The New York Times
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, pledging he would seek to demilitarize but not occupy the country, addressing the nation in a televised speech broadcast just before 6 a.m. local time.
Mr. Putin said the operation would aim for the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” referring to the Kremlin’s contention that Ukraine’s military threatens Russia and that it is run by neo-Nazis.
He said he was acting after receiving a plea for assistance from the leaders of the Russian-backed separatist territories formed in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
“I have taken the decision to carry out a special military operation,” Mr. Putin said. “Its goal will be to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime. For this, we will aim for demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as taking to court those who carried out multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation. Our plans do not include occupying Ukrainian territory.”
Mr. Putin called on Ukrainian soldiers to immediately lay down their arms.
“All service members of the Ukrainian army who follow these demands will be able to leave the battle zone,” he said.
He also offered what appeared to be a warning to other countries, such as the United States, that have supported Ukraine.
“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history,” Mr. Putin said. “We are ready for any turn of events.”
As he spoke, the U.N. Security Council met in New York in a last-ditch attempt to avert war. Several ambassadors among the NATO allies, including the U.S. representative, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called on Russia to pull back and return to the negotiating table.
“Back away from the brink before it is too late,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said.