Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine has been swiftly condemned by several nations.
The authorisation by Putin was made at the same time as the United Nations Security Council met late on Wednesday for its second emergency meeting this week to urge de-escalation and return to diplomatic talks.
Russian media reported quoting Putin he had given approval to the operation in the Donbas region of Ukraine, where Moscow earlier recognised rebel-held territories in Luhansk and Donetsk and said they had asked for its “help”.
Here is how the world is reacting:
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Putin had “launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine” and that peaceful cities were “under strikes”.
“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” he tweeted.
Speaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said it was too late to talk about de-escalation. “I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war,” he said.
President Joe Biden has condemned Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.
“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,” he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a “blatant breach of international law” that “cannot be justified by anything”.
He said western sanctions would ensure Russia paid a “bitter price” for its attack on Ukraine and that Putin had made “a serious mistake.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s actions, telling Putin to “bring your troops back to Russia”.
“In the name of humanity, do not allow a war to start in Europe which could be worst war since the beginning of the century with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation but with an impact cannot even foresee.”
Speaking at the UN Security Council, Guterres implored Putin to “give peace a chance.”
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has appealed to neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to people seeking a safe haven.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and has spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the next steps.
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Johnson tweeted.
In a televised address to the nation, he said Western powers would impose massive sanctions to hobble the Russian economy. “Today, in concert with our allies, we will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy,” he said.
The bloc will hold Moscow accountable for the “unjustified” attack on Ukraine, the chief of the EU’s Executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.
“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,” she said on Twitter.
The EU is expected to discuss a further sanctions package on Russia at an emergency meeting later in the day.
Speaking at a news conference alongside the President of the European Council Charles Michel, von der Leyen said EU sanctions will “seriously degrade” Russia’s economy.
The Atlantic alliance’s secretary general said Russia had “chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.”
The attack “puts at risk countless civilian lives,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement, describing it as a “grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”
After chairing an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors, Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance will deploy capabilities and forces on its territory after Russian invaded Ukraine, saying it put over 100 warplanes on high alert.
NATO leaders will also hold a virtual summit on Friday.
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Russia had breached the Olympic Truce that is currently in effect, which aims to harness the power of sport to promote peace and dialogue.
A UN resolution calling for cooperate with the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee “to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation” was adopted on 2 December 2021 by consensus of all 193 UN Member States.
President Alexander Lukashenko said the Belarusian armed forces were not taking part in Russia’s military operation against Ukraine, the Belta news agency reported.
“Our troops are taking no part in this operation,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “heavy blow” to regional peace.
“We reject Russia’s military operation,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, calling it as a “heavy blow to regional peace and stability.”
Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a “barbaric act of aggression” and that his country will respond together with its allies,
“The Kremlin’s decision to launch a completely unprovoked attack is unacceptable and in contradiction to international law,” he posted on Twitter.
China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.
“You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word invasion,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry told reporters.
“China is closely monitoring the latest situation. We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control.”
The Chinese embassy in Ukraine told its citizens in Ukraine to stay put at home as a precautionary measure, following the bombings of some Ukrainian cities.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki demanded an immediate reaction to Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, seeking the “fiercest possible” sanctions.
“We must immediately respond to Russia’s criminal aggression on Ukraine,” Morawiecki tweeted.
“Europe and the free world have to stop Putin. Today’s European Council should approve fiercest possible sanctions. Our support for Ukraine must be real.”
The country’s health ministry said it is preparing a medical train to transport the wounded, adding that Polish hospitals were ready to receive thousands of patients.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said “war is the worst-case scenario”.
“The task now, just as always, is to guarantee the security of Hungarian people,” Sjijjarto posted on his official Facebook page.
“Our embassy in Kyiv is operating, and ready to help Hungarians who are in the Ukraine right now.”
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said his country was preparing to evacuate by land more than 4,000 ethnic Bulgarians from Ukraine and was ready to host other Ukrainian refugees.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said the Balkan country would prepare hotels and other tourism bases to host them.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said sanctions against Russia would become law Friday but would not take effect until the end of March.
He said the time was needed to give “opportunities for businesses that have had very legitimate operations and business interests in Russia and in the affected territories of Ukraine to be able to make changes to their arrangements.”
“The reason we’re doing this is there must be a price for the unprovoked, unlawful, unwarranted, unjustified attacks and threats and intimidation that has been imposed by Russia on Ukraine. This cannot be a consequence-free action by Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime,” Morrison said.
President Emmanuel Macron has said France will stand by Ukraine’s side and warned that Russia’s invasion of its neighbour will have durable and “deep” consequences for the continent of Europe.
“We will respond without weakness to this act of war, with calm, determination and unity,” Macron said in an address to the French nation.
The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the Russian military operation in Ukraine and said he is in contact with allies from NATO to coordinate a response.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “unjustified and unjustifiable.”
“Italy stands by the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment,” he said in a statement. “We are working with our European and NATO allies to respond immediately, with unity and determination.”
Draghi has called on Russia to “withdraw unconditionally” from Ukraine and “put an immediate end to the bloodshed.”
Greece slammed Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “revisionist” as it scrambled to bolster consular support for its ethnic community of over 100,000 people in the country.
“We strongly condemn the Russian aggression against an independent country,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said.
Deputy foreign minister Andreas Katsaniotis said that “while other countries withdrew their diplomats, we increased our personnel.”
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö strongly condemned the Russian military measures, describing them as an assault not just on Ukraine, but “on the entire European security order.”
“We feel deep compassion towards Ukraine and are seeking ways to increase our support to Ukraine,” he said.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the defence ministry will look at ways of strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to resist Russia’s invasion.
“I have … today given the Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist the task of immediately preparing a decision so that we, from the Swedish side, can support Ukraine with further ways to… to strengthen their resilience,” Andersson told reporters during a news conference.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement called Russia’s attacks “unprovoked” and “a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Trudeau said he would meet with partners from the Group of Seven to shape a collective response, “including by imposing sanctions additional to those announced earlier this week.”
“These reckless and dangerous acts will not go unpunished.”
Iran urged its citizens residing in Ukraine to leave the country, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
Iran’s embassy in Ukraine is currently working on obtaining flight permits for the evacuation flights given that the Ukrainian airspace is currently closed, ISNA added.
President Maia Sandu said Moldova would introduce a state of emergency and was ready to accept tens of thousands of people coming in from neighbouring Ukraine.
“We will help people who need our help and support,” she said.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger said Slovakia condemns “in strongest possible terms” Russia’s attack on neighbour Ukraine.
“Times when democratic world wants to live in peace, Russia wants war. We are ready and will act united,” he said.
In a statement, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani urged all parties to exercise restraint and to resolve all conflicts through “constructive dialogue and diplomatic means”.
“Sheikh Tamim also called the protection of civilians and the prioritisation of the humanitarian situation,” the statement said.
The Indian embassy in Ukraine said arrangements were being made to evacuate Indians since the Ukrainian airspace had been closed.
President Gitanas Nauseda said the Lithuanian parliament will decide whether to declare a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned Russia’s military actions and said Japan will respond in a speedy fashion together with the US and other allies.
“This Russian invasion stands to put at risk the basic principle of international order that forbids one-sided action of force in an attempt to change the status quo. We strongly condemn Russia, and we will respond speedily in cooperation with the US and other Western nations,” Kishida added.
President Moon Jae-in said at a National Security Council meeting that Ukraine’s sovereignty, territory, and independence must be respected.
South Korea will join in unspecified multilateral economic sanctions on Russia in response to its military operations in Ukraine but is not considering adopting unilateral measures.