Putin’s announcement during a televised early morning speech came as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting at the request of Ukraine over escalating tensions with Russia.
Putin said the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine, yet insisted Russia doesn’t have a goal to occupy the country.
The Russian leader warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”
Here’s a look at the international reaction to Moscow’s latest move.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and is targeting cities with weapons strikes.
“Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Kuleba said in a Tweet Thursday, referring to Putin.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya confronted his Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia and the rest of the UN Security Council during Wednesday’s emergency meeting. He called on the U.N. to “stop the war.”
U.S. President Joe Biden said his prayers were with the people of Ukraine “as they suffer 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,” Biden said in a statement issued late on Wednesday.
“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 he would announce further sanctions on Russia on Thursday, in addition to financial measures imposed this week.
The White House said Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly after Russia’s attacks began, promising “severe sanctions” and international support.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned “Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine,” warning Moscow of “severe consequences” and additional action by Canada.
“These unprovoked actions are a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also in violation of Russia’s obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations,” Trudeau said in a statement late on Wednesday.
“Canada calls on Russia to immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly also vowed Russia’s actions “will not go unpunished.”
“Russia’ attack on Ukraine is a challenge to democracy, the likes of which reached new heights today,” she said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Canada joined the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union in announcing a first tranche of economic sanctions on Russia after Moscow recognized two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and Russian troops rolled into the area.
Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, called Russia’s latest move “a grotesque war crime.”
“Putin is the cause of all this. We cannot let him win,” Rae said on Twitter. “C’mon people, stop pretending. War has started.”
Rae went on to call what is happening “brutal thuggery.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine,” and that he has spoken with Zelenskyy.
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned on Thursday Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and called on Moscow to end them immediately.
“France strongly condemns the decision of Russia to start a war with Ukraine. Russia must immediately put an end to its military operations,” wrote Macron on his Twitter account.
The European Union will hold Moscow accountable for the “unjustified” attack on Ukraine, the chief of the bloc’s Executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Thursday.
“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.
“We will hold the Kremlin accountable.”
At an emergency summit in Brussels later on Thursday, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered against Russia.
Von der Leyen said the “massive and targeted sanctions” she will put to EU leaders “will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking the access to technologies and markets that are key for Russia.”
She said the sanctions, if approved, “will weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize. And in addition, we will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial financial markets.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as an unjustified and flagrant breach of international law and said Berlin would consult its partners in the Group of Seven (G7), NATO and the European Union.
“This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe,” Scholz said in a statement.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said this is “Europe’s darkest hour since the Second World War” while condemning Russia’s attack.
“This Russian aggression is unnecessary and unprovoked. Our hearts and minds are with the people of Ukraine,” he said on Twitter.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned Russia’s military actions in the Ukraine and said his country will respond in a speedy fashion in concert with the United States 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 U.S. and other Western nations,” he said at his official residence in Tokyo.
Australia will expand financial sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, adding 25 military persons, four weapons technology companies and four banks to its sanctions list.
There will be further waves of sanctions, including “moving on over 300 members of the Russian parliament”, Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
He added: “We must ensure there is a cost for this violent, unacceptable and egregious behaviour.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg strongly condemned Russia’s “reckless and unprovoked attack” on Ukraine and said NATO allies would meet to tackle the consequences of Moscow’s “aggressive actions.”
In a statement early on Thursday, Stoltenberg said, “Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country.”
He urged Russia to cease its military action immediately and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“NATO allies will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions. We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all allies,” Stoltenberg added.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Putin to stop the war “in the name of humanity.”
“Bring your troops back to Russia,” Guterres said, speaking after an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Ukraine.
The consequences of a war would be devastating for Ukraine and far-reaching for the global economy, he added.
— With files from The Associated Press and Reuters