The de facto closure of Ukrainian airspace came into effect Thursday at 1:56 a.m. local time and is expected to last until 11:59 p.m. the same day.
The advisory cited “potential danger to civil aviation” as the reason for the alert.
Prior to the alert, the newly recognized Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) requested Russian military assistance against Ukrainian “aggression” and alleged genocide of civilians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later announced on Thursday that a “special military operation” would take place in the Donbass region.
Meanwhile, Moscow confirms hitting military targets in the country moments after the Kremlin issued an order for a “special operation” in the separatist region of Donbass.
In a statement released early Thursday morning, Dmitry Kuleba accused Putin of attacking his country and called for international help.
“Peaceful Ukrainian towns are on strike,” he added, reporting explosions near the capital, Kiev. “This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and win,” he insisted. “The world can and must stop Putin. It’s time to act now.”
His comments came after Putin signed a decree authorizing the use of military force following a request for support from the leaders of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. “Circumstances compel us to take decisive and immediate action,” the order reads.
In a televised address to the nation, the Russian president said he wanted to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.
A number of Ukrainian military installations are believed to have been targeted by missile strikes, and large-scale Russian troop movements have been reported. Airports and airstrips also appear to have been destroyed.
The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, convened the National Security and Defense Council, and Ukrainian airspace was closed. “We are strong, we will overcome,” he said in a video statement.
Explosions were reported in towns near the Donbass contact line, including Mariupol, a major port city in the Donetsk region, as well as further afield. A CNN crew in Kyiv reported hearing explosions, while others were reported in Odessa and Kharkov.
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Moscow’s Defense Ministry confirmed that high-precision weapons were used to hit infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and aircraft belonging to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Russia has also closed its airspace in much of the south to civilian aircraft and suspended rail links between major cities in the region.