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World leaders despair at Russian invasion of Ukraine on ‘dark day’

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Heads of state across the globe swiftly denounced Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine — as the country’s president vowed Thursday not to “give up its freedom” at any cost.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Russia’s airstrikes and assault on his country from three directions Thursday as explosions rocked the capital, Kyiv, and other cities. At least 40 people had been killed so far, Ukrainian officials said.

“Russian treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years,” Zelensky tweeted. “As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history.”

Zelensky added that Russia had “embarked on a path of evil” but vowed Ukraine won’t abandon its freedom “no matter what Moscow thinks.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, echoed Zelensky’s take, claiming Putin had plunged Europe into its “darkest time” since the start of World War II in 1939.

“Don’t have naive hopes of sitting aside,” Kuleba tweeted Thursday. “Do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Beat Russia with tough sanctions. Provide Ukraine with military and financial support. Together we will stop Russian aggression.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a briefing at the Office of the Head of State in Kyiv on February 24, 2022.HANDOUT/UKRAINE PRESIDENCY/AFP via Getty Images European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned Russia’s “barbaric attack” and blamed Putin for “bringing war” back to Europe.JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images A damaged vehicle and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine on February 24, 2022.A damaged vehicle and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022.AP Photo/Sergei Grits

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also condemned Russia’s “barbaric attack” and blamed Putin for “bringing war” back to Europe.

“We are facing an unprecedented act of aggression by the Russian leadership against a sovereign, independent country,” von der Leyen said in a statement. “And we will hold President Putin accountable for that.”

Von der Leyen said the European Commission would meet later Thursday to unveil a “massive and targeted” sanctions campaign against Russia.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events” in Ukraine.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events” in Ukraine.EPA/SIMON DAWSON / NO10 DOWING STREET Traffic jams are seen as people leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine as Russia begins its invasion of the country. Traffic jams are seen as people leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, as Russia begins its invasion of the country. AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti Explosions rock the capital, Kyiv, and other cities as officials have announced that at 40 people are already dead. Explosions rock the capital, Kyiv, and other cities as officials have announced that at least 40 people are already dead.

“We will not let President Putin tear down the security architecture that has given Europe peace and stability over many decades,” von der Leyen said. “He should not underestimate the resolve and strength of our democracies.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was a “blatant breach” of international law.

“Nothing can justify him,” Scholz tweeted early Thursday. “Germany strongly condemns this reckless act by President Putin. Our solidarity is with Ukraine and its people.”

Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine's Lugansk region on February 24, 2022.Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine’s Lugansk region on February 24, 2022.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was a “blatant breach” of international law.German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was a “blatant breach” of international law.Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS President Biden said that Zelensky asked him late Wednesday to call on world leaders to denounce Russia and Putin’s “flagrant aggression.” President Biden said Zelensky asked him late Wednesday to call on world leaders to denounce Russia and Putin’s “flagrant aggression.” EPA/SHAWN THEW More than 40 people in Ukraine have been killed since the attack began.More than 40 people in Ukraine have been killed since the attack began.

Scholz called on Russia to end military actions immediately while promising that Germany would coordinate a response with its counterparts across the globe.

“This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe,” Scholz said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled by the horrific events” in Ukraine, adding he had spoken with Zelensky to discuss their response.

“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Johnson tweeted. “The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

In a live address Thursday, Johnson said the UK’s “worst fears” had come to fruition.

“President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent,” Johnson said. “He’s attacked a friendly country without provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population. A vast invasion is underway — by land, by sea and by air.”

President Biden, meanwhile, said Zelensky asked him late Wednesday to call on world leaders to denounce Russia and Putin’s “flagrant aggression” while supporting the Ukrainian people.

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden tweeted late Wednesday. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”

Former President George W. Bush also blasted Russia and its president Thursday, accusing Putin of “authoritarian bullying” in the attack that constitutes the “gravest security crisis” in Europe since World War II.

“I join the international community in condemning Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” Bush said in a statement. “The American government and people must stand in solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as they seek freedom and the right to choose their own future.”

With Post wires

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