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.
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 pic.twitter.com/3LDTFAejIX
— 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.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 24, 2022
🇷🇺⚡️Looks like the debris of a cruise missile or an air defense missile in Kiev. pic.twitter.com/bECc8VYKgc
— OSINT UKRAINE (@OSINT_Ukraine) February 24, 2022
The attack most probably involved Russian Tu-95MS/MSM Bear H bombers which were active on HF frequency networks:
Tu-95MS/MSM Bear H. Bombers were active on High Frequency.
Sample of the activity. https://t.co/Sz7l6oS0oZ
— TJ (@te3ej) February 24, 2022
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.
— 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.
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.