Ukraine Shoots Down Several Russian Aircraft, Country's Military Claims

Ukrainian military officials have said the country has shot down several Russian planes as it continues to defend itself against the Russian invasion.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces, said in a post on Facebook that at least six Russian planes, two helicopters and dozens of armored vehicles were destroyed.

"Ukraine's defense forces are holding back the Russian aggressor's offensive," he wrote.

He said the "enemy was stopped" in Chernihiv in Northern Ukraine, while "heavy" fighting continues in the direction of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. He said Ukrainian troops destroyed four Russian tanks there.

Ukrainian troops regained control of the cities of Mariupol and Schastia, and about 50 Russian soldiers were killed, he said.

Mass casualties have been reported in Ukraine, with reports that an apartment block in Chuhuiv, southeast of Kharkiv, was seriously damaged in an air strike.

The Russian military said it hit Ukrainian air bases and other military assets but had not targeted populated areas, according to The Associated Press.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba maintained that his country's defense had not crumbled despite a "a full-scale attack from multiple directions."

"No, this is not a Russian invasion only in the east of Ukraine, but a full-scale attack from multiple directions," Kuleba wrote on Twitter around midday local time.

"No, the Ukrainian defense has not collapsed. Ukrainian army took the fight. Ukraine stands with both feet on the ground & continues to defend itself."

Explosions and missile strikes were reported across Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised address early Thursday that he had decided to carry out a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law early Thursday and urged Ukrainians to stay calm.

He later announced the decision to cut diplomatic ties with Russia after it launched a massive air and missile attack and Russian forces were seen rolling into Ukraine.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said he had condemned "this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces" in a phone call with Zelenskyy.

Biden said he planned to speak to the American people on Thursday after a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders, and said the U.S. and its allies will impose "severe sanctions" on Russia.

In an earlier statement, he said Putin had "chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering."

He added: "Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable."

Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence Square
Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence Square in central Kyiv on February 24, 2022. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images