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Blasts heard in Kiev, Mariupol — agencies

Blasts have also been reported in Kramatorsk and Odessa

LONDON, February 24. /TASS/. Sounds similar to artillery fire have been heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, Reuters reported, citing witnesses. Reports about sounds similar to artillery shelling started coming at about 5:00 am local time. British journalist Max Hunder residing in Kiev told BBC about sounds of explosions in the western part of the city. TASS correspondent, in turn, reported about blasts near Kiev’s Borispol Airport. According to Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency, explosions were also heard in other Ukrainian cities after 5:00 am.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse has reported about blasts in the city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, adding that at least two explosions occurred in Kiev early in the morning. Blasts have also been reported in Kramatorsk and Odessa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address on Thursday morning that in response to a request from the heads of the Donbass republics, he had decided to conduct a special military operation to protect the people "who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Ukrainian regime for eight years." The Russian leader emphasized that Moscow had no plans "to occupy Ukrainian territories".