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Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency has suspended all flights to and from 12 airports in the south of the country. The move comes after Moscow revealed that it had launched airstrikes in Ukraine, RT reported.

"The airports temporarily suspended are Rostov (Platov), Krasnodar (Pashkovsky), Anapa (Vityazevo), Gelendzhik, Elista, Stavropol, Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Voronezh, and Simferopol," the agency reported on its official website, also noting that people should avoid going to the airports. The restriction will remain in place until March 2, 2022.

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Russia has asserted that it is targeting "military infrastructure, air defence facilities, military airfields, and aviation (in Ukraine)," with the Defence Ministry claiming that there is no threat to the civilian population, the report said.

Early on Thursday morning, in a televised address to the nation, Putin announced that Russia would begin launching a special military operation in Ukraine. The goal of the action, according to the Kremlin, is "to protect the people (of Donbas) who have been tortured for eight years by the Ukrainian regime."

Putin also called for the complete "demilitarisation" and "denazification" of Ukraine, and made a pledge to prosecute those who were involved in "numerous bloody crimes against civilians". The Russian leader called on Ukrainian soldiers "to put down arms immediately" so they could return home to their families.

Moscow's decision to enter Ukraine followed an official request from the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (DPR) People's Republics for "help in repelling the Ukrainian military aggression", RT reported.

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