EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – President Biden on Thursday said the U.S. would sanction major Russian banks and impose export controls on Russia to curtail Russian high-tech imports, as part of a coordinated effort within allies to penalize the Kremlin for its military attack against Ukraine. 

In remarks from the East Room of the White House, Biden said the sanctions would target Russian banks holding a combined $1 trillion in assets, including VTB Bank. He said the U.S. would also impose sanctions on additional Russian elites with links to the Kremlin. 

It was among the most worrying developments on an already shocking day, as Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday: warfare at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, where radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster 36 years ago.

Russian forces took control over the site after a fierce battle with Ukrainian national guards protecting the decommissioned plant, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press.

He said the condition of the plant’s facilities, a confinement shelter and a repository for nuclear waste is unknown.

With blasts heard around Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba announced Russian military forces launched a full-scale invasion on Thursday morning.

Big explosions were heard before dawn Thursday in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

Sirens rang out in Ukraine’s capital and people massed in train stations and took to roads, as the government said the former Soviet republic was seeing a long-anticipated invasion from the east, north and south and reported more than 40 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded.

The Russian military said it has struck Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and hasn’t targeted populated areas. The Russian Defense Ministry statement said the military is using precision weapons to target Ukrainian air bases, air defense assets and other military infrastructure. It claimed that “there is no threat to civilian population.”

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Facebook that the Russian military has launched missile strikes on Ukrainian military command facilities, air bases and military depots in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro.

After the initial explosions in Kyiv, people could be heard shouting in the streets. But then a sense of normality returned, with cars circulating and people walking in the streets as a pre-dawn commute appeared to be starting in relative calm.

In a tweet, Kuleba said Ukrainian cities were under strikes and called Russian military activity “a war of aggression.” He announced Russian military forces crossed the Belarusian border on Thursday morning.

“Ukraine will defend itself and will win,” he wrote.

Russian military forces will conduct a “special military operation,” in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday night, the Associated Press reported.

The announcement signaled the beginning of an impending conflict between Russia and Ukraine that provoked many attempts at diplomatic solutions in prior weeks.

President Joe Biden denounced Russian military efforts calling them “unprovoked” and “unjustified.” He says Russia is acting alone and will be held responsible.

Biden issued a statement on Wednesday night saying he will monitor events as they unfold in Ukraine. And, he will meet with members of the G7 in the morning. An address to the American people will follow the meeting, he stated.

“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” Biden stated. “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

Hours before Russian military action began, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made a direct plea with the Russian people saying his country wanted peace.

“The Ukrainian people want peace,” Zelensky said in a statement.

El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar tweeted saying the U.S. stands with Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the United States and European countries announced financial sanctions on banks and Russian oligarchs.

Russian troops and armored vehicles had amassed on the western border with Ukraine, in Belarus and on the Crimean peninsula since the beginning of the year. The Russian navy had also conducted naval exercises in the Black Sea and the nearby sea of Azov.

The U.S. and allies in Europe had exercised diplomatic approaches with Russian president Vladimir Putin for weeks, even as military officials warned of a full-scale invasion as Russian troops entered Belarus for military drills.

Last week, Biden said U.S. intelligence showed President Vladimir Putin had decided to invade Ukraine during a press conference in Washington. He urged the Russian president to “choose diplomacy.”

Look for updates on this very fluid story here on ktsm.com and during our newscasts. Story updated via AP, CNN, SkyNews and other international sources.

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