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India's stand on the ongoing Ukraine-Russia crisis is neutral, minister of state (MoS) for external affairs told news agency ANI on Thursday as Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The country hopes for a peaceful solution to the conflict, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh said.

Earlier, Russian forces attacked targets across Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin ordered an operation to “demilitarize" the country, prompting international condemnation and a US threat of further “severe sanctions" on Moscow, sending markets tumbling worldwide.

Russia launched a barrage of missile, artillery and air attacks early Thursday, triggering the worst security crisis Europe has witnessed in decades. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry warned that the capital, Kyiv, was being targeted and urged citizens to go to shelters. Ukraine’s border guard said that it was being shelled from five regions, including from Crimea in the south and Belarus to the north, and that Russian forces had crossed into the country.

In a nationally televised address ahead of the offensive, Putin said that Russia doesn’t plan to “occupy" its neighbor but said the action was necessary after the US and its allies crossed Russia’s “red lines" by expanding the NATO alliance. US President Joe Biden called Putin’s move “an unprovoked and unjustified attack" and said the “world will hold Russia accountable."

Commodities markets surged, with Brent oil extending gains above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014 - when Russia annexed Ukraine - while gold jumped as investors scrambled for havens.

Putin said he was taking action in part to protect civilians in the separatist regions from Ukraine’s military, though there was no evidence they were under any threat of attack. The US and European allies had repeatedly warned that Moscow intended to create a false justification for military action.

United States President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President after Russia launched what they called a full-scale invasion.

Biden condemned the "unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces," and urged world leaders to speak out against Putin's "flagrant aggression".

Meanwhile, India is sending flights to bring back Indians from the crisis-ridden Ukraine. Air India is operating three flights between India-Ukraine on February 22, 24, and 26.

The flights will take off from Boryspil International Airport and bookings are open through Air India booking offices, website, call centers, and authorized travel agents.

India at UNSC strongly emphasized the need for all sides to exercise the utmost restraint and intensify diplomatic efforts to ensure a mutually amicable solution.

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