Ukrainians flee Kyiv under air raid sirens as Russia launches 'full-scale invasion'
Ukrainians have fled Kyiv as Vladimir Putin launched a "full scale invasion" on their homeland overnight.
Explosions were heard in Ukraine at around 5am local time, which Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed were missile strikes.
Air raid alarms began ringing in the capital, urging people to flee and take shelter, resulting in terrified families taking to the roads and metro stations in an effort to find safety.
In a late-night address appealing to the Russian people to stop an attack, Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian people wanted peace, and that Putin had ignored an invitation to attend talks.
Putin announced his military action during a televised address early on Thursday morning, saying the move was a response to threats from Ukraine.
He made the speech at the same time a UN meeting was held to avoid a war.
Watch: Journalist stops live report after loud explosions are heard in Kyiv
Zelenskyy urged world leaders to provide defence assistance and help protect the country’s airspace from Russia as his nation is under attack.
In an address to the nation, Zelenskyy said any Ukrainian who wants weapons will be supplied with them.
"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities," he said.
He also people to come forward to donate blood for soldiers who have already been wounded in the course of the attack.
Zelenskyy said: “Anyone who has military experience, who can join the defence of Ukraine, has to come to the military offices of the ministry of internal affairs... please, keep yourself updated on the information. We have wounded soldiers that require blood donations, please join and donate blood.”
In the Russian-annexed Crimea, camera footage showed Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine, amid reports that troops have breached Ukrainian borders in at least four regions.
Russia’s military said it had targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and had not targeted populated areas.
In a chilling threat, Putin said Moscow's response would be "instant" if anyone tried to target Russia as a result of their actions.
He said Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.
Read more: Vladimir Putin launches full-scale invasion with explosions heard near Kyiv
He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
Zelenskyy issued his own statement filmed from his home, declaring martial law on the streets of Ukraine.
He told Ukrainians: "Don't panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine."
The severity if the situation cannot be understated.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Herashchenko said: 'Starting today, the world has a new geopolitical reality. Either Ukraine and the world will stop the new Hitler now, or there will be a Third World War.'
There are mixed reports of those killed and injured during the unrest so far.
Ukraine's military said it had destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country's east.
However, Russia has denied reports that its aircraft or armoured vehicles have been destroyed.
Ukraine's border guard service said that three of its servicemen had been killed in the southern Kherson region and that several more were wounded.
Boris Johnson will be addressing the situation in a televised address at 11am GMT.
He described the situation as a "catastrophe for our continent".
The PM added: "I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all Nato leaders as soon as possible."
Putin has accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato and offer Moscow security guarantees.
He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarisation” of Ukraine, adding that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.
Explosions could be heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv shortly after Putin’s address, while explosions were also reported in the cities of Odessa and Kharkiv.
A British-Ukrainian student living in Kyiv said she woke up to the sounds of explosions on Thursday morning.
Read more: Boris Johnson and Joe Biden lead world leaders' fury at Vladimir Putin
Valentina Butenko is studying politics at University College London, but returned to Ukraine a few weeks ago to offer help with the security crisis there.
“I woke up this morning to the sound of an explosion,” the 19-year-old, who has a British mother but was raised in Ukraine, said.
“I live on the outskirts of Kyiv so I expect it must have been pretty huge for me to hear it.
“Have been hearing explosions intermittently since 5am … the sky has lit up a few times although it seems to have calmed down slightly now.”
Butenko said “a lot” of people are leaving the Ukrainian capital and roads out of the city are blocked, making it “impossible to get out”.
In the UK, Johnson is leading a crisis meeting of senior ministers and officials to consider how to respond to Vladimir Putin’s military action against Ukraine.
The PM said the Russian president has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction”, and is expected to announce further sanctions.
The meeting of the Cobra emergency committee follows a call between Johnson and Zelenskyy during the night as Russia launched its assault.
Johnson – whose initial package of sanctions was criticised by senior Tories and opposition figures – has promised to respond “decisively” to the Russian onslaught.
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to president Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” he said.
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”
A Downing Street spokesman said the UK assured Zelenskyy the West will “not stand by as president Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people”.
“The prime minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist, and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time,” the spokesman said.