Russian forces have launched a major military assault on Ukraine, by air, land and sea, with reports of missile strikes and explosions near major cities

Frightened Ukrainians have been trying to flee the capital, Kyiv and there is a palpable sense of shock, as they take to subway stations, with air raid sirens ringing out across the country’s main cities.

The Russian military has put out a statement making a variety of claims about the nature of the invasion and its justifications for it.

It repeats the claim that its assault on Ukraine was launched to protect the Russian-backed separatist areas of the Donbas, which Russia said was being attacked by the Ukrainian military. Experts say this is almost certainly false and Western governments have been warning for weeks that Russia would create a pretext to justify invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warns that Moscow’s response will be “instant” if anyone tries to take on Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has officially severed diplomatic ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukrainian territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky has told a news briefing, on Thursday.

Zelenskyy has also said he will issue weapons to everyone who wants them.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier called for citizens to donate blood to help wounded soldiers – and Huge queues at blood bank in Kharkiv. The Doctor says last time he saw this scale of blood donation was during 2014 conflict in Donbas.

China has called for restraint on all sides, while Australia has also hit Russia with a “second phase” of sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the Russian attack on Ukraine is a “turning point” in European history.

In a televised address to the nation, he says France will stand by Ukraine’s side.

Macron adds that Russia’s actions will have “durable and deep” consequences for the continent.

Nato’s chief is calling on Russia to immediately cease military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine and choose diplomacy

Jens Stoltenberg says in a statement that Russia is using force to try to rewrite history and deny Ukraine its free and independent path.

Nato’s core task is to protect and defend all allies, he says.

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