BREAKING: At least 40 people have been killed Thursday in Russia's attack on Ukraine, according

.

Russia's military launched a long-feared invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, attacking its ex-Soviet neighbor from multiple directions despite warnings of dire consequences from the United States and the international community.

Thursday's attacks followed weeks of escalating tensions in the region. In  fiery, hourlong speech on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region: the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for stoking the crisis and reiterated its demands to NATO that Ukraine pledges to never join the transatlantic defense alliance.