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Putin attacked Ukraine after insisting for months there was no plan to do so. Now he says there's no plan to take over.

Russia attacks Ukraine
Russia launches attacks on eastern Ukraine as invasion begins 01:35

Kharkiv, Ukraine — CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams said that after weeks of warnings from Washington that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent, when it came down to it, there was almost no direct warning before missiles started falling on Wednesday evening.

Just minutes after Vladimir Putin announced his country's military operation, Williams and her team heard the thuds of what they assumed to be missile strikes close to their location in the eastern city of Kharkiv, only around 30 miles from the Russian border.

Putin said Wednesday night, that his government's plans "do not include an occupation," but given that Russia denied for months any plans to invade Ukraine at all, it's not clear how much faith could be put in his statement.

Ukraine said Thursday that Russian forces were coming across the country's borders, including near Kharkiv, but Williams said there was no sign of them in the city by the middle of Thursday.

Smoke rises after an explosion in or near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on February 24, 2022, amid Russian shelling of targets in several cities.   Holly Williams/CBS

From the start of this crisis the U.S. has said it is not simply a regional dispute, but about the principles of sovereignty and protecting democracy.

Ukrainian officials have said they will distribute weapons to veterans and volunteers across the country to help with the fight, and in a speech overnight to his people, President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to rally his people, telling them: "You are courageous, you are unbroken, you are Ukrainian."

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