President Biden on Wednesday expressed solidarity with Ukraine as Russia launched what Biden described as an "unprovoked and unjustified attack," with shelling reported in multiple Ukrainian cities. 

"The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. 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," Biden added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday night that he was launching a military operation in eastern Ukraine in what many interpreted as a declaration of war on Ukraine. Reporters and witnesses on the ground reported a short time later the sounds of shelling in multiple cities.

Biden said he was monitoring the developments with his national security team from the White House. He is set to meet with Group of Seven allies on Thursday morning and said in the statement he will deliver remarks on additional measures targeting Russia.

“We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance,” Biden said. “Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine.”

Putin delivered remarks just before 6 a.m. Moscow time Thursday while representatives of the United Nations Security Council met to condemn Russian aggression and urge the Kremlin to choose diplomacy.

In his address, Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine that would aim for the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” according to multiple reports.

Reporters on the ground in Ukraine reported hearing explosions that resembled artillery fire in the capital of Kyiv and in other cities such as Kharkiv and Kramatorsk.

Biden administration officials have warned for over a week that a Russian assault on Ukraine could come at any moment, but the threat of a large-scale military operation became more imminent in recent days as Moscow moved troops into two regions in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized them as independent territory. 

“We believe that they are now at a state of readiness where they could attack at any time,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters earlier Wednesday. 

The Biden administration, in coordination with European allies, unveiled an initial tranche of sanctions on Moscow on Tuesday over its decision to send troops into the Donbas, with Biden describing the moves as the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
 
The sanctions targeted Russian sovereign debt, two Russian banks and five Russian elites with links to the Kremlin. The White House has indicated that further penalties could target larger banks, including Russia’s VTB Bank, as well as other Russian oligarchs. The Biden administration has also threatened to impose export controls that would prevent Moscow from acquiring key U.S. technologies. 

Some criticized the sanctions as insufficient and urged Biden to impose more stringent measures as Russia appeared intent on attacking Ukraine.

Biden has previously pledged he would not send U.S. forces to fight in Ukraine against Russia, something White House press secretary Jen Psaki firmly reiterated earlier Wednesday. 

The administration has provided military aid to Ukraine, and earlier this week, the U.S. relocated troops to reinforce the Baltic States and reinforce the eastern flank of NATO in a bid to deter Russia from attacking alliance members.

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