The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has called on Wales to stand in solidarity with Ukraine as Russia has started its invasion of the country.

MS for Mid and West Wales, Jane Dodds submitted a Statement of Opinion to the Senedd this morning - Thursday, February 24 - in support of Ukraine which can now been signed by other members.

Ms Dodds said: “This is an extremely dark day for Europe and the world. The Russian regimes invasion of Ukraine is a terrible human tragedy is now unfolding before our very eyes. We must stand with the people of Ukraine.

“Putin’s maniacal ambitions will stop at nothing. The blood of every innocent Ukrainian who perishes in this entirely unprovoked and illegal invasion is on his hands.

“The rules-based international order is directly under threat like never before. After years of hybrid warfare, threats and provocations, which tragically have seen over 13,000 casualties in the last few years, a full-scale Russian invasion into Ukraine is now underway.

“Russia’s invasion may seem like a far-flung conflict for many in Wales, but we must be unwavering in our support for the freedom of Ukraine or come to face the consequences in the future.

“The liberal values that have underpinned European peace security for generations, namely the respect for a rules-based international order, the right to national self-determination, international law and democracy are now directly under threat. This should deeply worry any liberal or democrat.

“We cannot allow Europe, or the world, to return to an age where large authoritarian states can use military action to force smaller democratic states to do their bidding. This type of system only leads to chaos, destruction and great suffering. If this type of violent order is allowed to re-establish itself, where is next? Where does it end? Moldova, Georgia and the Baltics would immediately be placed under increased threat.”

Explosions have been reported in major cities in Ukraine - according to the BBC, its Ukraine correspondents heard explosions in the capital Kyiv as well as Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has taken to Twitter this morning to offer weapons to “anybody who wants them” to defend the country.

Ms Dodds said: “Ukrainians are not the property of Russia, or more specifically Putin and his cronies despite the effort of Putin’s regime to invoke imperialist propaganda of Russians and Ukrainians being “one people”. The people of Ukraine have the democratic right to decide what direction their country goes in.

“Ukraine has undergone a dramatic transition since the fall of the Soviet Union into a vibrant democracy. Two people’s revolutions in 2004 and 2014, driven by young people, saw the country rise up against authoritarianism, kleptocracy and corruption. These revolutions sent fear into the heart of Putin’s regime. For all the bravado, Putin himself as the head of a corrupt network of oligarchs remains vulnerable to such revolutions himself. It is therefore little wonder he is seeking to dismantle this new Ukraine.

“We in Wales must show we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight to remain free. Should we not, we could see our security and economic stability threatened like never before.

“Wales must also be prepared to take in Ukrainian refugees and provide humanitarian aid to those in need.

“Within the UK, we urgently need the Conservative Government in Westminster to urgently clean up Russian money-laundering operations in the UK, not least in London and in their own party.

“We need to unleash hard-hitting economic sanctions right now. There must be NO delay and we cannot waver.

“We must remain resolute, and in the age of weaponised disinformation by states such as Russia, ensure we keep our eyes on our guiding principles of democracy, freedom and cooperation.”

President Zelenskyy also posted on Twitter that Ukriane has cut its diplomatic relations with Russia as it continues to threaten the country’s independence.

As many people look to flee the country, the UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss said she has summoned Russia’s ambassador to the UK to “explain Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”.

Ms Truss also said online: “We will be imposing severe sanctions and rallying countries in support of Ukraine.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “appalling events” in Ukraine on Twitter.

Mr Johnson, who is expected to announce tougher sanctions against Russia later today, added: “This is a catastrophe for our continent. I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible.”