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Ukraine president offers weapons to any citizen 'who wants to defend the country,' says, 'Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities'

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SerhiiHudak/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Hours after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Thursday morning issued a call to arms, publicly declaring that he would give weapons to any Ukrainian citizen who wished to defend their country.

What are the details?

As Russian troops poured into Ukraine and air assaults pummeled military installations, airports, and hospitals, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and go home or face violence.

But Zelenskyy was not willing to see his military or his people lie down and take the unprovoked assault without a fight. In a series of tweets, the president urged his fellow citizens to defend their country.

"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities," Zelenskyy said.

He added: "We will lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands."

Zelenskyy's tweets echoed remarks he made a day prior.

In a passionate speech addressing Russian citizens who may be sympathetic to Ukraine's cause, Zelenskyy promised retaliation to any military advance.

"If we’ll be attacked by the [enemy] troops, if they try to take our country away from us, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack, but defend ourselves. And when you will be attacking us, you will see our faces, not our backs, but our faces," he declared.

Days before, the Ukrainian parliament cleared the way for citizens to carry arms and act in self-defense — and within hours, gun stores in the country were being cleared of product.

What else?

Not all Ukrainian citizens have resolved to take up arms, and understandably so. Russia's initial air assault campaign brought devastation to parts of the country and aroused a great deal of fear and panic.

Highways were reportedly jammed up Thursday morning and afternoon as many sought to flee major population centers and head west.

Russia claimed Thursday evening that it had destroyed at least 74 military installations, including 11 airfields. Russian troops reportedly captured an airport in Hostomel, just outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Ukraine also reported that enemy troops had seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

But not everything was going the Kremlin's way. Russia's aggression came with a significant economic toll.

Russian stocks plummeted at least 33% Thursday and the country's currency, the ruble, hit an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, CNN reported.

The outlet noted the Moscow stock exchange had suspended trading earlier on Thursday amid news of the invasion. However, when dealing resumed, stocks went into free-fall. The crash reportedly wiped out about $70 billion in value from Russia's biggest companies.

Moreover, that downturn preceded the handing down of further severe sanctions from the U.S., U.K., European Union, and other allies.

The hope of government leaders in the West is that Russia's military campaign will be too economically devastating to continue on. It remains to be seen if sanctions alone will deter Putin or work quickly enough to defend Ukraine.

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