The Russian Attack On Ukraine Is Underway. And This Is A First Recap Of What Has Happened Thus Far.

Ukrainian invasion
An explosion is seen in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Thursday, February 24. (from Ukrainian President’s Office). In the boxes, screenshots and an image of a possible KH-31 debris.

Ukraine Claims Six Aircraft Have Been Shot Down During Opening Stages Of Massive Russian Military Operation.

Although it is almost impossible to say when it exactly started, the first confirmed reports of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have started to emerge shortly after 03.00LT in Kyiv (02.00 UTC). Preceded by a wave of cyberattacks including DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) ones targeting some of the Ukraine institutional websites, like the Foreign Ministry, the attack appeared to be imminent when Russia issued a notice to air missions (NOTAM) that effectively closed the airspace virtually all of its border with northeastern Ukraine to all civilian air traffic. The NOTAM is currently in place through May 18, 2022.

The NOTAM issued to close the airspace over Ukraine for the potential hazard for the civilian traffic.

At 04.50LT, Putin announced on TV that he had ordered a military operation in the Donbass.

The Russian President also threatened “those who may be tempted to intervene” on Ukraine’s behalf, sending a clear message to NATO.

“Now a few important, very important words for those who may be tempted to intervene in ongoing events from the outside,” Putin said. “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never experienced in your history. We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.”

What followed were reports of an attack that according to US senators quoted by CNN unfolded in line with intelligence briefings they received about what to expect from a Russian invasion. In particular, Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Russia was launching a “full scale and comprehensive military assault throughout Ukraine.”The attack involved airborne and amphibious landings, cruise missile air strikes, ground and naval forces, electronic and cyber attacks and a large ground force to occupy a large swarth of territory.

Cruise missiles were also filmed on their way to their targets.

Cruise missile flying over Kherson

— Андрей (@AndreyZhukovv) February 24, 2022

Videos of tanks, helicopters and aircraft have also been circulated, along with the first images of weapons debris and wreckage.

The attack most probably involved Russian Tu-95MS/MSM Bear H bombers which were active on HF frequency networks:

Air raid sirens were heard in major Ukrainian towns across the country, including the capital Kyiv and Lviv, where some US diplomats had relocated because of the threat that the attack could hit the capital. Explosions were reported also in Mariupol, Odessa, Kharkiv and Dnippo, where airports were closed.

In a matter of a few hours, the Russian MOD claimed the Ukrainian air defense had been neutralised.

#BREAKING: Russian Defence Ministry says Ukrainian air defence have been “neutralised”- TASS

— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) February 24, 2022

However, according to the Ukrainian counterparts, the Russians suffered some losses in the process. Among the aircraft listed as shot down by the Ukrainian air defense, there was also a Su-24 Fencer attack jet.

Повідомлення ГШ ЗСУ
За інформацією командування Об’єднаних Сил, сьогодні у районі проведення ОС збито 5 літаків та вертоліт агресорів.
Об’єднані сили дають гідну відсіч збройним силам РФ. Військові підрозділи на своїх позиціях. Противник несе втрати.
Зберігайте спокій!

— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) February 24, 2022

Photos from Kyiv and other locations across Ukraine showed long lines of cars heading west after Russia’s attack early on Thursday morning. Also heading east was also a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flanker that was intercepted by two Romanian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) under NATO command at 06.15. The Flanker had intruded into the Romanian airspace. It was identified and then escorted to Bacau Air Base where it landed at 07.05. According to the Romanian Air Force, After landing, the Ukrainian military pilot was made at the disposal of the Romanian authorities. It seems like he was fleeing the country, but this has not been confirmed.

At the moment, the Ukrainian airspace is completely free.

Ukrainian airspace at 08.15 UTC. (

A U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint is already “on station” to collect intelligence on the Russian moves. It appears to have established its racetrack inside the Polish airspace, probably to keep an eye on Belarus, from where some of the Russian forces were reported to have entered Ukraine. An E-8J JSTARS has also launched and at 08.20UTC was on its way to the area of operations.

JAKE 11 is an RC-135 operating along the Polish-Belarus border on Feb. 24, 2022 at 08.25UTC. (




About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.