Wednesday night’s prime time viewing was interrupted across the eastern half of United States as Russian forces crossed the border into Ukraine.
The main television channels broke away from their regularly scheduled broadcasts to deliver breaking news.
Although many of the main news networks have their own rolling news channels either on cable or online, American audiences know that when their game shows, gossip programs and comedies are interrupted, the news is of the highest importance.
On the east coast, views to ABC were watching the sitcom The Connors when suddenly viewers were treated to World News Tonight’s David Muir to deliver an ABC News Special Report.
World News Tonight’s David Muir delivered an ABC News Special Report
‘We’re hearing a series of explosions in Ukraine now,’said Muir as he showed video shot in Kiev during which several loud blasts could be heard at 5:33am, local time.
Muir explained how US intelligence officials knew that the operations would begin under cover of darkness and before sunrise before Ukrainian people were able to realize what was going on in their own country.
Muis also explained that explosions had also been heard in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
Over on CBS, Season 33 of reality game show The Amazing Race was well underway when the network was forced to break away to deliver news of the invasion.
Host of the CBS Evening News, Norah O’Donnell was back behind the anchor desk.
CBS News Charlie D’Agata told how there had been several loud noises in the last few minutes and appeared shaken initially
D’Agata kept looking around for any incoming missiles as he delivered a breaking news report
‘This is a CBS News specials report. We are coming on the air because the war in Ukraine has begun just minutes after Vladimir Putin announce a special military operation Easter Ukraine, and that is where our reporter Charlie D’Agata is.
D’Agata told how there had been several loud noises in the last few minutes and appeared shaken initially.
‘We heard several loud explosions… three to begin with followed by two more,’ he said.
A fighter jet suddenly flew overhead which took D’Agata off guard as he looked around to see if there was anything he needed to be aware of.
D’Agata appeared spooked by the sudden noise.
‘We had always been expecting something major to happen. We thought an invasion might begin with air strikes. We heard five explosions. Three, followed by two more, and whatever that was!’ he said, referring to the aircraft that had just flown by.
NBC News Senior National Correspondent Tom Llamas appeared on television screens and crossed to former CNN Correspondent Erin McLaughlin, pictured, who was live in Kiev
At NBC, the show Chicago Fire, which had already been off the air for the last few weeks because of the Beijing Winter Olympics, was back – but not for long.
NBC News Senior National Correspondent Tom Llamas appeared on television screens to inform viewers about breaking news of the invasion.
Llamas crossed to former CNN Correspondent Erin McLaughlin who set the scene from a balcony in Kiev for both NBC and MSNBC networks.
Twitter users watching all three of the main networks were unhappy that their favorite television shows had been pushed aside in order to present the ‘Special Report’.
On the Fox News Channel, Laura Ingraham was reeling off various failed attempts at diplomacy whileFox News’ Foreign Correspondent, Trey Yingst, could be seen wearing a protective helmet.
‘There was such a flurry of diplomatic activity. We had Blinken, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, all trying to talk some sense into Putin. All of it was summarily ignored,’ she began before Yingst interrupted her.
‘Did you hear those explosions behind me? Did you hear those explosions behind me? Kiev currently taking Russian fire right now!’ he said.
No matter the news, Twitter users across the main terrestrial networks appears were upset their favorite shows had been cancelled.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev reported hearing blasts in the early hours of Thursday morning as Russia’s invasion came into full view.
‘I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I’ve never heard anything like it.’
Matthew Chance, Senior International correspondent for the network, said that he heard between seven and eight explosions.
Chance quickly put on his flak jacket and headgear while he continued to report from a balcony in the Ukrainian capital.
A CNN reporter in the Ukrainian capital Kiev reporting hearing blasts in the early hours of Thursday mornin
Chance did not want to take any chances and set about putting on his flak jacket and helmet
‘There are big explosions taking place. I can’t see them or explain what they are. but I will tell you the U.S has warned the Ukrainian authorities there could be air strikes and ground attacks as well around the country, including the capital.
‘I don’t know if that’s what’s occurring now but it’s a remarkable coincidence that the explosions come just minutes after Putin gave his speech,’ Chance explained.
‘This is the first time we’ve heard anything. It has been absolutely silent. This is the first time. It has to be more than just a coincidence.
‘I think it’s safe where I am. I have a flak jacket,’ Chance remarked before ducking down to put on his protective gear.
Chance, located on a balcony in the Ukrainian capital quickly put on his protective headgear
Chance, who had been to the Ukrainian capital many times in recent years said he had ‘never heard anything like it’
He suggested that the blasts he heard were still some distance away from the center.
‘It was so quiet in Ukraine tonight up until those explosions,’ Chance explained. ‘What we thought was unthinkable until a few hours ago, is now underway.’
The blasts came within minutes of Putin saying Russia would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
CNN’s Chance said at first that it was not clear what the target was, however he later suggested that Russia was trying to disable Ukraine’s airports and destroying airstrips, although he stressed that it was unconfirmed.
CNN: A WAR REPORTING VETERAN
War reporting has been at the heart of CNN’s coverage over the last 30 years.
The first Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Storm which ran for six weeks during January and February 1991 was significant for many reasons including CNN’s live reporting from a Baghdad hotel.
At the time, new technologies, such as satellite technology, allowed for a new type of war coverage.
For the first time, people all over the world were able to watch live pictures of missiles hitting their targets and fighters taking off from aircraft carriers.
The use of night vision equipment also gave the reporting a futuristic spin which was said to resemble video game imagery and encourage the ‘war drama’.
The war was covered live since its beginnings by the three main American networks, as well as CNN which was only ten years old.
CNN gained the most popularity for their coverage, and indeed its wartime coverage is often cited as one of the landmark events in the development of the network.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was safe at the Pentagon when the network’s reporting of Operation Desert Storm began on January 16th 1991
CNN was the only 24‑hour coverage news network at the time.
When war broke out the network was able to follow the events in Baghdad on a 24‑hour basis.
Even when other American journalists were told their safety might be at risk, CNN reporters stayed behind after their producers had built up good relationships with government officials in Baghdad.
During the first days of the bombing the CNN team was also able to report live via radio from their hotel suite in the Rashid Hotel, something no other network was able to do.
About 300 miles away to the east, in Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, a steady stream of explosions were also heard where another CNN reporter, Clarissa Ward, CNNs Chief International Correspondent was located.
In a televised address early on Thursday morning, Putin said the action came in response to threats coming from Ukraine.
He added that Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but said the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian ‘regime’.
Putin also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to ‘consequences they have never seen’.
He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato and offer Moscow security guarantees.
He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine, adding that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.
The announcement came just after airspace over all of Ukraine was shut down to civilian air traffic, and at the same time as an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was taking place.
On Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an emotional televised address in Russian following the approval of a 30-day state-of-emergency order handed the government sweeping powers in the interest of national security.
‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace. But if we come under attack that threatens our freedom and lives of our people we will fight back,’ he said, as he rejected Moscow’s claim Ukraine is a threat to Russia.