Global outrage followed Thursday’s attacks launched by Russia on major cities and infrastructure in Ukraine, with the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), among others, describing it as an unprovoked aggression, and imposing a series of sanctions on Russia.
Russian media had quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying he had given approval for the operation in the Donbas region of Ukraine, where Moscow earlier recognised rebel-held territories in Luhansk and Donetsk, and said they had asked for “help”.
Owing to the attack, oil prices jumped yesterday, with Brent rising above $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014, after the attack exacerbated concerns about disruptions to global energy supply. On the other hand, global markets plunged.
According to the BBC, the invasion by land, air, and sea began after a pre-dawn TV address, where the Russian President demanded that Ukraine’s military lay down their arms. Initial reports of casualties included Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, and Russian troops.
The Ukraine’s leader had said his country “won’t give up its freedom.”
“Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself,” President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted.
Ukraine declared martial law and severed all diplomatic relations with Russia. It said weapons would be given to anyone who wanted them.
The Russian attack began around 4:30 am in Ukraine yesterday, with a barrage of over 100 ballistic, cruise and surface-to-air missiles, and included 75 medium and heavy bombers. Experts said the invasion was the largest in Europe since World War II. The fighting, described as an initial phase, could potentially become very bloody and very costly, they added.
Explosions were heard in major cities, including the capital, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa. Oleksii Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said at least 40 people had been killed and dozens others wounded in the attack so far.
Ukrainian authorities said Russian forces had hit military assets and other defence facilities, while footage shared by Ukrainian border guards showed Russian military vehicles moving across the border from Crimea.
Zelenskyy had announced that Ukraine had cut diplomatic ties with Russia, declaring martial law and offering to issue weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Despite pleas to stay home, people in Kyiv were jamming roads to leave.
But as global outrage swelled, Putin met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday. The prime minister’s office posted a video to Twitter of the two leaders shaking hands and said the pair would discuss “the entire gamut of Pakistan-Russia bilateral cooperation, and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.”
US President Joe Biden on Thursday forcefully condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a premeditated attack and a brutal assault “without provocation, without justification, without necessity.
“Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months.”
Biden announced new sanctions that included banning exports to Russia.
“We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximise a long-term impact on Russia and to minimise impact on the United States and our allies,” Biden said.
Biden used his strongest language to date about Putin, saying the U.S. and allies will make sure he becomes “pariah on the international stage.”
Biden met earlier yesterday morning with his national security team and world leaders, hours after Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine in the predawn darkness.
The U.S. already has about 90,000 troops in Europe and has deployed more to the continent as tensions simmered in the weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this month, about 5,000 US-based forces were sent to Europe and US military personnel already there had been shifting to help bolster NATO’s eastern flank.
Biden said members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and others had joined a global coalition to amplify a united response. He also said G-7 leaders agreed to limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen. The president said the US would block four more major banks in addition to the sanctions imposed on VTB and Russia’s military bank.
Biden said the United States was taking steps to defend NATO allies.
The organisation will convene a summit today, which would “bring together the leaders of 30 allied nations and close partners to affirm our solidarity and to map out the next steps we will take to further strengthen all aspects of our NATO Alliance,” Biden said.
“This aggression cannot go unanswered. America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom,” he added.
Biden said his administration was going to use “every tool” to protect Americans and businesses from rising gas prices.
He called on American oil and gas companies to “not exploit this moment to hike their prices to raise profits.”
The US president said, “Our sanctions package is specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue. We are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption.”
The White House sounded the alarm last week to prepare the country for potential cyber-attacks on US companies or key parts of U.S. critical infrastructure, including pipelines, banks, commercial aviation, and hospitals.
Clinton Condemns ‘Unprovoked and Unjustified’ Russian attack on Ukraine
Former US President Bill Clinton yesterday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, joining world leaders, past and present, in rebuking Putin.
“Putin’s war of choice has unravelled 30 years of diplomacy, with the potential for mass civilian casualties and huge displacements both within Ukraine’s borders and beyond,” Clinton said in a prepared statement posted to his Twitter account.
He called the invasion “unprovoked and unjustified” and a “brazen violation of international law.”
“The world will hold Russia and Russia alone accountable, both economically and politically,” he said.
In his address, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged a “vast invasion” is underway and said the world “cannot allow that freedom” of Ukraine to be “snuffed out”.
He assured the UK will “do what more we can in the days ahead”, including agreeing a “massive package of economic sanctions”.
Johnson continued, “Our mission is clear: diplomatically, politically, economically and, eventually, militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Putin must end in failure.”
The prime minister addressed the people of Russia, Ukraine and Britain separately in his address, telling those in Russia that he “cannot believe” the invasion has been launched “in your name”.
He assured Ukrainians the UK was “on [their] side”, and told Brits the government “will do everything to keep our country safe”, including working with allies for “however long it takes” to ensure the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine was restored.
Johnson said the United Kingdom was imposing “the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen” and that sanctions would also apply to Belarus for its role in Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
In coordination with the US, Johnson said the United Kingdom was imposing a “full asset freeze” on the Russian-owned bank VTB that will effectively exclude Russian banks from UK’s financial system.
“I’m pleased to tell the House that the United States is taking similar measures,” Johnson told the House of Commons.
He said the UK would implement new trade and export restrictions similar to what the US would also impose
The prime minister said Russian companies, both private and state-owned, would be prohibited from raising funds in the UK, taking loans out of the UK, and making securities transactions in the UK
“This includes all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters yesterday gathered in London to urge Britain and other democracies to step up action against Russia. Ukrainians living in the UK and activists gathered outside the prime minister’s Downing Street office singing the Ukrainian national anthem.
Natalia Ravlyuk, who helped organise the protest, said they wanted the “toughest sanctions and total isolation of Russia now.”
“We feel betrayed by democratic states because we have been talking about this war for eight years,” she said. “They just need to wake up and stop Putin now,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying.
NATO chief: Russia’s Ukraine invasion ‘cold-blooded’ and ‘long-planned’
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned,” accusing Putin of “using force to re-write history.”
Speaking in Brussels, Stoltenberg called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders on Friday to address Moscow’s military incursion into neighbouring Ukraine and said the military alliance would be bolstering its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank. Stoltenberg confirmed NATO did not have any troops inside Ukraine and did not plan to send any, but said the alliance was still committed to providing Kyiv with military and technical support.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO but other countries close to the theatre of conflict, including Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania, are. Under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, all are entitled to direct military support if their “territorial integrity, political independence or security” is threatened.
Following a virtual meeting on Thursday morning, leaders of the G-7 issued a joint statement announcing they would bring forward “severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions” and calling on the global community to condemn the attack in the strongest terms possible.
The leaders of the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, along with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary-General called the unfolding conflict “a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe.”
The leaders called on Moscow to end the bloodshed and condemned Belarus’ involvement in Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
“This has fundamentally changed the Euro-Atlantic security situation,” the statement read. “President Putin has re-introduced war to the European continent. He has put himself on the wrong side of history.”
In a similar vein, former US President George W. Bush coEmmanuel Addeh in Abujandemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II.”
The invasion was “unprovoked and unjustified,” Bush said in a statement.
Bush, who once described Putin as “very straightforward and trustworthy,” said the US government and the American people must stand in solidarity with Ukraine and its people as they sought freedom “and the right to choose their own future.
“We cannot tolerate the authoritarian bullying and danger that Putin poses.”
He said, “Ukraine is our friend and democratic ally and deserves our full support during this most difficult time.”
Meanwhile oil prices jumped on Thursday with Brent rising above $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014, after Russia’s attack on Ukraine exacerbated concerns about disruptions to global energy supply.
Senior oil market analyst at Rystad Energy, Louise Dickson, told Reuters, “Oil prices are soaring with no end in sight as the news of Russia’s full-scale military incursion of Ukraine, immediately putting at risk up to 1 million bpd (barrels per day) of Russian crude oil exports transitioning through Ukraine and the Black Sea,”
At least three major buyers of Russian oil were unable to open letters of credit from Western banks to cover purchases on Thursday, sources told Reuters.
Global benchmark Brent crude rose $6.61, or 6.8 per cent, to $103.45, after touching a high of $105.79.
Also, US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude jumped $4.78, or 5.2 per cent, to $96.88 a barrel, after earlier rising to $100.54. Brent and WTI hit their highest since August and July 2014, respectively.
“Russia is the third-largest oil producer and second-largest oil exporter. Given low inventories and dwindling spare capacity, the oil market cannot afford large supply disruptions,” UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said.
“Supply concerns may also spur oil stockpiling activity, which supports prices.”
Russia is also the largest provider of natural gas to Europe, providing about 35 per cent of its supply.
China warned of the impact of tensions on the stability of the energy market.
“All countries that are truly responsible should take responsible actions to jointly maintain global energy security,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Globally, oil supplies remain tight as demand recovers from pandemic lows.
Reflecting the tightness, the premium on Brent contracts for loading in one month over contracts for loadings in six months, a metric closely watched by traders, hit a record high at $11.55 a barrel.
Analysts said Brent was likely to remain above $100 a barrel until significant alternative supplies become available from US shale or Iran, for example.
The United States and Iran have been engaged in indirect nuclear talks in Vienna that could lead to the removal of sanctions on Iranian oil sales.
Analysts are warning of inflationary pressure on the global economy from $100 oil, especially for Asia, which imports most of its energy needs.
“Asia’s Achilles heel remains its vast import needs for energy, with surging oil prices bound to take a hefty bite out of income and growth over the coming year,” said HSBC economist Frederic Neumann.
As the conflict worsens, Nigeria’s House of Representatives has directed its leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, and Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Yakub Buba, to liaise with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, National Intelligence Agency, and Ukrainian embassy to see that Nigerian students in Ukraine were immediately evacuated.
Moving a motion of urgent national importance at the plenary yesterday, Hon. Ahmed Munir lamented that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was deteriorating by the hour.
Munir pointed out that Nigeria had a significant number of undergraduate and graduate students currently studying in Ukraine, with a good number of them under government scholarships. This, he said, included a number of Nigerian diplomats and their families in the Kiev Embassy and Nigerian expatriates across Ukraine.
He expressed concern that if a strategic plan was not put in place to secure and provide safe passage for Nigerian citizens, they may be trapped or worse, harmed.
The lawmaker urged his colleagues to mandate its Committees on Foreign Affairs and diaspora, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to ascertain the exact figures of Nigerians affected by this conflict and put in place a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation and evaluation mechanism.
Contributing, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, amended the prayer calling for an interface with the ministry, NIA and embassy for immediate evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine.
Gbajabiamila said since a state of emergency had been declared on the conflict, urgent action needed to be taken to ensure safety of the citizens.
The Speaker told the lawmakers that if nothing positive came out of their meeting with the stakeholders today, then they should immediately contact the chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, regardless of the cost and head to Ukraine tomorrow (Friday) and evacuate the students on Monday.
Gbajabiamila said, “This is a very important motion that we discussed. Time is of the essence. A state of emergency has been declared, I listened to the news yesterday, even America said it’s not going to be bloodless. We should be more proactive and I think it’s better late than never. It’s important that at this point to forget all the bureaucratic bottlenecks, and look out for our citizens, especially students.
“Action needs to be taken now and my thought is that leader of the House Hon. Ado Doguwa, and Chairman, Foreign Affairs, Hon. Buba Yakub, should liaise with the ministry foreign affairs, NIA and embassy in Ukraine and if nothing positive comes out of it, then we should liaise with chairman Air Peace. Whatever it’s going to cost the House, you need to leave this country latest tomorrow and come back on Monday with many of our students.”
Emmanuel Addeh, Udora Orizu, Peter Uzoho and Bayo Akinloye with agency report