Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia will launch a military operation in Ukraine, according to multiple reports. 

In a televised address Thursday morning Moscow time, Putin continued his disinformation campaign, claiming the operation was aimed at protecting eastern Ukraine from what he called a “regime.”

The move comes as Russia has amassed some 190,000 troops along Ukraine’s border with numerous neighbors and as the country has increasingly eyed territory in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Multiple outlets have reported explosions in Kyiv, the county’s capital, as well as in Kharkiv, a city in the northeast.

“The #Russian invasion of #Ukraine is now underway,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted Wednesday night in the U.S.

The order signed by Putin claims that “circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action” and that “the People's Republics of Donbass turned to Russia with a request for help.”

Russia has been steadily building up forces in the region for weeks, including conducting joint military operations in Belarus, even as U.S. and NATO allies have issued firm warnings to Russia to abandon escalation of tensions in the region.

President Biden on Wednesday night called it “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces.”

“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 said.

In a speech in both Russian and Ukrainian just hours before Putin's announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to appeal directly to the Russian people, pleading for peace and seeking to combat claims from Putin that the country has provoked Russian aggression. 

“Attacking us, you will see our faces, not our backs,” he said, warning of the tens of thousands of deaths that could come,” Zelenskyy said, according to a translation by the Financial Times.

“I know this speech of mine will not be shown on Russian television,” he said. “But the citizens of Russia must know the truth. And the truth is this needs to stop before it’s too late.”

“They’re telling you that this flame will liberate the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free,” he added.

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