President Putin said he had been left with no choice but to launch the operation [AFP]
Updated on Thursday 24/02/2022 at 940 EAT.
Russia on Thursday announced the closure of its airspace for civilian flights on the western border with Ukraine and Belarus.
A Notice to Airmen or Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) was published after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation in the Donbas region.
“The use of airspace on Russia’s western border with Ukraine and Belarus has been temporarily suspended due to the high threat to the safety of flights of civilian aircraft after the use of weapons and military equipment,” a statement said.
In another statement on Thursday, the Russian defence ministry said it was using “high-precision weapons” to disable air defence systems, military airports, and the air force in Ukraine.
On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin authorised “a special military operation” against Ukraine to eliminate what he called a serious threat, saying his aim was to demilitarise Russia’s southern neighbour.
In an early morning address on state television, Putin said he had been left with no choice but to launch the operation, the scope of which was not immediately clear but appeared to go well beyond helping Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“I have decided to conduct a special military operation,” said Putin, seated at a desk in the Kremlin next to a battery of telephones, with the Russian flag behind him.
“Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide … for the last eight years. And for this, we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine.
“And to bring to court those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.”
Ukraine dismisses as invented Russian accusations of genocide against people living in parts of its east seized by Russian-backed separatists in 2014.
Kyiv has said Putin was looking for an artificial pretext to attack it.