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A CNN “team on the ground” has reported several explosions heard in the vicinity of Ukraine’s capital Kiev around 6 a.m. local time on Feb. 24, with another “steady stream” blasts occurring in the industrial city of Kharkov minutes later. Explosions were also detected in Mariupol and Odesa, both cities on the Black Sea coast.
The UK-based Independent reported gunfire in addition to explosions.
The explosions come hours after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in the separatist-held Donbas region, where the Kremlin on Sunday, Feb. 21, recognized the independence of two “people’s republics” and quickly deployed troops in a supposedly peacekeeping role.
“I have taken the decision to carry out a special military operation,” Putin said in a speech in the morning of Feb. 24. “Its goal will be to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime. For this we will aim for demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as taking to court those who carried out multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation. Our plans do not include occupying Ukrainian territory.”
However, Russian forces have already demanded that Ukrainian soldiers lay down arms.
Western countries, including the U.S., imposed heavy sanctions on the Russian Federation, and have warned that an invasion of Ukraine itself could be imminent. Gas prices across Europe have hiked as the crisis escalates.
At the beginning of Feb. 24, Ukraine announced a “nationwide State of Emergency” which will remain in effect for 30 days.