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Russia says destroyed Ukraine airbases, air defences

"Military infrastructure at Ukrainian army air bases has been rendered out of action," the defence ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies, which added that Kyiv's air defence systems were "eliminated".

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Moscow: Russia’s defence ministry said Thursday it had neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military offensive against his country’s neighbour, AFP reported.

“Military infrastructure at Ukrainian army air bases has been rendered out of action,” the defence ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies, which added that Kyiv’s air defence systems were “eliminated”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard across the country and its foreign minister warning a “full-scale invasion” was underway.

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Weeks of intense diplomacy and the imposition of Western  sanction on Russia failed to deter Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders of Ukraine.

“I have made the decision of a military operation,” Putin said in a surprise television announcement that triggered immediate condemnation from US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders, and sent global financial markets into turmoil.

Shortly after the announcement, explosion were heard in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and several other cities, according to AFP correspondents.

Ukrainian border guards reported being under attack along the Russian and Belarusian frontiers.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook post that Russia was attacking his country’s “military infrastructure”, but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.

His foreign minister said the worst-case scenario was playing out.

“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

“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.”

In his televised address, Putin called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms, and justified the operation by claiming the government was overseeing a “genocide” in the east of the country.

The Kremlin had earlier said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military help against Kyiv. 

Biden, who had for weeks sought to lead a Western alliance to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, spoke with Zelensky after the Russian operation began to vow US “support” and “assistance”.

Biden condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” and urged world leaders to speak out against Putin’s “flagrant aggression”.

He also vowed Russia would be held accountable.

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

“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.

Biden was due to join a virtual, closed-door meeting of G7 leaders — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — at 9:00 am (1400 GMT) Thursday. 

The G7 meeting is likely to result in more sanctions against Russia, which had long claimed it would not invade Ukraine, despite massing troops on the country’s borders.

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