IRISH CITIZENS in Ukraine are being advised to shelter in a secure place, after Russian President Vladimir Putin last night authorised military operations in eastern Ukraine.
In a pre-dawn TV statement Putin said Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanded that its military lay down their arms.
Moments later, attacks were reported on Ukrainian military targets.
Ukraine said that "Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine".
At least seven people are known to have been killed in Russian attacks, police say, with another 19 missing.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that martial law was now being imposed across all of Ukraine.
According to the decree, martial law is imposed from 5:30am February 24, 2022 for a period of 30 days.
Due to the imposition of marital law, certain articles of the Constitution of Ukraine may be temporarily restricted, and temporary restrictions on the rights and legitimate interests of legal entities will also be imposed.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs have issued urgent consular advice to Irish citizens in Ukraine, saying they should "shelter in a secure place."
"Do not move around the country in the coming hours. Please follow the advice of local authorities.
It is understood that there are now 64 Irish citizens in Ukraine, down from 145 last week.
This morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin condemned "Russia's indefensible attack on the sovereign people of Ukraine."
"Our first thoughts are with them," he said. "We we work with the EU & UN to hold Putin and his regime accountable.
"Russia will pay a high price for this outrageous act of aggression. We stand with Ukraine."
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said "our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent people of Ukraine, as families wake up to shocking Russian attacks."
"Russian leaders are lying to their own people to justify this illegal aggression. We utterly condemn Russia for this act of unjustifiable war in the heart of Europe."
He said the Irish diplomatic team in Kiev have moved to a safe place and that the department remains in close contact with the.
"We are working with EU colleagues to ensure their safety."
He also said at the emergency UN Security Councill Ireland condemned the decision of Russia to launch a military operation and called on UNSC members to "assume their responsibility and to speak out in the strongest possible terms about this act of aggression."
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said she condemns "this barbaric attack, and the cynical arguments to justify it."
"It is President Putin, who is bringing war back to Europe," she said. "In these dark hours, the European Union and its people stand by Ukraine and its people. We are facing an unprecedented act of aggression by the Russian leadership against a sovereign, independent country.
"Russia's target is not only Donbass, the target is not only Ukraine, the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order. And we will hold President Putin accountable for that."
She announced that a package of "massive and targeted sanctions" will be presented to European leaders for approval later today.
"With this package, we will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking their access to technologies and markets that are key for Russia. We will weaken Russia's economic base and its capacity to modernise.
"And in addition, we will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets."
Other countries imposing sanctions include the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed this morning that he has spoken with President Zelensky:
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) February 24, 2022
President of the United State similarly spoke to him, later tweeting:
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.
The world will hold Russia accountable.
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 24, 2022
In a statement, President Biden said he will today meet with G7 counterparts to announce the "further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security."