Putin said the operation seeks to defend Moscow against what he alleged were threats from Ukraine, and to protect civilians and demilitarize Ukraine.
Within hours of Putin’s announcement, the Russian military claimed to have incapacitated all of Ukraine’s air defenses and air bases.
Ukraine’s leadership said at least 40 people had been killed so far in what it called a “full-scale war,” with multiple cities and bases targeted with airstrikes or shelling from the east, north and south.
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law.
Ukrainians and residents have begun to flee some cities, piling into cars and various modes of public transport.