Explosions heard

Putin orders Ukraine invasion, oil leaps above $100

Image of President Putin in a Ukraine military trench

* Pump prices rise * Oligarchs targeted * Ukraine hit by cyber attack * Call to halt RT

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine in an early morning address and warned its response would be “instant” to anyone who tries to challenge its authority.

Explosions were heard in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, soon after Mr Putin’s televised message, in which he urged Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country to lay down their weapons and return to their homes.

Mr Putin said Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and the military operation’s objective was to defend those people who had been subjected for eight years to “genocide by the Kyiv regime”. But Ukraine said that it represented “a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.

Boris Johnson today declared that Russia has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction” in Ukraine. The Prime Minister was due to chair a COBRA meeting at 7.30am where he is certain to agree further sanctions.

US President Joe Biden condemned what he called an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” and said he will join G7 counterparts this morning to “announce further consequences the United States and its allies and partners will impose on Russia.”

Brent crude oil surged above $100 a barrel, a level last seen only in 2014, trading over 4.1% higher at $101.12 per barrel at 0440 GMT in Asian trade. It jumped to as much as $102.08 before retreating. Spot gold prices, traditionally seen as a safe asset, advanced 1.05% to trade at $1,927.67.

Asian stock markets and US futures plunged. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 3.2%. Korea’s Kospi dropped 2.7%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 2.4%. China’s Shanghai Composite moved 0.9% lower.US stocks futures also tumbled. Dow futures were down as much as 780 points, or 2.4%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were down 2.3% and 2.8% respectively.

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The Moscow Exchange announced it had suspended trading on all of its markets until further notice.The Russian ruble plummeted nearly 10% against the US dollar, trading at 89.59 per dollar.

UK motorists and consumers were facing rising energy prices. Petrol prices hit 149.3p a litre and diesel rose to 152.6p with warnings that the price of gas could also rise further.

Germany has already blocked the approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. In response Russia warned that Europe would face a “brave new world” in which gas prices could double. While Britain is not dependent on Russia for gas, the conflict could push prices to new record levels.

Motoring experts warn that if crude oil prices rise to $120 a barrel it could mean petrol prices would rise to more than 160p per litre. 

As international tensions mounted, the UK government applied pressure on television regulator Ofcom to investigate the operations of RT – formerly Russia Today – claiming Vladimir Putin uses it as an “information weapon”.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have questioned why it is allowed to continue to broadcast in Britain.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Kremlin must face the severest consequences for this unprovoked aggression”. Yesterday she criticised her predecessor Alex Salmond for continuing to present his show for the broadcaster. 

“I’m appalled at Alex Salmond’s continued involvement with RT, I don’t think it’s any secret now that I don’t think he should ever have had a television show on RT, but it is even more unthinkable now that that should continue,” she said.

The Prime Minister yesterday announced immediate sanctions were being deployed against individuals he described as ‘cronies’ of the Russian president. 

But only Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg were on the list, with MPs demanding sanctions are widened so ministers can target Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich and telecoms tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

Mr Abramovich has most of his wealth – estimated at between £8bn and £14bn – tied up in the steelmaker Evraz whose shares fell a further 19% this morning following a 12.6% fall yesterday on speculation he could be targeted. He denies he is close to the Kremlin or has done anything that would merit sanctions being imposed against him.

As the hostility intensified, Ukraine suffered another cyberattack targeting its government and banks as its government put the country on a war footing. 

Alex Salmond show on RT
Alex Salmond’s RT Show is being targeted

The websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, and Cabinet of Ministers were all out of action Wednesday afternoon.

Banks were also targeted in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack – which uses computer networks to bombard websites with information until they crash.

A similar attack disabled banks and institutions last weekend.

A state of emergency was declared in Ukraine where 200,000 military reservists called up, border zones were restricted and three million Ukrainians were told to leave Russia.

The latest action came as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said more weapons would be sent to Ukraine and promised more and tougher sanctions against Russia.

Russia responded to the sanctions from Europe and the US by saying there should be no doubt that new sanctions would be met with a strong response.

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