Here's what we know about how Russia's invasion of Ukraine unfolded

Originally Published: 24 FEB 22 05:42 ET
Updated: 24 FEB 22 05:49 ET

    (CNN) -- Russian forces invaded Ukraine from three sides, while explosions rang through a number of cities, including the capital Kyiv, in a broad attack that began before dawn on Thursday.

Here's how it unfolded.

Putin announces attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech early Thursday morning, saying he had decided "to conduct a special military operation ... to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years," repeating a baseless claim about Ukraine's Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.

He denied, however, that Russia was planning to occupy Ukrainian territories. "We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force."

But in a deeply menacing passage Putin added that anyone trying to interfere with or threaten Russia would lead to "consequences that you have never experienced in your history."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded several hours later with a minute-long speech of his own, saying he had spoken to US President Joe Biden and that the US was rallying international support for Ukraine.

"The West is with us," he said, and announced martial law across the country.

Before dawn

The assault began hours before dawn with a series of missile attacks against locations near Kyiv, as well as the use of long-range artillery against the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border.

It quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides. In the hours before daylight, people in the cities of Odessa, Dnipro, Mariupol and Kramatorsk reported huge blasts.

Several detonations to the east of Kyiv let off massive plumes of gray smoke rising into the night sky. One of the chief targets was the main international airport at Boryspil.

Video showed a cruise missile hitting a military installation at the airport at Ivano-Frankivskin western Ukraine. Airports were also hit in Kharkiv, Ozerne, Kulbakino, Chuhuiv, Kramatorsk, and Chornobaivka.

Immediate details of casualties were unclear. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed its troops sustained no losses.

But there was clearly substantial damage in and around several cities. In Kharkiv, video emerged of an apartment block that had been damaged by a missile or long-range artillery. Another video showed a rocket embedded in a road. The State Emergency Service reported that six people were trapped in rubble in Nizhyn.

Ukraine's interior ministry said ballistic missiles had been used as part of the offensive, while jets were heard over the central city of Zaporizhzhye.

The Russians used a wide array of weaponry in their assault, including attack aircraft and helicopters, tanks, long range artillery and missiles.

Ukraine claimed it had shot down five Russian aircraft and a helicopter. Russia denied losing any aircraft.

Russian ground forces entered Ukraine from the north -- through a border post from Belarus -- from the northeast, and from Crimea in the south, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Dawn breaks

After dawn, air sirens sounded across Kyiv and also in the western city of Lviv. A short time later a single, unidentifiable plane roared above the capital.

As the day began in Kyiv, streams of vehicles could be seen crossing the North Bridge, heading west, away from the focus of the Russian assault. Other people in the capital sought shelter in the subway.

Across the country long lines formed at gas stations and cash machines. A few people gathered in the streets of Kharkiv to pray.

Under overcast skies on Friday morning, Kiev appeared to be in a state of shock. The streets were quiet and schools closed. Here and across the country, Ukrainians are just beginning to come to terms with a cataclysmic night and the prospect of a deeply uncertain future.

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