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Latest on Russia-Ukraine: Explosions heard in Kyiv, Ukrainian capital


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Latest on Russia-Ukraine: Explosions heard in Kyiv, Ukrainian capital

The latest on Russia and Ukraine from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:00 p.m. (UPDATED) Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Friday as Russian forces pressed on with a full-scale invasion that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Ukrainians in the first full day of fighting and could eventually rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.

After using airstrikes on cities and military bases, Russian military units moved swiftly to take on Ukraine’s seat of government and its largest city in what U.S. officials suspect is a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismantle the government and replace it with his own regime.

Ukrainian leaders pleaded for help as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee, and hotels in Kyiv were being evacuated amid early indications of an assault.

9:36 p.m. Anonymous, an international hacker group, declared “cyber war” against the Russian government.

In a tweet Thursday night, the group claimed responsibility for taking down Russian state media website RT. The website is back online after temporarily being disabled.

The cyber attack also targeted the websites of the Russian government, the Kremlin, the Duma and Ministry of Defence.

“Our operations are targeting the Russian government,” Anonymous said in a statement. “There is an inevitability that the private sector will most likely be affected too.”

8:00 p.m. The Trudeau government blasted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a grave threat to the world order Canadians fought and died to create, as it laid out new and more aggressive sanctions, and warned more penalties could cut Russia out of the global financial system and take direct aim at President Vladimir Putin.

Canada, acting in concert with the United States, United Kingdom, and other European and G7 allies, announced its second round of sanctions this week in response to what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “the greatest threat to European stability” since the Second World War: a “horrific, unprovoked attack” on a sovereign country that violated international law and spawned human suffering as missiles fell on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

Ottawa outlined moves to penalize 31 individuals and 27 banks and entities all connected to Russia’s ruling elite, to curb about $750 million in Canadian exports particularly of aerospace, IT and mineral shipments to Russia, and to bar any dealings with several Russian financial institutions.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles and Alex Ballingall.

7:45 p.m. From Allan Woods, the Star’s special correspondent in Moscow: Russian embassy in Canada says Russia has been expressing concern about NATO enlargement for 20 years. “All our efforts have been put on the back burner or haughtily ridiculed,” an embassy statement read.

The “evolved political military situation” and NATO posturing in Europe “created a clear and immediate danger for Russia that could not have been mitigated by any other means than those Russia has to use today,” the embassy continued.

However, the embassy states “the road to peace remains open. And Russia remains open to a meaningful dialogue” to develop a new security arrangement in Europe and across the Atlantic.

7:30 p.m. Even the smallest act of defiance in Russia takes a giant dose of courage.

That is the way it was in Soviet times. And that is the way it was the day that Russia invaded Ukraine.

A day that began before the sun rose with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s paranoid justification for war: an attack by the West against Russia was a certainty unless Russia brought to bloody completion the brutal military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.

“You and I,” he said, “simply have not been left with any other opportunity to protect Russia, our people, except for the one that we will be forced to use today.”

The Star’s Allan Woods reports from Moscow.

6:59 p.m. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian forces killed 137 Ukrainians and injured 316 more in the first day of attack, according to local media.

Of the 137 killed, 10 were officers.

6:44 p.m. “It’s going to be a cold day for Russia,” U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon at the White House, talking about the expected long-term effects of new sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It would be fair to say that it was a bitterly cold day all around. A day when, as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “we woke up to a changed world.” A day in which we witnessed a massive invasion of the kind not seen in the developed world in generations — an unprovoked territorial war of naked aggression launched by Russia, the largest country in Europe, against Ukraine, the second largest, in explosive waves of destruction from the east and the north and the south, by land and by sea and by air.

“We haven’t seen a conventional move like this, nation-state to nation-state, since World War II,” a U.S. Defense Department official told reporters, predicting that the aim of Russia’s invasion appeared to be taking over Ukraine, “decapitating the government” and installing its own regime.

Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan.

6:36 p.m. Don’t expect Canadian sanctions to bring Russia’s economy to its knees.

There simply isn’t enough trade between the two countries for even broad sanctions to really hurt Russia’s economy, business and trade experts say.

“Our trade relationship with Russia is negligible. It’s about half a per cent. By the same token, the impact of Canadian sanctions are also negligible if we just look at trade,” said Mark Manger, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The Star’s Josh Rubin has the rest.

6:23 p.m. World leaders Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “barbaric” and quickly slapped heavy sanctions on the Russian economy, President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and many of the country’s oligarchs.

“Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” U.S. President Joe Biden declared.

In near-unison, the United States, the 27-nation European Union and other Western allies announced a round of punitive measures against Russian banks and leading companies and imposed export controls aimed at starving the country’s industries and military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.

From the U.S. to Western Europe and Japan, South Korea and Australia, nations lined up to denounce the Kremlin as the outbreak of fighting raised fears about the shape of Europe to come. The invasion initially sent stocks slumping and oil prices surging on fears of higher costs for food and fuel.

6:15 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered a full military mobilization to counter the Russian invasion.

In a decree issued Thursday, he said the the mobilization would last 90 days.

He tasked the military’s general staff with determining the number of people eligible for service and the number of reservists as well as the order of the call-up. The president’s cabinet has been tasked with allocating money for the mobilization.

5:27 p.m. Yellow and blue flags flew in cities across Canada on Thursday as Ukrainian Canadians organized demonstrations to denounce Russia’s attack on Ukraine and urged Ottawa to act swiftly to defend their homeland.

Several Canadian cities, including Calgary and Montreal, said they would fly the Ukrainian flag over municipal buildings. Demonstrations were also planned in Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton to denounce the Russian military strike.

5:10 p.m. From Allan Woods, the Star’s special correspondent in Moscow: More than 1,700 people have been detained at dozens of anti-war rallies in cities across Russia, according to OVD-Info, an organisation that monitors political persecution in the region.

4:10 p.m. Canadians can expect to pay more at the pump as Russia’s attack on Ukraine puts even greater pressure on an already surging oil price environment.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is putting even greater pressure on an already surging oil price environment and that will cost Canadians more at the pump.

Roger McKnight, chief petroleum analyst at En-Pro International Inc. expects gas prices across the country to rise approximately five cents per litre this weekend.

“If you are only filling up once a week or that sort of thing, get anything in your tank that you can before Saturday,” McKnight said on Thursday. “But if you’re a daily filler, there’s really not much you can do.”

4 p.m. Shocked Russians turned out by the thousands Thursday to decry their country’s invasion of Ukraine as emotional calls for protests grew on social media. Some 1,702 people in 53 Russian cities were detained, at least 940 of them in Moscow.

Hundreds of posts came pouring in condemning Moscow’s most aggressive actions since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Vladimir Putin called the attack a “special military operation” to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine from “genocide” — a false claim the U.S. had predicted would be a pretext for invasion, and which many Russians roundly rejected.

Tatyana Usmanova, an opposition activist in Moscow, wrote on Facebook that she thought she was dreaming when she awoke at 5:30 a.m. to the news, which she called “a disgrace that will be forever with us now.”

“I want to ask Ukrainians for forgiveness. We didn’t vote for those who unleashed the war,” she said.

As sirens blasted in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and large explosions were heard there and in other cities, Russians were signing open letters and online petitions demanding the Kremlin halt the assault, which Ukrainian forces reported had killed more than 40 soldiers and wounded dozens.

“Public opinion is in shock, people are in shock,” political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told The Associated Press.

One petition, started by a prominent human rights advocate, Lev Ponomavyov, garnered over 150,000 signatures within several hours and 289,000 by the end of the day. More than 250 journalists put their names on an open letter decrying the aggression. Another one was signed by some 250 scientists, while 194 municipal council members in Moscow and other cities signed a third.

“I’m worried about the people very much, I’m worried to tears,” said Zoya Vorobey, a resident of Korolyov, a town outside Moscow, her voice cracking. “I’ve been watching television since this morning, every minute, to see if anything changes. Unfortunately, nothing.”

Several Russian celebrities and public figures, including some working for state TV, spoke out against the attack. Yelena Kovalskaya, director of a state-funded Moscow theater, announced on Facebook she was quitting her job, saying “it’s impossible to work for a killer and get paid by him.”

“I know that right now many of you feel desperation, helplessness, shame over Vladimir Putin’s attack on the friendly nation of Ukraine. But I urge you not to despair,” human rights activist Marina Litvinovich said in a video statement on Facebook, calling for mass protests Thursday evening.

“We, the Russian people, are against the war Putin has unleashed. We don’t support this war, it is being waged not on our behalf,” Litvinovich said.

But the authorities were having none of that.

In Moscow and other cities, they moved swiftly to crack down on critical voices. Litvinovich was detained outside of her residence shortly after posting the protest call. OVD-Info, a rights group that tracks political arrests, reported that 1,702 people in 53 cities had been detained by Thursday evening, at least 940 of them in Moscow.

Russia’s Investigative Committee issued a warning Thursday afternoon reminding Russians that unauthorized protests are against the law.

Roskomnadzor, state communications and media watchdog, demanded that Russian media use “information and data they get only from official Russian sources.” Some media reported that employees of certain state-funded companies were instructed not to comment publicly on the events in Ukraine.

Human rights advocates warned of a new wave of repression on dissent.

“There will be new (criminal) cases involving subverters, spies, treason, prosecution for antiwar protests, there will be detentions of journalists and bloggers, those who authored critical posts on social media, bans on investigations of the situation in the army and so on,” prominent human rights advocate Pavel Chikov wrote on Facebook.

“It is hard to say how big this new wave will be, given that everything has been suppressed already.”

Despite the pressure from the authorities, more than 1,000 people gathered in the center of Moscow Thursday evening, chanting “No to war!” as passing cars honked their horns.

Hundreds also took to the streets in St. Petersburg and dozens in Yekaterinburg.

“This is the most shameful and terrible day in my life. I even was not able to go to work. My country is an aggressor. I hate Putin. What else should be done to make people open their eyes?” Yekaterina Kuznetsova, 40-year-old engineer who joined the demonstration in St. Petersburg, told the AP.

Russia’s official line in the meantime remained intransigent. Speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko charged that those who spoke out against the attack were only caring about their “momentary problems.”

State TV painted the attack in line with what Putin said in his televised address announcing it.

Russia 1 TV host Olga Skabeyeva called it an effort “to protect people in Donbas from a Nazi regime” and said it was “without exaggeration, a crucial junction in history.”

3:55 p.m. Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko says 57 Ukrainians have been killed as a result of the Russian invasion, and 169 more were wounded.

Lyashko also said Thursday that Ukraine’s authorities are repurposing the country’s health care facilities to make room for those who need medical assistance because of the hostilities.

3:49 p.m. “I love you, I’m sorry. May God save you.”

That was the text Khrystyna Riazantseva saw when she woke up Thursday morning. It was a message from her mom, who lives in Tal’ne, a small town in central Ukraine.

She was startled by the unexpected message. Riazantseva immediately called her mother, more than 7,000 kilometres away, to ask what was happening. Her mother broke the news: the war had just started.

Riazantseva, a Toronto-based photographer, is one of thousands of Ukrainian-Canadians who woke up to the news that Russia had launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine. In less than 24 hours, the “special military operation,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin described it, had killed more than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and left dozens wounded.

Explosions could be heard in cities across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv. Officials in the country also said they have lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site.

Riazantseva has been following the situation closely on social media.

Read the full story here by the Star’s Joshua Chong and Alex McKeen.

3:39 p.m. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is putting even greater pressure on an already surging oil price environment and that will cost Canadians more at the pump.

Roger McKnight, chief petroleum analyst at En-Pro International Inc. expects gas prices across the country will rise five cents per litre on Saturday.

He says drivers who fill up occasionally have hours to avoid extra costs but there’s not much that can be done for those who fill up daily.

The high demand for oil combined with a shortage of supply have been pushing oil prices, and consequently, gas prices up for weeks.

The benchmark West Texas Intermediate price is sitting at US$96 per barrel after briefly trading above US$100 per barrel this morning. Brent Crude has fallen slightly to US$103 a barrel, after topping US$105 a barrel earlier — the first time since 2014.

Even if U.S. President Joe Biden attempts to intervene to calm oil prices the situation could get worse, according to McKnight.

“OPEC+ is really Saudi Arabia and Russia together and if President Biden puts pressure on Saudi Arabia to get more crude into the system to lower prices, that’s just going to upset Russia even further and they may even shut down supply completely,” McKnight says.

3:28 p.m. European Union leaders have agreed to impose sanctions against Russia that will have “massive and severe consequences.”

During an emergency summit Thursday to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, the 27 member countries’ leaders approved punitive measures against Russia’s financial, energy and transport sectors and restrictions on exports and financing. They also added more Russian individuals to its earlier sanctions list.

The sanctions must still be legally approved and published before they become effective.

The EU leaders say they also want to draw up sanctions against Belarus because of its close links to Russia.

3:25 p.m. For those that haven’t been following closely up to now, here’s a primer on the situation in Ukraine.

Canadians woke Thursday morning to the news that, after a weeks-long military buildup at the border, Russian troops had invaded Ukraine.

For weeks, tensions — already high after the 2014 Crimean occupation by Russia — have grown in Ukraine as Russian troops rattled their sabres at their border.

Diplomacy and economic sanctions from the West failed to defuse the situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded assurances that Ukraine would not join NATO, though there seemed to be little indication that that was imminent.

On Thursday, missiles began raining down on Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, and Russian troops poured into the country by land, sea and air from the north, east and south. Sirens blared across Kyiv, and the streets were clogged with traffic as residents tried to flee the city.

Read the full story here from the Star’s Steve McKinley

2:52 p.m. It was among the most worrying developments on an already shocking day, as Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday: warfare at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, where radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster 36 years ago.

Russian forces took control over the site after a fierce battle with Ukrainian national guards protecting the decommissioned plant, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press. The condition of the plant’s facilities, a confinement shelter and a repository for nuclear waste is unknown, he said.

An official familiar with current assessments said Russian shelling hit a radioactive waste repository at Chernobyl, and an increase in radiation levels was reported. The increase could not be immediately corroborated.

A senior American intelligence official said the U.S. believes Russian forces at Chernobyl were aiming to push to Kyiv, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of the plant, to try to link with other Russian forces throughout Ukraine. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the sensitive matter.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a 2,600-square-kilometer (1,000-square-mile) zone of forest surrounding the shuttered plant, lies between the Belarus-Ukraine border and the Ukrainian capital.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian officers fought to defend it, “so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated.” He called it a “declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”

Adviser Podolyak said that after an “absolutely senseless attack … it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.” He warned that Russian authorities could blame Ukraine for damage to the site or stage provocations from there.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashenko warned that any attack on the waste repository could send radioactive dust over “the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and countries of the EU.”

Russian officials, who have revealed little of their operations in Ukraine and not revealed their goals, did not publicly comment on the battle.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it is following the situation in Ukraine “with grave concern” and appealed for maximum restraint to avoid any action that may put Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA’s general director, said Ukraine has informed the Vienna-based agency that ”unidentified armed forces” have taken control of all facilities at the plant and that there had been no casualties or destruction at the industrial site. Grossi said it is “of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way.”

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said, “I can’t imagine how it would be in Russia’s interest to allow any facilities at Chernobyl to be damaged.”

In an interview, Lyman said he is most worried about spent fuel stored at the site, which has not been active since 2000. If the power to cooling pumps is disrupted or fuel-storage tanks are damaged, the results could be catastrophic, he said.

Reactor No. 4 at the power plant exploded and caught fire deep in the night on April 26, 1986, shattering the building and spewing radioactive material high into the sky.

Soviet authorities made the catastrophe even worse by failing to tell the public what had happened, angering European governments and the Soviet people. The 2 million residents of Kyiv weren’t informed despite the fallout danger, and the world learned of the disaster only after heightened radiation was detected in Sweden.

The building containing the exploded reactor was covered in 2017 by an enormous shelter aimed at containing radiation still leaking from the accident. Robots inside the shelter work to dismantle the destroyed reactor and gather up the radioactive waste.

It’s expected to take until 2064 to finish dismantling the reactors. Ukraine decided to use the deserted zone as the site for its centralized storage facility for spent fuel from the country’s other remaining nuclear power plants.

Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister, Robert Habeck, told The Associated Press that Russia would not need to obtain nuclear material from Chernobyl if it wanted to use it for any purpose, because it has enough such material of its own.

1:44 p.m. U.S. President Joe Biden announced additional sanctions on the Kremlin. Biden said Russia has been planning this attack for months, moving 175,000 troops, military equipment, moved blood supplies and even built a field hospital.

The U.S. has imposed financial sanctions on four more Russian banks, including that country’s largest financial institution. “We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds, and yen,” Biden said.

“The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power,” said Biden, adding that additional armed forces are not going to engage in the conflict but rather to “defend NATO allies.”

The U.S. is also authorizing additional use of force to Germany.

When asked by a reporter whether he believed the “devastating” sanctions announced by the White House are as devastating as Russian bullets, missiles and tanks, Biden said yes. He said he believed financial pressures would force Putin to make a “difficult choice.”

1:09 p.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is imposing more severe sanctions on Russia in response to its military strike against Ukraine.

The new sanctions will target 58 people and entities connected to Russia, including members of that country’s elite and their families, the paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group and major Russian banks.

The sanctions, announced today after Trudeau attended a virtual G7 meeting, will also affect members of the Russian Security Council, including key cabinet ministers.

Canada is also cancelling existing export permits for Russia and will not issue new ones.

Trudeau also says the federal government will be prioritizing immigration applications for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada and is launching a dedicated telephone line for anyone who has any urgent questions about immigrating from Ukraine.

He says Canada has arranged for the safe passage of any Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families still in Ukraine through land borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova.

1 p.m. (updated) A presidential adviser says Ukraine lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, where Ukranian forces had waged a fierce battle with Russian troops.

Adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press that Ukrainian authorities did not know the current condition of the facilities at Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

“After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had announced several hours earlier Thursday that Russian forces were trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

A nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe.

The exploded reactor was covered by a protective shelter several years ago to prevent radiation leaks.

12:55 p.m. World leaders Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “barbaric” and moved to slap unprecedented economic sanctions on the Kremlin.

The West and its allies showed no inclination to send troops into Ukraine and risk a wider European war. But NATO reinforced its member states in Eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them, too.

“Make no mistake: We will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

In the meantime, the allies began to take steps aimed at isolating Moscow and forcing it to pay so high a price that it changes course.

“Our mission is clear: Diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

As the first major world leader to make a big move, he announced a freeze on the assets of all large Russian banks and plans to bar Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money on British markets.

Britain will also ban the export to Russia of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, and prohibit the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at British airports.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Stoltenberg both called the invasion a “barbaric” attack on an independent nation that threatened “the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order.” The European Union scheduled an emergency summit in Brussels.

Von der Leyen threatened to hit Russia with “massive and targeted sanctions.” She said she would put to EU leaders late Thursday a proposal that would target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking access to key technologies and markets.

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12:46 p.m. The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that its ground forces have moved into Ukraine from Crimea, the first confirmation from Moscow that its ground forces have moved in.

Russia previously said only that it unleashed air and missile strikes on Ukrainian air bases, air defense batteries and other military facilities. The ministry said it has destroyed 83 Ukrainian military facilities.

For the first time since the start of the action, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed the Russian ground troops had rolled into Ukraine, saying they advanced toward the city of Kherson, northwest of Crimea.

Kherson sits on reservoir providing the bulk of fresh water for Crimea until Ukraine cut it off with a dam in 2017 in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Konashenkov said that the Russian troops’ move allowed to resume water supply to Crimea.

12:41 p.m. Brazilian soccer players from Ukraine’s two biggest clubs issued an appeal to the Brazilian government on Thursday, saying they are trapped by the Russian military attack on Ukraine.

A group of players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv posted a video together with their families from a hotel where they called for support from the Brazilian authorities, joined by Uruguayan player Carlos de Pena of Dynamo. They said the borders were closed and fuel supplies had run out.

“We are really desperate. We are going through chaos,” Shakhtar defender Marlon Santos wrote on Instagram. “We have the support from our club. But the desperation is agonizing. We wait for the support from our country. We speak in the name of all the Brazilians in Ukraine.”

Similar messages were posted by Brazilian players living elsewhere in Ukraine, including by forward Marlyson and two teammates from Metalist 1925 in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, and three players from Zorya Luhansk, a club based in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.

The Ukrainian league was suspended indefinitely Thursday after martial law was declared in Ukraine.

Ukrainian clubs have long recruited Brazilian players to boost their performance on the field and to make a profit in the transfer market. Up-and-coming Brazilian players often see the Ukrainian league as a shop window to show off their skills to clubs in Europe’s biggest leagues, especially if they play for Champions League regulars Shakhtar and Dynamo. Shakhtar lists 11 Brazilian players in its first-team squad and another, Junior Moraes, who is a naturalized Ukrainian citizen.

Shakhtar and Zorya were both founded in cities in eastern Ukraine but haven’t been able to play there since Russia-backed separatists took over their home cities in 2014.

12:23 p.m. Videos are being shared widely on social media of anti-war protests currently taking place in Russia. Journalists like Telegraph reporter Natalia Vasilyeva are saying nearly 1,000 people are in attendance and that some protesters including journalists are being detained “indiscriminately.”

12:17 p.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to hit Russia hard for its aggression in Ukraine and ordered an asset freeze Thursday against all main Russian banks including VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank.

Johnson also said the nation would aim to cut off Russia from the U.K. financial sector by prohibiting all major Russian companies from raising finance on U.K. markets and the Russian state from raising sovereign debt in the U.K.

He also announced bans on a wide range of high-tech exports to Russia such as semiconductors

11:46 a.m.: Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has summoned Russia’s ambassador to Canada for a dressing down after his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The minister’s office tells The Canadian Press that Ambassador Oleg V. Stepanov met Joly at the headquarters of Global Affairs Canada, where she condemned “in the strongest possible terms Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine.”

Joly told Stepanov that Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

11:17 a.m.: In a statement on Thursday, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress CEO and Executive Director, Ihor Michalchyshyn, made requests to the Canadian government regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those requests include for Russian assets in the West to be seized, to shut off Russia from the SWIFT banking system, sanctions against Russia’s central bank, and sanctions against oligarchs.

The UCC also says Ukraine needs more weapons such as, “Anti-air systems like stinger missiles and other air defence and naval defense systems.” They additionally ask Canada and allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect civilians from Russian bombardment.

“In the 1930s the world was slow to recognize the danger that Adolf Hitler posed to our civilization. We cannot make that same mistake again with Putin,” the UCC says in a statement.

Star reporter Alex Ballingall reports.

10:49 a.m.: The Premier of Ontario called Vladimir Putin “a thug” in statements made in the legislature Thursday morning. Doug Ford said Ukraine and Canada are “forever tied together as two nations an ocean apart” and made references to Ukrainian-Canadian greats who became household names like Wayne Gretzky, Randy Bachman and Alex Trebek.

The premier listed significant dates like the start of the First and Second World War, and said he hoped Feb. 24, 2022 would not be one that required adding to the history books.

10:36 a.m. (Updated 10:59 a.m.): Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

“National Guard troops responsible for protecting the storage unit for dangerous radioactive waste are putting up fierce resistance,” said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister. Should an artillery shell hit the storage unit, Herashchenko said, “radioactive dust could cover the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and the countries of the European Union.”

The plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident when a nuclear reactor exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe. The plant lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital of Kyiv.

The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Zelenskyy said on Twitter that “our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated.” He added that “this is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”

10:25 a.m.: Stock markets around the world plunged after Russia launched military action in Ukraine and prices for oil and gold jumped higher.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 303.83 points at 20,440.34 in early trading, while European stock markets also fell.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 783.34 points at 32,348.42. The S&P 500 index was down 87.83 points at 4,137.67, while the Nasdaq composite was down 281.03 points at 12,756.46.

The Canadian dollar traded for 77.92 cents US compared with 78.63 cents US on Wednesday.

The April crude contract was up US$7.01 at US$99.11 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 27 cents at US$4.86 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was up US$47.00 at US$1,957.40 an ounce and the May copper contract was down less than a penny at US$4.49 a pound.

10:17 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into Ukraine but made clear his target goes beyond his neighbor to America’s “empire of lies,” and he threatened “consequences you have never faced in your history” for “anyone who tries to interfere with us.”

In a rambling speech early Thursday, full of festering historical grievances and accusations of a relentless Western plot against his country, Putin reminded the world that Russia “remains one of the most powerful nuclear states” with “a certain advantage in several cutting edge weapons.”

In effect, Putin’s speech, intended to justify the invasion, seemed to come close to threatening nuclear war.

In the context of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Putin said, “there should be no doubt that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences should it directly attack our country.”

“We now have war in Europe on a scale and of a type we thought belonged to history,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday, describing the incursion as “a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion” and a “blatant violation of international law.”

“This is a grave moment for the security of Europe,” said Stoltenberg, who will convene an emergency virtual summit of NATO leaders Friday. “Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk with air and missile attacks, ground forces and special forces from multiple directions, targeting military infrastructure and major urban centers.”

9:29 a.m.: Dozens of Ukrainian military personnel were killed in the early hours of Russia’s multipronged assault on the country, officials said Thursday, as its overmatched army strained to mount an “all-out defense” against Russian forces advancing by land, sea and air.

More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded in fighting Thursday morning, said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

At least 18 military officials were killed in an attack outside the Black Sea port city of Odessa, where amphibious commandos from the Russian navy came ashore, according to Sergey Nazarov, an aide to Odessa’s mayor.

9:28 a.m.: Since Feb. 1, the Canadian government has been advising Canadians to leave Ukraine while flights and other forms of commercial travel were still available.

“You should not depend on the Government of Canada to help you leave the country. If you are in Ukraine, you should shelter in place unless it is safe for you to leave the country,” reads the federal site.

Canadians still in Ukraine are advised to have a security plan in place, identify the location of the closest bomb shelter, monitor credible news outlets for updates, and register their contact information through the Registration of Canadians Abroad service.

“In case of an attack, seek shelter in a hardened structure and away from windows,” reads the site.

Canadians trying to leave Ukraine now are being urged to use their best judgement and up to date information in order to determine the safest routes to leave. Borders may close without notice, and additional restrictions or requirements may be implemented suddenly by other countries.

“If you plan to leave Ukraine by air or land, confirm your destination’s entry requirements prior to arrival,” warns the site.

9:27 a.m.: President Joe Biden is expected on Thursday to announce the U.S. will impose severe economic sanctions on Russia over what he described as an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine.

In a statement issued just after midnight, Biden did not detail what those “severe” measures would entail but said he was hoping to “rally international condemnation” of the attack. The White House in recent days has ordered sanctions that officials said would target Russian financial institutions and the country’s elites and their family members, including the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday night. “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.”

8:43 a.m.: French President Emmanuel Macron says France and its European allies did everything to try to head off the attack on Ukraine. He said that they will show “no weakness” in their response.

Macron said in a televised address to the nation Thursday that Russia’s attack is a “turning point in European history” and as a result “there will be profound consequences for our continent and changes in our lives.”

He said that “to this act of war, we will reply without weakness, we will reply calmly and in a determined and united manner.”

“We have tried everything to avoid this war but it is here and we are ready,” Macron said.

He said that sanctions will be “proportionate” to Russia’s military operations, targeting its economy and its energy sector.

“We will show no weakness,” Macron said. “We will take all measures necessary to defend the sovereignty and stability of our European allies.”

8:22 a.m.: The Auschwitz Memorial has weighed in on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, issuing a statement Thursday morning.

“This act of barbarity will be judged by history, and its perpetrators, it is to be hoped, also by the International Court of Justice,” reads the statement posted on Twitter this morning.

The organization goes on to condemn Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, saying that once again innocent people are being killed “purely because of insane pseudo-imperial megalomania.”

The Memorial preserves the site of the former German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

8:09 a.m.: Even with the tons of weapons, ammunition and equipment delivered to Ukraine by Western allies in just the last few weeks, the Ukrainian military is outgunned by the larger, more technologically advanced Russian forces that have launched a multipronged invasion.

Back in December, the commander of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Gen. Kyrylo O. Budanov, outlined a scenario in which a Russian invasion would begin with airstrikes and rocket attacks aimed at ammunition depots and trench-bound troops — foreshadowing the attack that came early Thursday morning.

Very quickly, he said, the Ukrainian military would be incapacitated, its leadership unable to coordinate a defense and supply the front. After that, he said, responsibility would fall to frontline commanders to carry on the fight alone.

“They will hold up as long as there are bullets,” Budanov said. “They’ll be able to use what they have in their hands. But believe me, without delivery of reserves, there’s not an army in the world that can hold out.”

Budanov spoke at a time when the Russian military had deployed about 100,000 troops to the region. By the time of the invasion, according to U.S. officials, Russia had amassed an estimated 190,000 troops in or near Ukraine, including in Crimea and in Russia-backed separatist areas in the eastern Donbas region.

7:57 a.m.: The National Bank of Ukraine has opened an account for Ukraine’s armed forces. Their statement on Thursday reads:

“The National Bank of Ukraine has decided to open a special fundraising account to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The central bank’s decision comes after the Ukrainian government imposed martial law throughout Ukraine in response to armed aggression by Russia and the renewed threat to Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.

NBU Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko announced the opening of this special account in his 24 February video address.

The number of the special account: UA843000010000000047330992708

This account accepts multiple currencies. It has been established and opened to receive transfers from international partners and donors in both foreign currency (U.S. dollars, euros, UK pounds) and hryvnias.

Support the Armed Forces of Ukraine!”

7:36 a.m.: Ukrainian forces were in “all-out defense mode” on Thursday to repel a multipronged Russian assault by land, sea and air. The Ukrainian military claimed to have shot down several Russian military aircraft, and civilians lined up at recruitment offices to take up arms against President Vladimir Putin’s forces.

More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded in fighting Thursday morning, said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

The country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Ukraine was facing “a full-scale attack from multiple directions” but that it “continues to defend itself” from the Russian advance.

Initial reports of the fighting suggested that Russian forces had crossed into Ukraine at multiple points, with helicopter-borne troops flying in under the cover of machine-gun fire, naval units coming ashore in the southern port city of Odessa and military vehicles crossing from Crimea, the peninsula that Russia seized in 2014.

Ukrainian forces said they had shot down several Russian fighters and a helicopter in an increasingly intense battle to maintain control over key cities, a senior Ukrainian military official said. Ukrainian troops had also repelled Russian advances on two major cities: Chernihiv in the north, near the Belarus border, and Kharkiv in the northeast, close to Russia, the official said.

6:42 a.m.: Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Thursday signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in the Baltic country in response to Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.

The Baltic country’s parliament was expected to approve the measure in an extraordinary session later on Thursday.

The measure, in effect until March 10, allows for a more flexible use of state reserve funds and increased border protection, giving border guards greater authorities to stop and search individuals and vehicles in border areas.

NATO member Lithuania borders Russia’s Kaliningrad region to the southwest, Belarus to the east, Latvia to the north and Poland to the south.

6:41 a.m. (Updated 7:38 a.m.):

Speaking after chairing an emergency meeting of NATO envoys, Stoltenberg said the 30-nation security alliance will continue to beef up its defenses on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia. He said U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts will hold an online summit on Friday.

“Russia has attacked Ukraine. This is a brutal act of war. Our thoughts are with the brave people of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “Peace in our continent has been shattered. We now have war in Europe, on a scale and of a type we thought belong to history.”

“NATO is the strongest alliance in history, and make no mistake we will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” he said at the organization’s Brussels headquarters. “An attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

Earlier:

NATO’s secretary-general says Russia has launched war on Ukraine and shattered peace on the European continent.

Jens Stoltenberg called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders for Friday.

Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border and accused Moscow of unleashing a “full-scale war.”

6:40 a.m.: NATO agreed at emergency talks on Thursday to further beef up its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive in Ukraine.

“We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the alliance, as well as additional maritime assets,” NATO ambassadors said in a statement. “We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”

Countries closest to the conflict — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — requested rare consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which can be launched when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the (NATO) parties is threatened.”

“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance,” the envoys said. “Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and nonescalatory.”

While some of NATO’s 30 member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization isn’t. It won’t launch any military action in support of Ukraine, which is a close partner but has no prospect of joining.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, however, said in a joint-statement: “We would need to urgently provide Ukrainian people with weapons, ammunition and any other kind of military support to defend itself as well as economic, financial and political assistance and support, humanitarian aid.”

“The most effective response to Russia’s aggression is unity,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted. “Russia’s widespread aggression is a threat to the entire world and to all NATO countries.”

6:40 a.m. (Updated 6:50 a.m.):

UEFA will no longer stage this season’s Champions League final in St. Petersburg after Russia attacked Ukraine, The Associated Press has learned.

An extraordinary meeting of the UEFA executive committee will be held on Friday to discuss the geopolitical crisis and when officials are set to confirm taking the May 28 showpiece game out of Russia, a person with knowledge of the process said on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

UEFA confirmed there is a meeting due at 0900 GMT on Friday.

“Following the evolution of the situation between Russia and Ukraine in the last 24 hours, the UEFA president has decided to call an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee …. in order to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions,” UEFA said in a statement.

Earlier:

UEFA has called an emergency meeting of its top decision-making body to discuss moving the Champions League final out of Russia after Moscow attacked Ukraine on Thursday.

The British government has been leading calls for the showpiece game to no longer be played in St. Petersburg on May 28.

The extraordinary meeting of the UEFA executive committee will be held on Friday “in order to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The Ukrainian Premier League suspended operations on Thursday due to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decision to impose martial law. The league has been on a two-month winter break and was due to resume on Friday. It did not give any planned date to restart.

The International Paralympic Committee said it was in talks with sports officials in Ukraine and Russia as their teams prepare to head to China for the start of the Paralympic Games next week.

6:39 a.m.: China repeated calls for talks to resolve the crisis in Ukraine on Thursday while refusing to criticize Russia’s attack and accusing the U.S. and its allies of worsening the situation.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing that “the Ukraine issue is complex in its historical background … what we are seeing today is the interplay of complex factors.”

“China is closely following the latest developments,” Hua said. “We still hope that the parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalating,”

Although China has not endorsed President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist areas or Putin’s decision to send Russian forces there, Hua said China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”

“All parties should work for peace instead of escalating the tension or hyping up the possibility of war,” Hua said, repeating the language China has consistently used to criticize the West during the crisis.

“Those parties who were busy condemning others, what have they done ? Have they persuaded others?” Hua said.

6:38 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is urging global leaders to provide defence assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from Russia.

In a statement that comes amid Russia’s wide-ranging attack on Ukraine that began early Thursday, Zelenskyy said that Russia “has unleased a war with Ukraine and the entire democratic world.”

He asked for world leaders to provide large-scale defence support and to protect Ukraine’s airspace from the “aggressor.”

6:37 a.m.: The European Union is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency Thursday, as the Russian military attacked Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order, and we will hold President (Vladimir) Putin accountable for that.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the “strongest, the harshest package” ever considered.

6:36 a.m.: The turmoil from the beginning of a long-feared act of aggression rippled from Europe to Asia. Stock markets plunged, oil prices surged, and European aviation officials warned of a high risk to civilian aircraft over Ukraine, reminding air operators that “this is now an active conflict zone.”

In New York, the U.N. Security Council held an extraordinary emergency meeting meant to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ plea to “give peace a chance” came just as Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian TV to announce a military operation that he maintained was to protect civilians in Ukraine.

Putin, who said that rebels in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military assistance, warned other countries that any effort to interfere with the Russian operation would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

As leaders across Asia and Europe scrambled to condemn the attack, explosions were heard in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine. Nations around the world this week have also imposed a raft of new sanctions on Russia.

“In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We will hold the Kremlin accountable.”

6:35 a.m.: With rare but fragile alignment, the U.S. Congress is largely backing President Joe Biden’s decision to confront Russia with potentially escalating sanctions for the crisis in Ukraine as lawmakers brace for perhaps the most daunting foreign policy crisis the nation has faced in a generation.

But the next steps are highly volatile — even more so after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced early Thursday a military operation in Ukraine and explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and other cities there.

“We must refuse to stand by and watch innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children suffer,” the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement after Putin’s forces moved against Ukraine. He said he was “committed to ensuring that the United States upholds our responsibility to exact maximum costs on Putin, the Russian economy, and those who enabled and facilitated this trampling of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

6:34 a.m.: The emergency U.N. Security Council meeting was meant as an eleventh hour effort to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine. But the message became moot even as it was being delivered.

While diplomats at U.N. headquarters were making pleas for Russia to back off — “Give peace a chance,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres implored — Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television in his homeland to announce a military operation that he said was intended to protect civilians in Ukraine.

Putin warned other countries that any effort to interfere with the Russian operation would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

6:33 a.m.: Russian troops launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine on Thursday, as President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions, warning other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

Thursday 6:32 a.m.: President Joe Biden said the world would “hold Russia accountable” as explosions were seen in Ukraine’s second-largest city minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the start of a “special military operation” in the country.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday night. “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. ”

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