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Putin launches 'special military operation' in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a speech early Thursday that he has authorized a military operation in Ukraine.

Putin declared that "the situation requires us to take decisive, swift action," and said Russia will carry out the "demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine. Since 2014, there has been fighting in two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, and Putin said Russia will now end that eight-year war.

On Monday, Putin signed a decree recognizing the independence of those regions, and ordered troops to the area, saying they would be on a "peacekeeping" mission. During his Thursday speech, Putin told Ukrainians fighting there to put down their weapons and go home.

This is a developing story. Follow our latest coverage here.