“Russia has attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way, like Nazi Germany did during World War II,” Zelensky said.
By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff
Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.
Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in what it called a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order and whose fallout already reverberated around the globe.
In announcing a major military operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin deflected global condemnation and cascading new sanctions — and chillingly referred to his country’s nuclear arsenal as he threatened any foreign country attempting to interfere with “consequences you have never seen.”
Among Putin’s pledges was to “denazify” Ukraine. World War II looms large in Russia, after the Soviet Union suffered more deaths than any country while fighting Adolf Hitler’s forces.
Kremlin propaganda paints members of Ukrainian right-wing groups as neo-Nazis, exploiting their admiration for WWII-era Ukrainian nationalist leaders who sided with the Nazis. Ukraine is now led by a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust and angrily dismissed the Russian claims.
Putin’s announcement came just hours after the Ukrainian president rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and made a passionate, last-minute plea for peace.
Zelensky said he asked to arrange a call with Putin late Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.
‘A full-scale war in Europe has begun’
NATO’s chief said the “brutal act of war” shattered peace on the European continent, as the U.S.-led alliance mobilized more troops to move toward eastern Europe.
Sirens rang out in Ukraine’s capital and people massed in train stations and took to roads, as the government said the former Soviet republic was seeing a long-anticipated invasion from the east, north and south and reported more than 40 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded.
“A full-scale war in Europe has begun,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said. “Russia is not only attacking Ukraine, but the rules of normal life in the modern world.”
World leaders decried the attack, which could cause massive casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government, upend the post-Cold War security order and result in severe economic impact around the world from soaring heating bills to spikes in food prices.
“We woke up in a different world today,” Germany’s foreign minister said, as NATO agreed to beef up air, land and sea forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia.
“Russia has attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way, like Nazi Germany did during World War II,” the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an online briefing,” AFP reported.
Global financial markets plunged and oil prices soared, and governments from the U.S. to Asia and Europe readied new sanctions after weeks of failed efforts for a diplomatic solution. But global powers have said they will not intervene militarily to defend Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law. Ukrainians who had long braced for the prospect of an assault were urged to stay home and not to panic, even as officials said Russian troops were rolling into Ukraine, and big explosions were heard in the capital of Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east and Odesa in the west.
“We are facing a war and horror. What could be worse?” 64-year-old Liudmila Gireyeva said in Kyiv. She planned to head to the western city of Lviv and then to try to move to Poland to join her daughter.
Putin “will be damned by history, and Ukrainians are damning him,” she said.