Explosions could be heard across multiple Ukrainian cities, including the capital city of Kyiv early on Thursday morning (Wednesday night in the U.S.) as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to begin combat operations against Ukraine.
The Russian attacks come two days after Putin signed a document signifying Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR or DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR or LPR), two areas in eastern Ukraine that have been held by Russian-backed separatists. Shortly after recognizing the DNR and LNR as sovereign, and therefore separate from Ukraine, Putin ordered Russian troops already gathered on Ukraine’s border to cross over under the pretense of protecting the separatist areas from a Ukrainian attack.
Video shared to social media around 5 a.m. Kyiv time on Thursday appeared to show several multiple launch rocket systems (MLRSs) firing dozens of rockets reportedly targeting Ukrainian positions.
Explosions could be heard in the background during a CNN live broadcast from the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv.
CNN host Brian Stelter tweeted, “CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv: ‘I just heard a big bang right here behind me.’ Here’s the video of the moment.”
Russian strikes also targeted the southeast Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is located on the northern edge of the Sea of Azov.
“Explosions are heard in Ukraine port city of Mariupol,” KAN News correspondent Amichai Stein tweeted with security camera footage of an explosion lighting up the night sky.
The northeast Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was also targeted with Russian strikes.
Another Twitter user showed a still shot of fires burning in Kharkiv.
BNO News tweeted, “BREAKING: Large explosions reported near Ukraine’s Kharkiv.”
“US official tells me: Right now we are seeing the pre assault fires,” Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin said. “Expect this to go on for a few hours. Land attack to follow with ALL of the full forces Putin has arrayed. Explosions heard in Kiev, Odessa, Mariupol. ‘It’s begun.’”
Videos taken in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, purported to show Russian military vehicles on the move.
The Russian armored vehicles were reportedly moving in the direction of Armyansk, which is located at the northern edge of Russian-held Crimea and connects to southern Ukraine.
Elsewhere across Ukraine, other videos began coming in.
One video captured some type of ordnance arcing across the night sky before fragmenting with a loud explosion.
More video showed Russian strikes on the city of Dnipro.
In another video from Svatovo, an explosion could be heard from an even closer distance.
A bright flash and smoke plume could be seen in another video from the Sumy region of Ukraine.
Another video from a populated area of Ukraine showed a fire burning in the distance.
Another video showed civilian cars fleeing Kyiv.
Another video showed a crowded gas station in Kharkiv as civilians hurried to leave the city.
Conflict News also reported traffic jams as residents in Kharkiv also began to flee the city.