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Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been reported dead after Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion, though the country's military has claimed to be fighting back by shooting down planes in the east of the country.
Putin announced a 'special military operation' in the east of Ukraine in a televised address after which explosions were reported in the outskirts of a number of cities, including Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, as well as the capital Kyiv.
Airports in the country have temporarily shut down in a bid to prevent potential Russian aircraft landings, while Russia has also closed its own airspace around the border from civilian access for the next four months.
CNN: Ukraine's Interior Ministry says there have already been hundreds of casualties pic.twitter.com/CNAPySQ4y2— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 24, 2022
Following Putin's announcement, Ukraine’s military said its air defence shot down a Russian plane in eastern Ukraine, and separately downed five Russian planes and one helicopter in the eastern Luhansk region.
Russia's defence ministry, however, has denied reports that one of its aircraft has been shot down.
According to reports by Russian news agencies, per LBC, it claimed to have attacked military infrastructure at Ukrainian air bases and degraded Ukraine’s air defences.
Sky News correspondent Stuart Ramsay said it is 'possible but unlikely' that Russian planes have been shot down.
Luhansk, where Ukraine claimed to have taken out six aircraft, is partially held by Russian-backed separatists and was recognised as independent by Putin earlier this week.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser for the Interior Minister of Ukraine, confirmed Russia's 'invasion [had] begun' with 'missile strikes on Kyiv' in the early hours of Thursday, February 24.
Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 24, 2022
In a post on his Facebook page, Gerashchenko added that control centres such as airfields and military headquarters had been struck by the shelling in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and that artillery fire has been taking place along the border.
Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been reported dead in the hours since Russian and Belarusian tanks crossed the border into the country, according to a CNN contact at the interior ministry.
Citing the official, CNN reported, 'Across the country, as a result of these attacks, there are hundreds of casualties.'
Leaders and officials in the West have condemned Putin's decision to launch in invasion, with a statement from the Ukrainian foreign ministry saying, 'This is an act of war, an attack on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a gross violation of the UN Statute and the fundamental norms and principles of international law.'
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