NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Anadolu)

WASHINGTON – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday strongly condemned Russia’s "reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine," saying it puts at risk countless civilian lives.

"Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country," said Stoltenberg in a statement.

His remarks came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation early Thursday in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Following Putin’s announcement, large explosions were reported in Ukraine's capital Kyiv and city of Kramatorsk.

"This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. I call on Russia to cease its military action immediately and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the NATO chief.

"NATO Allies will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions. We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. NATO will do all it takes to protect and defend all Allies," he added.

‘World will hold Russia accountable’

In Washington, US President Joe Biden slammed Russia over its "unprovoked and unjustified attack" on Ukraine late Wednesday, saying "the world will hold Russia accountable."

In a statement shortly after a televised address by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he announced a special military operation in eastern Ukraine, Biden said: "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.”

"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. 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," he said.

 US President Joe Biden (Anadolu)

Biden said he will monitor the situation from the White House and will continue to get regular updates from his national security team.

"Tomorrow, I will meet with my G7 counterparts in the morning and then speak to the American people 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," Biden said.

"We will also coordinate with our NATO allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the alliance. Tonight, Jill and I are praying for the brave and proud people of Ukraine," he added.

The order for the special military operation came after a request from the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk for help from Putin against Ukraine.

A White House official said Biden on Thursday afternoon will announce further consequences the US and its allies and partners will impose on Russia for its attack on Ukraine.

In addition, White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden was briefed on a secure call this evening by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the "ongoing attack" on Ukraine by Russian military forces. (Anadolu)