European markets set to plunge after Russia launches attack on Ukraine

LONDON – European stocks are expected to open sharply lower on Thursday after reports that Russia had begun an attack on Ukraine, tipping a longstanding diplomatic crisis into a military conflict.

The UK’s FTSE index is expected to open 176 points lower at 7,303, Germany’s DAX 526 points lower at 14,092, France’s CAC 40 down 229 points at 6,551 and Italy’s FTSE MIB 921 points lower at 25,017, according to data from IG.

Global markets are likely to be thoroughly shaken on Thursday on the news that Russia has launched an attack on Ukraine, and one that appears to be more widespread that expected.

Multiple explosions across Ukraine were reported by journalists and government officials in at least four cities early Thursday morning local time, undermining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia was launching a military operation that would be limited to the far east of the country.

Starting about two hours before dawn on Thursday, explosions were felt in and around the cities of Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv and Mariupol. The explosions are ongoing, according to reports. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement that a “full-scale invasion” of his country was underway.

US President Joe Biden condemned the attack. “The world will hold Russia accountable,” he said in a statement before holding a late-night call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The European Union is set to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss its response to the latest development.

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Earnings come from AB InBev, Axa, Bouygues, Safran, Saint-Gobain, Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Anglo American, BAE systems, WPP, Rolls-Royce and Lloyds Banking Group. On the data front, French consumer confidence figures for February are due.

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– CNBC’s Christine Wilkie contributed to this market report.

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