Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, sending troops into the ex-Soviet nation from three fronts and firing missiles on several locations near the capital, Kyiv, in a broad attack that has drawn deep condemnation from world leaders.
At dawn, troops and armor crossed into eastern Ukraine from the Russian border, as well as from Belarus in the north and from Russia-annexed Crimea to the south.
Here’s how it unfolded.
Stirrings in Crimea
3:59 a.m. (8:59 p.m. ET, Wednesday): Livestream video from a border crossing station between Crimea – which was annexed by Russia in 2014 – and parts of southern Ukraine viewed by CNN showed what may have been the first signs of the Russian invasion.
In the video, a guard at the Kalanchak crossing is seen reacting to something heading towards the Ukrainian border. The guard begins moving back towards the gate, and soon another guard comes into frame.
About 25 seconds later, people who had just walked across to Crimea, are seen – suitcases in tow – running back across the border. The lights suddenly go out at the station, and the camera switches to black and white, recording in infrared.
4:08 a.m.: An individual dressed in camouflage is seen carrying a flashlight coming around one of the border guard stations. Three minutes later, three more individuals in camouflage are seen walking around the border crossing. Minutes later, the the camera cuts out.
Very soon after, another webcam at the Chongar border crossing – the only other active border crossing station from Crimea – shows lights suddenly turning off, and, minutes later, the camera turns off as well.
Putin announces ‘operation’
4:50 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech, saying he had decided “to conduct a special military operation … to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years,” repeating a baseless claim about Ukraine’s Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.
He denied, however, that Russia was planning to occupy Ukrainian territories. “We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force.”
He went on to warn: “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history.”
5.07 a.m.: Russian forces launched a series of missile attacks against locations near Kyiv, as well as the use of long-range artillery against the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border.
Before daylight: The strikes quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine, as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides. People in the cities of Odessa, Dnipro, Mariupol and Kramatorsk reported huge blasts.
Several detonations to the east of Kyiv let off massive plumes of gray smoke rising into the night sky. One of the chief targets was the main international airport at Boryspil, which is pummeled by missiles.
Video showed a cruise missile hitting a military installation at the airport at Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine. Airports were also hit in Kharkiv, Ozerne, Kulbakino, Chuhuiv, Kramatorsk and Chornobaivka.
Most of the targets were military bases, but there was clearly substantial damage in and around several cities. In Kharkiv, video emerged of an apartment block that had been damaged by a missile or long-range artillery. Another video showed a rocket embedded in a road. The State Emergency Service reported that six people were trapped in rubble in Nizhyn.