sea littoral state.
Lithuania which borders directly with Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad declared state of emergency.
“NATO Allies condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “We call on Russia to immediately cease its military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and choose diplomacy.” “We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and Ukraine’s right of self-defence” Mr. Stoltenberg added.
The UN Secretary General António Guterres has denounced the actions of the Russian President and asked him in the name of humanity to stop his troops and withdraw his forces from Ukraine.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell called the situation “among the darkest hours for Europe”. Furthermore, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the EU will introduce further targeted sanctions for the approval of member states.