An air raid siren in Kyiv. This is the Global News Podcast from the BBC World Service. I’m Jackie Leonard and we are recording this podcast at 12 o’clock GMT on Thursday the 24th of February 2022. The day that Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine. We’ll be hearing from Kyiv from Eastern Ukraine from Moscow, and from experts and analysts explaining what’s happening and reaction to it.
Russian troops have launched an invasion by land, sea and air on their neighbour. Armoured columns entered Ukraine from the east, the North and the South. Missiles were fired at airports and military installations, while Russian troops are reported to have landed in the ports of Odesa and Mariupol. Ukrainian officials say there have been fatalities many people are trying to flee. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has declared martial law. In a defiant news conference. He appealed directly to the Russian people saying they were being lied to about Ukraine and he urged them to do their bit to de-escalate the situation. The truth is it needs to stop before it’s too late. And if the leadership of Russia does not want to sit at the table with us for the sake of peace, maybe it will sit with you.
Do you Russians want war? I’d really like an answer to this question but the answer depends only on you, citizens of the Russian Federation. He said he had sought urgent talks with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, only to be met with silence. Since then, Ukrainian armed forces say that they are repelling attacks against air bases. Footage shows plumes of black smoke rising into the sky around military bases. An adviser to the Ukrainian president said the situation was under control. Our correspondent James Waterhouse is in Kyiv and spoke to Gareth Barlow.
We are in the heart of the city in Sophia Square. It is usually busy with cars speeding through the distinctive cobbled roads here. Now it is calm. We are seeing the occasional soldier or someone in military uniform, something we have not seen for weeks. It’s been quite striking during this crisis. It is quiet, the people here were woken up to around seven or eight explosions from afar. They sounded like a thunderstorm across the horizon in all directions. That was then followed by the air raid siren that you heard and police vehicles using sirens and loudspeakers to tell people to get to safety. What then followed were people queuing at cash points to try and get money out, they were panic buying clothes and food and one of the main highways in and out of Kyiv is completely jammed with people trying to get to safety.
Where they are going many probably won’t know at this stage. Some have opted to move east but as the reports have come in of artillery attacks, air strikes in the east on a military base there to the north. Belarusian troops, we understand have joined the Russian counterparts in an advance there. The Border Service says to the south where annexed Crimea is, Odesa, there’ve been encroaches on the border and colleagues in the east in Kramatorsk, Kharkiv, just 25 miles from the border – there are reports of loud explosions smoke flowing into the sky.
And what this represents is a much larger scale escalation to this crisis. Yes, because when President Putin made this address at about 5:55 in the morning, in Moscow, he said it was an operation in Donbas in the east of Ukraine, but that then really does seem to have escalated to an operation against the country as a whole. Yes, he’s given an address describing a special military operation but gave an almost meaningless assurance that cities and people wouldn’t be targeted, he would instead be targeting military bases.
He talked about Ukrainians being free to choose who run their country. And this is a grim realisation of long held anxiety for Ukrainians. This sustained campaign of Russian aggression stems back eight years when a revolution got rid of the last pro Moscow presidents.
The democratic will of the people takes Ukraine in a more western direction. They’ve elected their governments on that basis since and this is Russia. We’ve seen what Russia has been prepared to do to both exert its influence on the country and make a point to the west about how it sees Nato. And this is a grim extension of what Vladimir Putin is willing to do against this smaller neighbouring country. President Putin called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their weapons and to return home.
We’re seeing reports from Agence France-Presse that Ukraine says it’s killed around 50 Russian occupiers. What sense are you getting as to the Ukrainian response to Vladimir Putin’s military operations? Yeah, I think in terms of the airstrikes we’re seeing, we’re also getting an exchange of information. So as you say, Moscow claiming border forces have offered no resistance. Ukrainian forces have suggested that they have shot down a number of Russian aircrafts.
We see no evidence for that.
But we do know that Ukraine has a sizeable military presence now. It is a stronger army than it was eight years ago, an estimated 200,000 troops mostly based in the east of the country, currently, but Russia is a military superpower, it is long surrounded Ukraine, and forecasting what happens beyond the events of this morning is as ever difficult, because it is an enduring feature of this crisis, that we don’t know what is going to happen next. But what Ukraine has made clear that it will fight and if there is stiff resistance, we all know that is effectively a state of war.
And everyone knows what that means. Seeing some footage James of Ukrainians ordinary Ukrainians getting into their cars, there’s reports of traffic jams of people leaving the city, is there a sense of calm amongst the ordinary population? Or is there now a sense of worry or even panic? After an eventful start, there is an air of calm in the middle, we’re in the calm eye of the storm. People who’ve wanted to leave have. There are coffee shops opening but there is you know, we are in a state of martial law, a state of emergency there are police officers on most corners, and I can see there are people walking in uniform. There are people still going to work. There is a couple in front of me just going for a walk taking pictures of you know, St Michael’s Cathedral. So you’re left with a sense of normality, but you can’t mitigate for the panic that this morning strikes caused. That was James Waterhouse in Kyiv. For his part, President Putin gave a televised address early on Thursday morning.
He said the operation he’s launched is aimed at the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine. He threatened those who tried to stop his attack. Whoever tries to interfere with us or threaten our country should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and lead to such consequences that have never been experienced in history. Gareth Barlow spoke to our Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg and asked him what the mood was like in the Russian capital. Well a sense of shock, I would say. I mean, you know, Russians have been following events on television, they have been worried about the possibility of conflict of war, but I don’t think they were expecting this, what appears to be a full scale invasion by Russia, of Ukraine. And many people have said to me, over the last few weeks, you know, we feel we have so much in common with Ukrainians. You know, many Russians have family ties with Ukraine, there are deep historical and cultural links with the country. So the very idea that Russia could be in a full scale war with Ukraine, I mean, that, that I found in speaking to Russians has sparked a lot of disgust from people here.
So a sense of shock. But I also find that Russians who follow events on state television tend to believe the official line they’ve been told. And what they’re being told today is what President Putin said in his televised address, that Russia is not the aggressor here, Russia is the victim, the victim of Western aggression, the victim of Nato enlargement, and that Russia is acting now, because Ukraine has become a threat to Russia’s national security and anti Russia, as he put it, that is the official line that is being put up by the Kremlin in the official state media.
This sounds from what you’re saying then that this is President Putin’s military offensive. This isn’t Russia’s, he might be using the Russian military. He might be using Russian forces.
But this is very much being driven and spearheaded by the President. Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right there. Because if you look back at what Vladimir Putin has been saying, about Ukraine, and he has said a lot about Ukraine in recent months, he’s written articles about Ukraine, he’s made statements, he’s made speeches. He’s made a string of televised addresses in the last few days. And what comes out of all of that is a sense that Vladimir Putin does not recognise Ukraine, modern Ukraine as a sovereign nation. He sees it basically as a big piece of land, a territory which is on Russia’s doorstep and which he believes belongs in Moscow’s orbit. So, everything we’re seeing today this major military assault by Russia, this I believe is a big step towards the Kremlin trying to force Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
The question is, I think, what happens next? Because some people have suggested that what the Kremlin really wants is to basically upturn the whole European security order, as it developed after the Cold War, and carve out a major sphere of interest for itself. So I think we have to watch very closely how events in Ukraine develop. And then what happens next. That was Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. Ukraine says that Russian military vehicles have crossed into the country in multiple locations, including from Belarus in the north and Crimea in the south. Other crossings have taken place in the East in the region of Kharkiv and Luhansk. According to Ukraine’s border service, Russia opened fire with artillery before sending military vehicles across.
The BBC Eastern Europe correspondent is Sarah Rainsford. She is in the east of the country where the initial military activity took place following President Putin’s announcement of the military operation. We’re in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine in the Donbas region of this country, and just before five o’clock this morning, in the hotel here where we are I was woken by a loud thud somewhere in the distance. About 10 minutes later, there was another one. I don’t know what it was, but clearly something probably on the outskirts of the city was being hit.
I immediately checked my phone, of course, and I read that President Putin of Russia has declared war on Ukraine. A really surreal address a long rambling address in which he said he was committed to the denazification and the demilitarisation of this region, the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. He’s already recognised two Republic’s here that he calls the DNR, two parts of this territory, and he’s talked now basically about his troops taking more ground here in eastern Ukraine. He says there’s a genocide against the population of those regions.
We have to be clear, there is no genocide. But that is the clear motive that President Putin has given for announcing a military operation in this country. The situation at the moment is extremely unclear. People were out on the streets here last night in the city, they were waving the Ukrainian flag, they said that this was their land, they were going nowhere. And they were shocked and horrified I think to imagine what might be coming because this is what people have been expecting they’ve been waiting for. But no one here can quite believe is actually happening. That was Sarah Rainsford. We also heard from Zhanna Bezpiatchuk of the BBC is Ukrainian service. She’s in Kyiv. It’s really very, very hard day for the country. And I think many people around just still need some time to reflect on what is going on, to realise that the existential threat to the country and Putin denied the right of Ukrainians to have own state, own government this is how it’s seen from Kyiv.
For the moment we don’t know what the next day might bring to this country and to the capital. Unfortunately, civilian casualties are already confirmed. That is, again, very unexpected that these parts of the country came under fire and missile strikes, because the preliminary assessment of possible invasion routes included assaults from the north, south, east, but this is quite the other part of the country. So for the moment, even the western regions of Ukraine are under attack. There is also fear that Kyiv can be attacked once more much more heavily, because obviously there are very important infrastructure and political locations here like the government buildings, the parliament, etc.
There is fear that Russia might go further and try to conquer the Ukraine’s government buildings. That was Zhanna Bezpiatchuk of the BBC Ukrainian Service. Well, let’s look at some international reaction now. Shortly before we came into the podcast studio, Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General described the invasion as a grave breach of international law. This is a grave moment for the security of Europe. Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk. With air and missile attacks, ground forces and special forces from multiple directions, targeting military infrastructure, and major urban centres. This is a deliberate, cold blooded and long planned invasion. Despite its litany of lies, denials, and disinformation, the Kremlin’s intentions are clear for the world to see. Russia’s leaders bear full responsibility for their reckless actions and the lives lost.
Nato allies condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. It is a blatant violation of international law. An act of aggression against a sovereign, independent and peaceful country. And a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. We call on Russia to immediately seize its military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine and choose diplomacy.
The UN Security Council in New York was holding a meeting on the escalating tensions as the Russian operation began. Speaking to reporters after that meeting, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave his reaction to Moscow’s decision. This is the saddest moment in my tenure as the Secretary General of the United Nations. I started this meeting of the Security Council addressing President Putin and telling him from the bottom of my heart, stop your troops from an offensive to Ukraine. Give peace a chance, because too many people have already died.
During the meeting, President Putin announced a special military operation in the Donbas and required the Ukrainian troops to lay down their arms. So in the present circumstances, I must change my appeal. And I say President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia. In the name of humanity, do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century. During the meeting, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya took aim at his Russian counterpart.
It’s too late, my dear colleagues to speak about deescalation, too late. The Russian president declared the war on the record. Should I play the video of your president? Ambassador shall I do that right now you can confirm it. Do not interrupt me please. Thank you. Then don’t ask me questions when you are speaking proceed with this proceed with your statement. Anyway, you declare the war it is the responsibility of these body to stop the war. So I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war. Should I play the video with your president declaring the war? Thank you very much. Mr Kyslytsya later called on the Russian ambassador to the UN to relinquish his role as council president. In a first reaction from Beijing, the Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. But he insisted that the Ukraine issue had its complex and special history. He said China understood Russia’s legitimate concerns on security issues, and called for the Cold War mentality to be completely abandoned. Pictures and videos online show long queues of cars and people waiting to get out of the Ukrainian capital.
Andriy Kulikov is from Hromadske radio and spoke to Gareth Barlow from Kyiv. The fact is there, Russia has attacked. We are now most of us are absolutely clear on what is happening. And the exhausting period of waiting whether this would happen at all, or whether this happens today or tomorrow has come to an end. In this respect I believe that some people feel relieved. That’s not a word I thought I’d hear you say relief. Relieved that we now absolutely know what to do – to offer resistance any way that we could any way that every one of us can offer people who can hold and are holding arms, fight. People who work for the media, try to counter the fakes that we’re hearing, try to tell people, other people what to do to be safer. This is not the kind of relief that we aresort of rejoicing. This is the kind of relief that when you know what to do you do it.
You’re talking to us from the capital Kyiv. What is the situation there? There have been, like you say, lots of conflicting reports but reports of explosions around the capital. What do you know in that respect? In this respect, I know for sure because this comes from a Ukrainian official source that there were explosions at the ammunition stockpiles. In a city which lies something like 60 kilometres away to the north from Kyiv, or even closer, 30 kilometres in fact. I know that there was an explosion in one of the residential buildings in the capital itself. They are still hesitant whether this was a cruise missile, or maybe a drone, but at least three people were injured. If you look outside your window, you will probably not notice much unusual, except for the traffic jams. People are leaving the capital, those who are not needed in their jobs, those who cannot fight or take part in civil defence.
Also from people who went outdoors this morning, I know that there are long long queues to ATMs and in food stores. And people are stockpiling cash and food and water. And I will leave right after we have spoken because I want to be with my colleagues who have been doing that job since the very first news about the war. You speak Andriy with strengthen your voice and a sense of resilience. But are you scared? Are you worried? I am scared, well, not probably scared. Yes, I can admit, I shall admit that there were times when I nearly succumbed to panic. But this was before the full onslaught has started. Now I am worried I am worried about my four grandchildren, about my daughter and my son in law. Because they are young, they have not lived their lives to the full. I’m worried about younger people, I’m worried about also some people who are older than me. But you know, when you have something useful to do in this situation, this gives you strength.
And of course, attention of the world gives you strength as well. Although the paramount importance belongs to what we do, and how we feel. Journalist Andriy Kulikov, in the Ukrainian capital. In the west of Ukraine, some people are trying to reach the Polish border to escape. I am very far away from politics, I think what Russia is doing is bad. What people need to do with them? I don’t know. I am not a soldier. So I don’t know. Ukraine is supposed to be not just only made free with the help of America, with the help of England. But Russia needs to pay all economic consequences that we have got during all this time.
Some voices of Ukrainians leaving their country for Poland. The markets have already reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Theo Leggett from our business unit, told Gareth Barlow of the likely effects. Well, let’s look first at the energy markets because Europe is highly reliant on Russian energy. Russia is one of the world’s biggest oil producers. And a lot of that oil comes through pipelines that go through Ukraine. Likewise, Russia supplies about 40% of Europe’s gas and a considerable portion, not all of it, but a considerable portion still goes through pipelines in Ukraine. So the fear is that those suppliers will be disrupted. There’s no evidence that they have been as yet but the fear is there. And if that were to happen, you could find that supplies of oil did not meet demand. That’s a global issue. You could find that in Europe, different countries are scrambling around for what other available supplies of gas there are, for example, LPG supplies. And all of this means that prices are going up.
So on the wholesale markets, gas has gone up about 30% today. Now it’s still well below the peaks we saw in December, but around four times the level it was this time last year and about four times the sort of recent historical level. Oil has gone above $100 a barrel is about $103 a barrel for Brent crude right now. There’s been a significant increase over the past few days. And this is in anticipation of potential problems. On the share markets European shares are down down considerably. If you look at the CAC in Paris that’s down about 2. 9% Frankfurt’s DAX down 3%.
If you look at the Russian markets, it’s absolute carnage today, the MoX exchange down some 35%. And big companies like Gazprom and SpareBank, they’ve seen major falls in their share prices. And that’s about sanctions. But there is a worry, at least in the case of SpareBank, that it could be targeted by sanctions. Gazprom, of course, operates the gas pipelines, so stands to lose out if there’s any sort of disruption there. So what we’re seeing is a big market reaction. People don’t know what’s going to happen. But the chances are, if there is any disruption, for example, to energy supplies, then consumers and businesses will lose out, we just don’t know how much they’ll lose out by.
And in times, like these investors often look towards what they see as safe investments, things like gold, for example. What’s the situation there? Well, as you’d expect prices going up. Yeah, it is what you would expect. So bond prices tend to go up in times, in times of trouble, share prices go down, why do share prices go down? Because this kind of thing can affect company earnings, especially if you’re in the kind of sector that’s going to be targeted by sanctions.
So yeah, the wider market picture is a great deal of unrest, as you would expect a move towards safer haven assets. And that generally means taking money out of high risk assets, which at times like this can include shares. That was Theo Leggett. Now we are recording this podcast in the middle of Thursday.
So how is this situation especially the military one likely to evolve in the next few hours and days? The defence and diplomatic analyst Jonathan Marcus gave Gareth Barlow this assessment. Well look it’s clear. The destruction I think of significant proportion of Ukraine’s military capability is going to be one of President Putin’s goals. Russia has roughly 120 battalions ranged against 50 to 60, Ukrainian ones. So there’s a huge imbalance. And of course, Russia’s forces are in many ways more modern, certainly more combat effective, more capable. I think the other thing to notice that, unlike the West, where you see these very sophisticated air campaigns and so on at the start of conflicts, Russia’s real weight of power is in its ground forces. So we have intimations that ground operations are already underway, but I think the ground side is going to come more and more to the fore. I think we’re going to see the efforts to envelop and cut off Kyiv, I think we’re going to see efforts to envelop and cut off a significant proportions of Ukrainian military in the east of the country.
And the Russians will hope that at that point, organised resistance will cease. That, of course, is a very big question. But two things, war is unpredictable. And secondly, the pace and the destructiveness of modern mechanised warfare is really quite fearsome. I think people perhaps don’t really understand the level of the destruction that Russian forces can inflict. You say there about resistance, Volodymyr Zelensky has said that arms will be given to anybody who wants them in Ukraine. How might this end then? Because this could end up in a long fought out war of attrition, possibly, even though like you say, Russia has the upper hand militarily? Well, how it ends is the $6 million question. Mr Putin, I think will not want to end up fighting inside cities, because inside cities, defenders, even with relatively light weapons have huge advantages, of course, that would lead to massive civilian casualties. The difficulty for Mr Putin is how does he translate perhaps military success, if indeed, he achieves that into political and strategic success? It’s one thing defeating the Ukrainian military, you can overthrow the government.
But how do you make ordinary Ukrainians support that new government? So I think the future is very, very uncertain. It’s not clear to me how Mr Putin actually ends this war on terms that in the long term will suit Russia. And I think the flames of resistance in one form or another in Ukraine will continue. So it’s an extraordinary dilemma. And I think perhaps it’s one of the most, you know, surprising reasons in terms of Mr Putin’s decision to launch this operation.
That was Jonathan Marcus, and however the military situation develops, what is Vladimir Putin’s long term goal? The independent Russian analyst, Stephen Dalziel has been Kremlin watching for many years. Valerie Sanderson asked him why Mr Putin had launched this attack on Ukraine.
Well, it’s certainly got nothing to do with Nato, which has been the excuse he has been pushing out for some weeks. It’s all about empire. Putin sees himself as a mix of an old Russian Tsar Stalin. He really does see himself now as an invincible leader, and he cannot abide the fact not only that Ukraine is an independent country but that Ukrainians live far better than the average Russian does and he is afraid that if Russians see that actually Ukraine, a post Soviet country has been made into a normal civilised country, a phrase that Russians often used back in the 1990s, they wanted their country to become, Ukraine has become that, Russia has not.
Russia is in the grip of this dictatorship that is Putin. And he cannot abide idea that Ukraine is an independent country. And he’s now showing exactly that he intends to stop that. And I suppose he can’t abide the idea that Ukraine as an independent country wants to join Nato? Exactly and why does Ukraine want to join Nato? Because they’re afraid of Russia. There’s been a lot of talk about Nato enlargement, indeed expansion. No country was dragged into Nato. Nato didn’t go out and say come you need to join us. The countries of eastern europe that joined Nato joined because they were afraid of Russia. And what’s happening right now shows why they were so afraid and why they wanted to join Nato and why Ukraine wants to join Nato.
Is this a change of character for President Putin? Or you’ve been a Kremlin watcher, as you said, for many, many years, could we have foreseen this? We should have foreseen it in the last few years. If we go all the way back to 2000 when Putin became Russian president, the first time he was a different creature, he was a KGB officer, and not a politician. But even so the first steps were quite careful and kept inside the country. He clamped down on the media, he imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he started to grab Russian business back for the state. But it’s really been since he came back in after a four year gap as president in 2012. He’d seen mass demonstrations against elections to the Parliament, and it was determined this wasn’t going to happen again. His popularity was falling. Then in 2014, of course, he made a very popular gesture by seizing Crimea a lot of Russians liked that because they saw Crimea as being Russian. And of course, has been upping the ante in Ukraine ever since.
But it’s really in the last two or three years that the rhetoric has increased. And also, under the coronavirus pandemic, Putin escaped from the world. He seemed to be absolutely terrified. He spent a lot of time outside Moscow. Anyone going into see him had to be disinfected, going through a specially built tunnel. He’s really switched off from the world. And I think I think now his mindset has changed so much that he doesn’t really understand what’s going on.
But one thing we saw on Monday, not just in the television address, but in the meeting of the Russian security council before that, where he humiliated those closest to him. He really now does believe that he is the man in charge, just like a Russian Tsar would have been in pre Soviet times. That was Stephen Dalziel. And that’s it from us for now. But there will be a new edition of the Global News Podcast later. Our email address is email@example.com. uk do get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to say. You can also find us on Twitter @GlobalNewsPod. This edition was mixed by Jack Graysmark. The producer was Oliver Berlau. Our editor is Karen Martin. I’m Jackie Leonard and until next time, goodbye..