U.S. lawmakers of all political persuasions are lashing out at Vladimir Putin's decision to ignore warnings from the West and move forward with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called the Russian president's decision an 'evil, panicked move of weakness and will be his defining mistake.'
Politicians also warned Moscow that Ukraine will defend their sovereignty, with Murphy tweeting that 'the Ukrainian people will fight for as long as it takes' and Republican Senator Marco Rubio saying Ukraine 'will NEVER accept being ruled by Putin' and claiming 'men, women, children, the elderly' will 'maim & kill alot (sic) of Russians.'
Russia launched an all-out war on Ukraine Wednesday night into Thursday morning, with simultaneous attacks coming from south, east and north, by land and by air. Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, tanks rolled across the border, helicopters buzzed in and explosions were seen across the country after Putin gave the order to attack.
The attack continued into Thursday as a massive Russian helicopter assault launched on Hostomel, Ukraine and its vital Air Base just 9 miles northwest of Kiev.
Michigan Republican Representative Peter Meijer said the 'tepid' response from the West 'emboldened' Putin to go forward with a full-scale invasion, claiming Washington and NATO's threat for sanctions was 'positive proof' that Moscow did not see this as real resistance. He also called for 'crippling sanctions'.
'He was willing to call the west's bluff,' Meijer told Fox & Friends on Thursday morning of Putin.
'Now is the time we have to be strong, united and unleash crippling economic and sanctions costs on Russia. We can no longer afford to be tepid or weak-willed here.'
Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said that Putin is a 'KGB thug who understands no language except force,' while slamming the U.S. and western response so far.
The KGB was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from March 1954 until 1991.
House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Michael McCaul told CBS Mornings on Thursday: 'We haven't seen anything like this, really, since Hitler invaded Poland in World War II. I just hope this is not the beginning of World War III.'
He said the invasion and disregard for western warnings is a 'clear' sign that Putin 'wants the entire breadbasket of Russia back.'
Republicans and Democrats are condemning Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight. An explosion lights up the night sky over Kiev early Thursday, as Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine from north, south and east with bombs, cruise missiles and rockets raining from the skies
Flames and smoke rise from debris of a house outside Ukraine's capital of Kiev on Thursday in the aftermath of Russian shelling following a barrage of air and missile strikes on Ukrainian facilities across the country
Ukrainian emergency personnel work at a crash site of a Military plane about 12 miles south of Kyiv on Thursday, February 24, 2022. A Ukrainian Military plane with 14 people aboard crashed Thursday and emergencies services are still working to 'determine how many people died'
Radar arrays and other equipment are shown damaged outside a Ukrainian military facility near Mariupol on Thursday morning after taking Russian firepower in the midst of its 'special military operation' in the country
'[Putin] was willing to call the west's bluff,' Representative Peter Meijer told Fox & Friends on Thursday morning. The attack has come to Ukraine on all fronts, with bombs and missiles striking targets across the country, ground forces rolling in from Belarus, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, and paratroopers dropping on Kharkiv
Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that Ukraine 'will NEVER accept being ruled by Putin' and claiming 'men, women, children, the elderly' will 'maim & kill alot (sic) of Russians.' Pictured: A wounded woman emerges Thursday after an airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen get ready to defend from attacks on the Lugansk region on Thursday, February 24 after Putin's invasion has already killed dozens, injured hundreds and forced hundreds of others to flee
Damage to an apartment building in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv region is seen in footage released by the Ukrainian National Guard
Ukrainian citizens carry suitcases after crossing the Ukrainian border into Medyka, Poland on Thursday following Russia's invasion overnight. U.S. lawmakers are demanding 'crippling sanctions' be placed on Putin for ignoring western warnings
U.S. troops from the 173rd Army Airborne Brigade arrive in Latvia on Thursday, February 24 to provide addition assistance in Eastern Europe as Russia launches a full-scale attack on Ukraine
McCaul and other Republican leaders on key House committees said the latest from Russia proves to the world the 'true evil' of Putin.
'The last few hours have laid bare for the world to witness the true evil that is Vladimir Putin,' McCaul, House Armed Services Ranking Member Mike Rogers and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Mike Turner wrote in a statement Wednesday night.
'Today, we stand resolute with the Ukrainian people and resolve to provide them with the tools they need to withstand and repel this unprovoked attack,' they added. 'Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin's hands, and his alone.'
The group signaled there needs to be a much tougher U.S. response to Russia than there was in 2014, when Putin annexed Crimea.
'[W]e are committed to enacting the strongest possible sanctions and export controls to cripple Russia's ability to make war, punish its barbarity and relegate the Putin regime to the status of an international pariah. We cannot respond like we did in 2008 or 2014. The world must never forget or forgive this heinous act.'
President Joe Biden has faced criticism for not doing enough to combat Russian aggression since taking office last year.
The president met with the leaders of the G7 from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan on Thursday morning after he gathered his National Security Council in the Situation Room at the White House.
Also in the meeting with the presidents and prime ministers of each country was President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the White House revealed.
An update to Biden's schedule shows he will deliver remarks on 'Russia's unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine' at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in his first public appearance since the invasion.
Additional U.S. forces landed in Latvia Thursday morning from the 173rd Airborne Brigade – this comes after thousands of troops were already sent to Poland and Romania to bolster defenses in those regions amid the lead up to Russia's invasion.
Pictured: A Russian Ka-52 helicopter gunship was forced to land in a filed outside Kiev, Ukraine on Thursday. According to Ukraine, six Russian jets were shot out of the sky over the eastern Donbass region with 50 Russian troops killed
A man stands in front of a Russian Ka-52 helicopter gunship is seen in the field after a forced landing outside Kiev Thursday, February 24, 2022
Senator Lindsey Graham says Putin is carrying out a 'war crime' and it's '[i]mperative that we continue to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons as well as good intelligence.'
'The world needs to condemn Putin's destruction of a neighboring democracy as a war crime,' the South Carolina Republican said.
'It's time to make this personal to Putin,' Graham said, adding that he should be punished by 'international law enforcement agencies' to seize Putin and his 'cronies' 'lavish apartments, fine art, yachts, and other material goods purchased through stealing the Russian people blind.'
Along with clashes on the ground, including confirmation that 40 Ukrainian troops were killed and dozens more injured, Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indirectly exchanged war of words, as well – each slinging rhetoric accusing the other of being reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
'Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years,' Zelensky tweeted Thursday morning Eastern Standard Time, but it was the afternoon in Ukraine already.
'As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history,' he continued, '[Russia] has embarked on a path of evil, but [Ukraine] is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.'
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian media: 'Ideally, Ukraine should be liberated, cleansed of Nazis, pro-Nazi people and ideologies.'
Ukrainian service members load debris of a rocket onto a truth in the aftermath of Russian shelling in Kiev, Ukraine on Thursday
Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said that Putin is a 'KGB thug who understands no language except force' as he called for more tough action from the U.S. and western allies. A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base in central Ukraine after coming under attack from Russia
A Ukrainian military tank is seen in center of Odessa, Ukraine on Thursday, February 24 after Russia launched its military operation in the country
There are now approximately 90,000 U.S. service members spread throughout Europe, with many relocating or deploying to the Eastern part of the continent to aid those counties that face risk with Russia invasion of Ukraine – but no U.S. troops were deployed directly to Ukraine
U.S. paratroopers step off a military plane landing in Latvia on Thursday
The first 40 soldiers from the 173rd arrived in Latvia on February 24 – the morning after Russia launched its military offensive on Ukraine
How the Ukraine invasion unfolded minute-by-minute: Russian shells rain down on Mariupol at 3.30am, Putin declares war two hours later and then all hell breaks loose across nation and capital Kiev
Russian launched total war on Ukraine today, with missiles raining from the sky, tanks rolling across the border from Belarus , and masses of paratroopers descending on eastern regions after Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to attack.
'Hundreds' of Ukrainian troops have already been killed in early clashes, Kiev said, as the fight came to them on all fronts at a moment's notice. Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD rockets took out targets from east to west - aimed at airfields, military bases, ammo dumps, and command posts including in the capital.
The first sign an invasion was imminent came at just before 12am Ukrainian time (10pm in the UK), when Russian-backed rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine issued a request for military assistance from Moscow in what is being widely seen as a 'False Flag' operation to justify Putin's decision to attack.
Moments later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a defiant message to the nation, vowing his countrymen would 'fight back' in the event of an invasion, telling Moscow: 'When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.'
A frenzied string of diplomatic manoeuvres, including an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York, were not enough to dissuade Putin, who declared a 'special military operation' at around 3am Ukraine time.
At around 6am, Zelenskyy declared martial law in a video message filmed on his phone, urging his people 'not to panic' and promising: 'We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.'
As Europe faced its worst military crisis for decades, here is how this morning's dramatic events unfolded, minute by minute. All times are shown first in Ukrainian time with the GMT equivalent following in brackets.
'We will fight back': Ukrainian president delivers emotional TV address
Volodymyr Zelenskyy vows the Ukrainian people will 'fight back' if Putin launches a full-scale invasion.
His comments follow a request by Moscow-backed rebel leaders in the east of the country for military assistance to fend off Ukrainian 'aggression' - considered by the West to be a 'false flag' to justify an invasion.
A solemn President Zelenskyy says: 'The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace.
'But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.'
The Ukrainian president says he tried to call Putin earlier in the evening, but there was 'no answer, only silence', adding that Moscow has around 200,000 soldiers by Ukraine's borders.
At Ukraine's request, the United Nations Security Council quickly schedules an emergency meeting - the second in three days.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calls the separatists' request 'a further escalation of the security situation.'
Ukraine readies for conflict and enters a month-long state of emergency, effective at midnight.
Explosions heard in strategically important port city of Mariupol
Residents in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are woken up at 3.30am by the sound of explosions.
Video footage appears to show clouds of smoke rising up into the night sky nearby, but it is unconfirmed whether this is as a result of shelling.
Mariupol, located on the Black Sea 50 miles from the Russian border, handles 50 per cent Ukraine's steel and mineral exports.
Taking the strategic location would give the people's republics of Donbas access to the sea, and choke off a vital economic artery for Ukraine's legitimate government.
4:30am (2:30am GMT)
UN meeting where Ukraine's ambassador tells Russian counterpart: 'war criminals go straight to hell'
The UN Security Council holds an extraordinary emergency meeting in New York to try to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine.
During the charged session, Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya implores the council, chaired by Russia, to 'do everything possible to stop the war'.
He demands that Russia's ambassador relinquish his duties as chair.
'There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador,' a visibly emotional Kyslytsya says.
At a charged UN Security Council meeting, Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told his Russian counterpart: 'There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador'
Secretary General Antonio Guterres urges Putin to stop his tanks.
'If indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart,' he says.
'President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.'
Mr Guterres says he is witnessing, 'the saddest moment in my tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations' and that Europe risks, 'the worst war since the beginning of the century'.
Afterwards, he warns Russian action would not only be 'devastating for Ukraine' and 'tragic' for Russia 'but with an impact we can not even foresee in relation to their consequences for the global economy.'
'In a moment when we are emerging from Covid and so many developing countries absolutely need to have space for the recovery, which would be very, very difficult with the high prices of oil, with the exports of wheat from Ukraine and with rising interest rates caused by instability in international markets,' he adds.
5am (3am GMT)
Putin's announces 'special military operation' and threatens West
Putin announces a 'special military operation' in eastern Ukraine, claiming it's intended to protect civilians.
In a televised address, Putin says the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine.
He claimed Russia wanted to 'de-Nazify, not occupy' Ukraine. Putin says the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian 'regime.'
Putin warns countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action will lead to 'consequences they have never seen.'
The strongman could be seen wearing the same suit and red tie he wore on Monday to lay out his factually inaccurate version of Ukraine's history, saying essentially that it was always part of Russia.
In hindsight, Putin's attempts to rewrite history at his convenience, could be interpreted as evidence that he had already decided to invade Ukraine, and that he misled leaders in the West who pleaded with him for diplomacy.
5:30am (3:30am GMT)
Explosions are heard in Kiev just minutes after Putin's speech ends
Following the end of Putin's speech, explosions are reported in Kiev, Odessa, Ukraine's third-largest city, as well as the city of Kramatorsk in the eastern Donetsk region.
A CNN reporter in Kiev says: 'I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I've never heard anything like it.'
Matthew Chance, Senior International correspondent for the network, says he heard between seven and eight blasts.
Chance quickly put on his flak jacket and headgear while he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev puts on a flak jacket as he hears explosions just after 5.30am
'There are big explosions taking place. I can't see them or explain what they are. but I will tell you the U.S has warned the Ukrainian authorities there could be air strikes and ground attacks as well around the country, including the capital.
'I don't know if that's what's occurring now but it's a remarkable coincidence that the explosions come just minutes after Putin gave his speech,' Chance explained.
'This is the first time we've heard anything. It has been absolutely silent. This is the first time. It has to be more than just a coincidence.
'I think it's safe where I am. I have a flak jacket,' Chance remarked before ducking down to put on his protective gear.
He suggested that the blasts he heard were still some distance away from the centre.
6am (4am GMT)
Ukrainian president declares martial law
Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposes martial law and urges his people to stay at home and not panic as Russian troops pour into the country.
In a video message published shortly after the Kremlin began its attacks across Ukraine, Zelenskyy says Russia has carried out missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and border guards, and that explosions have been heard in many cities.
The Ukrainian President also says he had spoken by telephone to US President Joe Biden.
He pleads: 'Dear Ukrainian citizens, this morning President Putin announced a special military operation in Donbas. Russia conducted strikes on our military infrastructure and our border guards. There were blasts heard in many cities of Ukraine. We're introducing martial law on the whole territory of our country.
'A minute ago I had a conversation with President Biden. The US has already started uniting international support. Today each of you should keep calm. Stay at home if you can. We are working. The Army is working.
'The whole sector of defence and security is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine.'
Paratroopers drop into Ukraine's second largest city as Russians launch multiple attacks
From around 6am and onwards
Footage appears to show masses of paratroopers landing in Kharkiv, Ukraine's largest city.
The US appeared to know an invasion was about to happen, according to ABC's Martha Raddatz.
She said she received a text from a senior Pentagon official three hours before the invasion saying: 'You are likely in the last few hours of peace on the European continent for a long time to come. Be careful.'
As violence spreads, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, writes on Facebook that the Russian military have launched missile strikes on Ukrainian military command facilities, air bases and military depots in Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnipro.
Later in the morning, five Russian jets are reportedly shot out of the sky over the Donbass before Moscow boasts of taking out all anti-aircraft defences, giving them control of the skies.
Ukrainian border guards say they have come under attack by heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus - as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko throws his forces into the fight.
Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernihiv in the east of Ukraine are all reported as coming under attack, but blasts are also reported in the west - in Zhytomyr and Lviv, close to the border with Poland.
Extraordinary video footage shows what appears to be a cruise missile slamming into Ivano-Frankivsk airport, also in the west.
Meanwhile pro-Russian rebel forces push out from the occupied Donbass region, capturing two villages and claiming to have shot two Ukrainian jets out of the skies. The port city of Odessa, where Ukraine's main naval base is located, also comes under attack.
Western politicians immediately responded Wednesday evening to the announcement of Russia's 'special military operation' in Ukraine with warnings to Putin.
'The Ukrainian people will fight for as long as it takes to secure their nation from this foreign tyrant, and the United States will stand with them in this fight,' Senator Murphy from Connecticut posted in a five-part Twitter thread.
'Tonight, the entire Post World War international order sits on a knife edge,' he added. 'If Putin does not pay a devastating price for this transgression, then our own security will soon be at risk.'
'We must be unceasingly in our assistance to the Ukrainian people. We must levy crippling sanctions on Russia. And we must cut off Putin and his cronies from the global economy. A strong, swift response is vital.'
Biden issued sanctions this week on Russian banks and oligarchs, as well as on the two regions in Eastern Ukraine that Putin declared independent republics on Monday. But Democratic and Republican lawmakers claim this isn't enough and are urging Biden to get tougher on Putin.
'[W]e must remember that Putin has plans for us too,' Murphy warned in his Twitter thread. 'He and his agents will use this crisis to try to divide Americans from each other and to separate America from our allies. In this, we must remain vigilant and united. This is not a moment for politics to trump security.'
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC's Lester Holt on Wednesday that 'if Russia continues to escalate, so will we.'
'At the end of the day, if that doesn't stop President Putin, we've made very clear along with all of our allies and partners that there will be massive consequences going forward, a price that Russia will have to pay for a long, long time,' he added.
Biden's administration, however, has repeatedly said that U.S. troops will not directly engage in combat in Ukraine and has ensured the safety of forces as they deploy to Eastern Europe.
Biden was slammed Wednesday and into Thursday morning for being publicly absent as developments unfolded in Ukraine Wednesday night as Russia launched an all-out war.
French President Emmanuel Macron shown on a virtual meeting Thursday morning with G7 leaders from the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan to discuss the situation in Ukraine after Russia invaded. Meeting came after Biden gathered his National Security Council earlier in the morning and will speak publicly at 12:30 p.m.
Biden condemned Putin's 'unprovoked and unjustified attack ' in a statement posted at 10:25 p.m., shortly after war was declared. But after being accused of 'weakness' in the face of Russian aggression, he was urged to hit Russia and Vladimir Putin's inner circle with tougher sanctions 'as soon as possible'.
The president was 'monitoring the situation' from the White House overnight, according to the Wednesday evening statement, but has yet to make a public address or an appearance and won't do so until midday - 12 hours after war began.
Former President Donald Trump was scathing of Biden's response, telling Fox News in a wild overnight interview that Biden was 'probably in bed right now' rather than monitoring developments.
Biden was most recently pictured on Tuesday, February 22 as he announced sanctions against Russia from the East Room of the White House.
Zelensky, in an address to the nation Thursday morning, said the history of Ukraine has now changed forever and that Russia has 'embarked on a path of evil'.
He compared the Russian attack to Hitler's forces in World War II, but vowed to fight back, saying the military has already inflicted 'serious losses' on Russia.
Pictured: Ukraine's port of Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv region was set ablaze from conflict following Russia's full-scale invasion on Thursday
The ruins of a state border guard service checkpoint in the Kiev region is seen destroyed after it was shelled by Russian forces
The Ukrainian president called on all citizens willing to defend their homeland to step forward, saying guns will be issued to everyone who wants one and asked for civilians to give blood to help wounded troops.
He also asked world leaders to impose the 'harshest sanctions possible' on Putin.
It came after Putin gave an extraordinary address to Russia, broadcast in the early hours during a United Nations meeting aimed at avoiding war. During the remarks he declared a 'special military operation' to 'demilitarize' and 'de-Nazify' Ukraine in what amounted to an outright declaration of war.
The video appeared to have been pre-recorded, around the same time as Putin's Monday address recognizing Donbass as independent.
Putin also issued a chilling warning to any country thinking of coming to Ukraine's aid, vowing 'consequences greater than any you have faced in history'.
'I hope I have been heard,' he said.
Cruise missiles, guided bombs and GRAD rockets took out targets from east to west in Ukraine - aimed at airfields, military bases, ammo dumps and command posts including in the capital city of Kyiv.
Six Russian jets were shot out of the sky over the eastern Donbass region with 50 Russian troops killed, Ukraine claimed.
Alexander Lukashenko, dictatorial ruler of Belarus, is shown speaking to his generals on Thursday morning after his forces reportedly joined Russia's attack on Ukraine – though he denies it
Ukrainian border guards said they had come under attack by heavy artillery, tanks and troops from Russia and Belarus as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko threw his forces into the fight - though he denied taking part.
Luhansk, Sumy and Chernihiv in the east of Ukraine all came under attack, while tanks battled on the outskirts of Kharkiv after paratroopers dropped in.
Blasts were also reported in the west - in Zhytomyr and Lviv, close to the border with Poland where the U.S. has sent in paratroopers from the 82nd and 18th Airborne Corps.
In the southern city of Kherson, Ukrainian units were reportedly routed by Russian tanks rolling out of Crimea, which had arrived at the Dnieper River by mid-morning on Thursday.
Extraordinary video footage showed what appeared to be a Kalibur cruise missile slamming into Ivano-Frankivsk airport. An apartment block in Kharkiv was also struck, causing civilian casualties including a young boy. Video also appeared to confirm cruise missiles had been launched by Russian troops stationed in Moldova.
Russian helicopters also staged an attack on Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Dnieper river, raising their flag over the plant shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile pro-Russian rebel forces pushed out from the occupied Donbass region, capturing two villages and claiming to have shot two Ukrainian jets out of the skies. The port cities of Mariupol and Odessa, where Ukraine's main naval bases are located, were also attacked. Russian tankers appeared to have blockaded the Kerch Strait, leading from the Back Sea to the Sea of Azov, cutting off Mariupol.