* Russian attack described as "full-scale war"
* Unconfirmed reports of hundreds of Ukranian soldiers killed.
* Ukrainian claims of shooting down at least seven Russian aircraft and killing 50 invading soldiers
* Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vows: "We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine."
* International condemnation of Russian military strike, with European Union Security Chief Josep Borrell Fontelles describing the attack on Ukraine as "the darkest hour" since World War II.
* Parents hide their children in cellars as during missile and rocket strikes.
Explosions rocked several Ukraine cities yesterday — including the country's capital, Kyiv — moments after Russia launched a "full-scale war" on its neighbour.
Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, confirmed last night that blasts occurred on the eastern and northern borders of the country and urged residents to remain calm and stay indoors.
World leaders condemned the attacks as "unprovoked and unjustified" — with Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, calling it "full-scale war" — after Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier declared a "special military operation" in what has been described by commentators as a "chilling" speech.
"At about 5am, the state border of Ukraine in the area with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus was attacked by Russian troops supported by Belarus,'' the Ukrainian state border service said. Attacks were being carried out in the Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr regions, targeting border units, border patrols and checkpoints using artillery, heavy equipment and small arms, it said. An attack was also coming from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea side of the country.
Reports last night claimed at least nine people had been killed and several injured within hours of the first blasts, while Ukrainian airbases were destroyed and crowds of people — many children — were hiding in Kyiv basements.
Meanwhile, Ukraine military claimed to have shot down five Russian planes and a Russian helicopter in the Luhansk region.
Some 17,000km away, the Ukrainian Association of New Zealand has spoken of its fears for the nation — and urged Kiwis to welcome refugees from the war zone with open arms.
"You cannot imagine and you cannot believe that in the 21st century this is possible. This is over 70 years after the bloody World War [II], said the NZ group's northern region chairman, Yurko Gladun. "Ukraine was a territory that suffered the most during [WWII] ... and now again, and you just ask why."
There were 23 Kiwis registered on Safe Travel as being in Ukraine — and at least 17 have already fled the country since Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta's February 12 warning to "leave immediately".
Gladun has spoken with his family in the western part of Ukraine and said they were not aware of what was happening until he called. "I actually waken them; they didn't even know the war has started." He believes there will be thousands of refugees.
The invasion of Crimea in 2014 strained the deep social and cultural ties between the countries and Putin has increasingly sought assurances from the West and Ukraine that it would not join the European Union and Nato — an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 countries. He also wants Ukraine to demilitarise.
United States President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have condemned Russia's move — Biden calling it "unprovoked and unjustified" — but Putin warned them that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences they have never seen".
Putin said the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a claim the US had predicted he would falsely make to justify an invasion.
Leaders and politicians around the world also reacted to the move — including New Zealand's, who called Russia's actions a flagrant breach of fundamental international rules.
"We stand with the people of Ukraine impacted by this conflict. Our thoughts are with them," Mahuta said.
European Union Security Chief Josep Borrell Fontelles called the strikes "the darkest hour for Europe since the end of World War II". "This is not only the greatest violation of international law; it's a violation of the basic principles of human coexistence," he said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a brief but impassioned speech yesterday, pleading "from the bottom of my heart" for Putin to stop his troops from attacking Ukraine.
"Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died."
In his televised address yesterday, Putin accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia's demand to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation — and offer Moscow security guarantees.
At least 200,000 Russian troops have been deployed near Ukraine's borders over the past few months as the threat of conflict hung over the country.
Zelenskyy said yesterday that he had spoken with Biden and the US has already started uniting international support. "We are working. The Army is working. The whole sector of defence and security is working. No panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will win over everybody because we are Ukraine."
Biden said he will work with Nato to co-ordinate a response but the US will not send troops to Ukraine.
He said he would meet with his G7 counterparts today before announcing "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".
Earlier this week, Ukraine declared a state of emergency, and Putin sparked panic by "recognising" the breakaway territories of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine — known collectively as the Donbas region.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's sharemarket suffered its biggest single-day fall in nearly two years yesterday, sliding nearly 3 per cent.
Economist Brad Olsen, tweeted how oil prices were already up, saying 91 petrol in NZ could rise to above $3 a litre.