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Russian assault on Ukraine included 100 missiles and 75 bombers, U.S. official says

Russian attack on Ukraine underway
Russian attack on Ukraine underway 03:54

Washington — The U.S. observed Russian forces firing roughly 100 missiles from both land and sea against targets in Ukraine beginning around 4:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, a senior U.S. defense official said, providing details of Russia's opening moves in its brazen attack against its neighbor.

The initial Russian barrage included short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles, the U.S. official said. About 75 fixed-wing Russian bombers were used in the onslaught, with targets focused on military depots and air defense systems, according to the official.

Several hours later, the U.S. observed some ground incursions from Belarus into Ukraine, northwest of Kyiv. 

The Russian offensive is operating on three fronts, the official said: from Crimea in the south to the north; from the north to central Ukraine, essentially Belarus to Kyiv; and from northeast of Ukraine to the south, to Kharkiv. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, is the site of the heaviest fighting, the official said.

The separate fronts are designed to take key population centers, according to the official, who added that the U.S. does not have an estimate of civilian or military casualties.

"It is likely you will see this unfold in multiple phases. How many? How long? We don't know. But what we're seeing are the initial phases of a large-scale invasion," the official said, adding that there hasn't been "a conventional move like this, nation state to nation state, since World War II, certainly nothing in this size and scope and scale."

Airstrikes hit Chuhuiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The official said the Russians are "making a move on Kyiv, but what they're going to do in Kyiv, it's hard to say."

"It's our assessment they have every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves towards Kyiv," the official said.

The assault began early Thursday morning shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he had "decided to conduct a special military operation" aimed at the "demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine. The move prompted immediate condemnation from President Biden and Western allies, who vowed to impose crippling economic sanctions in response to the aggression.

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