Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged citizens to fight in a speech to the nation after Russia launched an invasion Thursday morning. Though many Western countries imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin after he mobilized along the border, the world leader made his move and issued an assault by land, air, and sea.
According to Zelenskiy, martial law was declared throughout the country and many explosions have occurred in major Ukrainian cities and along border guard outposts.
In a speech Thursday morning, the President of Ukraine told citizens that anyone willing to help fight protect their country from invasion would be given arms by the government, and also reached out to those willing to provide blood donations to fallen soldiers.
“We are defending our country, we fight for our country and we protect our country” Volodymyr Zelenskiy stated. “We are strong, we are ready for everything.”
“We will defend ourselves,” he continued. “Not attack, but defend ourselves. And when you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs, but our faces.”
The 10-minute speech was given on the social media platform Telegram, where he spoke in both Ukrainian and Russian. Vladimir Putin has yet to respond to his invitation to hold talks and stop the invasion.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy also urged Russians opposed to the invasion to go out into the streets and protest against their government’s decision to enter a needless war, endangering the lives of thousands of Ukrainian citizens.
According to Reuters, Russia’s invasion was not only “confirmation of the worst fears of the West,” but the largest attack on a European country since World War II.
An adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the news outlet that the invasion was coming in from all sides, and that 40 soldiers were already pronounced dead within minutes of the assault taking place. A military airport near the capital, Kyiv, saw intense fighting, as did territory in Kherson near Crimea, which has since been lost all but completely to Russia.
Over three million people currently live in Kyiv, and heard gunshots erupt second after Putin declared war in an early morning television address. As citizens attempted to flee, the highways experienced massive traffic jams.
According to TODAY, many parents in Ukraine have taken heartbreaking measures to protect their children, with reports of parents sending their kids to school with stickers listing their blood types.
“It’s like a piece of paper, with blood type information, the names of their parents, and telephone numbers,” one parent told reporters. “There is no one form for such a sticker. It depends on every parent. It’s up to them.”
Aside from Western countries such as Poland, Romania, and Hungary, Ukraine is mostly surrounded by Russia to the North (including Belarus), East, and South (including Russia-annexed Crimea and the Black Sea).
“Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in the WW2 years,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter. “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself & won’t give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.”
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has spoken with President Biden in the US, according to CNN, and has stated that America and its allies will continue to impose “severe sanctions” on Russia as the invasion continues. The Ukrainian President also urged Western powers to “rally international condemnation of Russia.”
In response, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to “weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize” by imposing sanctions cutting it off from the rest of the West.
“We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets,” she continued. “We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments that are being used to justify it.”
Putin stated in his address to the world before invasion that he sought to “demilitarize” Ukraine and destroy NATO’s expansion toward the Russian border.
“I hope,” he concluded in his short, televised address, “that I have been heard.”