Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine early Thursday local time.
In the address, broadcast on Russian national television, Putin urged Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and go home, saying all responsibility for possible bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the Ukrainian government.
But he added: “Our plans are not to occupy Ukraine, we do not plan to impose ourselves on anyone.”
Putin’s speech came as concerns mounted of an imminent full-scale Russian invasion. The Donbas region contains the separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk which Putin recognized as independent on Monday.
Before the announcement of military action, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for peace but vowed the country would defend itself.
Following Putin’s address, US President Joe Biden issued a statement saying Russia had launched “an unprovoked and unjustified attack” on the Ukrainian people.