"A member of the Ukrainian special forces takes position at an abandoned roadblock in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 24, 2014."
At least five people are dead after Ukrainian troops moved into eastern Ukraine on Thursday in an effort to quell the recent pro-Russian uprisings that have turned violent. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine's deployment of military forces is a crime against its people that will "have consequences."
Mashable will be covering Thursday's developments here. See below for the latest updates...
Today in photos
12:23 p.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Amanda Wills
What happens if Russia invades? Will the U.S. go to war?
10:47 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Amanda Wills
A few weeks ago, we asked former NATO commander, Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), what the likelihood was of an invasion that would lead to a full-scale war against the two countries.
Adm. Stavridis said it was "unlikely Russia would invade Ukraine," but if he did, "Russia would become economically and diplomatically isolated from the vast majority of countries around the world."
"A further invasion would mean a return to essentially Cold War norms — a bad result for everyone," Adm. Stavridis said.
If that did happen, would the U.S. and other European Union allies be forced to put boots on the ground as well?
"War seems nearly out of the question, as does U.S. combat involvement," he said. "But I suspect events are trending toward a strong support to the Ukrainian military and help if they need to face a Russian-sponsored insurgency within their borders: a likely occurrence, unfortunately."
Helicopter drops pro-Ukraine leaflets over embattled cities
10:43 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Brian Ries
Reporters on the ground in Sloviansk report witnessing a Ukrainian helicopter drop thousands of leaflets over of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk with warnings for the towns' citizens: Stay away from government buildings, avoid demonstrations and beware of Russian terrorists.
Ukrainian military halts operations due to 'heightened risk' of Russian attack
10:34 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Brian Ries
Ukraine has paused its anti-terrorist operation to reclaim Sloviansk, the Wall Street Journal reports, amid a “heightened risk” of a retaliatory attack from Russia.
The report, citing a senior security official in Kiev, claims that the operation was "paused to reformulate the plan" in the eastern Ukraine city, now that Russian troops have begun military exercises just across the border.
Russia announces military exercises: 'We are forced to react to the situation'
10:08 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Brian Ries
Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced new military exercises in response to unrest in Ukraine, the Associated Press reports.
“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” he said of the Ukrainian operation, according to RT.com. “War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”
He added that the drills will include both ground and air forces.
"As of today, our battalion tactical combined-arms groups from the southern and western military districts have begun drills in areas bordering Ukraine. The troops will practice marches and tactical deployment...as necessary. Additionally, our aviation units will perform flights to practice operations near our national border," he said, according to Kyiv Post’s Isaac Webb.
The separatists speak: 'People are prepared to give their lives'
9:30 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Brian Ries
Katherine Jacobsen, a freelance journalist in Ukraine, spoke with Sloviansk’s acting mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov to see what was going on in his city. However, the mayor said to wait for a press conference at 5 p.m. local time.
“I’m very busy and can't talk right now,” he said.
Jacobsen then called Stella Vladimirovna Khorosheva, a spokesperson for the pro-Russian separatists, who said, “The situation is calm right now. People are prepared to give their lives to defend their rights. We don't have guns or weapons. Periodically, new people come and join us [in the city center]."
Jacobsen asked what will happen next. “Ask Kiev,” said Khorosheva. “We’re defending ourselves.”
“From what?” asked Jacobsen.
“We asked for a referendum and they sent tanks on us,” the spokeswoman said. “If we can't deliver Ukraine from a junta, we will defend our piece of land. I need to get back to work.” She then hung up.
More sanctions against Russia?
9:16 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Amanda Wills
"My expectation is, is that if, once again, Russia fails to abide by both the spirit and the letter of what was discussed in Geneva, that there will be further consequences and we will ramp up further sanctions," Obama said on Thursday.
Obama, who's currently in Japan, held a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, in which he reiterated that there would be consequences from all sides of globe against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
"We’re deepening our cooperation as global partners, from the relief we delivered together after the typhoon in the Philippines last year to our unified response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine," Obama said.
The U.S. already imposed sanctions against Russia and its top leaders that include travel visa bans and asset freezes. Putin admitted on Thursday that the sanctions were hurting Russia's economy, but the damage wasn't severe. According to Reuters' translation of Putin's statement:
"Overall they are harmful for everyone, they destroy the global economy (and) are dishonorable on the part of those who use those types of tools."
EU leaders have asked the commission to consider strict economic, trade and financial restrictions on Crimea, according to Reuters, which claims it has received a document detailing request. Those restrictions would reportedly include a ban on transactions with financial institutions in Crimea. Russia took over Crimea, a resort region southern Ukraine, last month. However, Western leaders said they refuse to recognize Russia's annexation.
Ukrainian troops reportedly withdraw after battle with separatists
8:26 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Amanda Wills
Pro-Russian separatists have moved back to checkpoints on the outskirts of Slavyansk and reinforced their position with sandbags. Ukrainian troops on Thursday clashed with the separatists, and shots were fired from both sides for about two hours before Ukrainian troops withdrew. The situation is now "fluid," according to Reuters.
Ukrainian troops withdrew from a checkpoint they had taken over earlier in the day north of the eastern city of Slavyansk and pro-Russian separatists moved back in and began to reinforce the position with sandbags. A Reuters journalist said the troops, with armoured vehicles, pulled back after about two hours at the checkpoint on a road near the village of Khrestyshche.
Here's video footage from the checkpoint:
What happened overnight
7:45 a.m. ET / April 24, 2014 / Amanda Wills
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry says military and special police forces killed "up to five terrorists" on Thursday after Ukrainian troops moved into Slavyansk and Donetsk. Early this morning local time in the eastern city of Donetsk, Ukrainian forces retook control of a city council building where pro-Russian protesters and masked gunmen had been camped out.
Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on Tuesday said he would resume the country's anti-terrorism efforts against the recent uprisings in Ukraine. These had previously been on hold after quadrilateral talks between Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union in Geneva resulted in an agreement to push insurgents to turn in their weapons and leave the public areas and government buildings that they have occupied.
However, the pro-Russian separatists would not comply with the agreement, and they refused to vacate the buildings, which, in turn, led to Thursday's violent clashes with Ukrainian forces.
Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped in again. In a news conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Putin called Ukraine's latest anti-terror operation "a serious crimes against its people."
Below are a few videos shot in eastern Ukraine this morning.