Tens of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, bombed and destroyed cities and a badly hit economy. With its devastating balance sheet, the Russian invasion of Ukraine it became synonymous with unimaginable suffering and destruction, but also with unprecedented bravery and solidarity. He altered the world order, accelerating the fractures of globalization. There were three hundred and sixty-five days in which, paraphrasing Lenin, decades passed.
The date that will remain in the history books is the February 24, 2022day on which Vladimir Putin unleashes the first large-scale war of aggression in Europe since the Second World War.
At dawn, after repeatedly denying his plans to invade Ukraine, the Russian president announces on television a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” the former Soviet country. Still tough, the Kremlin leader reiterates his baseless accusations of a Ukrainian-orchestrated “genocide” in the Russian-speaking east of the country and denounces an “aggressive” NATO policy.
His army launches an invasion accompanied by air strikes in different parts of Ukraine, and with the entry of ground troops east, south and north – from belarusan ally of Moscow.
Powerful explosions resound in the skies of Ukraine. The attacks target the capital kyiv, Kramatorsk (Ukrainian army headquarters in the east) and Kharkiv, the second largest city located near the Russian border. Also Odessaon the shores of the Black Sea, and Mariupolthe main port.
But from central kyiv, where Ukrainians take refuge in the subway, to a rocky island in the Black Sea, the resistance is fiercer than Putin would have imagined.
The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, emerges as the tireless commander-in-chief in his country’s epic battle against the mighty Russian army. The president remains in the capital despite the warning from the United States that Russia wants to “decapitate” his government.
“I’m here. We are not going to lay down our arms and we are going to defend our country.”, he says, walking through the streets of kyiv.
Similarly, the response of a small group of soldiers in the snake island to a Russian order to surrender exemplifies kyiv’s will to resist: “Russian warship, fuck you,” they yell before coming under Russian fire.
Meanwhile, a mass exodus begins by car, bus, train or on foot, mainly towards the borders of Poland, Hungary and Romania. They are mostly women and children, as men of fighting age are ordered to stay.
The invasion, which comes after frantic diplomatic efforts to keep Putin at the negotiating table, also provokes an international outcry.
The West imposes on Russia sanctions unprecedented and is gradually increasing.
The European Union agrees to send weapons to Ukraine, for the first time, and the United States gives the green light for billions of dollars in military aid.
In the days that follow, Russian forces rapidly advance into the southern coast of Ukraineseizing the port of Khersonin the Black Sea, near the Crimean peninsula occupied by Russia in 2014, and the port of Berdyanskin the Azov Sea.
Moscow troops are also trying to encircle kyiv and heavily shell the second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkivnear the Russian border.
However, the fierce Ukrainian resistance forces Russia to concentrate its offensive in the south and in the basin of the Donbasunder partial control of pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The Russians begin the encirclement of Mariupola port city and export center of strategic importance.
Horror in Bucha
One month after the start of the war, the Russian army announces its withdrawal of northern Ukraine after having failed in his attempt to take kyiv. Thus arises the horror of what happened in the towns and villages that he has occupied.
In bucha corpses of executed civilians are found in the streets cold blood. The remains of several hundred civilians, some with their hands tied and signs of tortureare found in mass graves in this town on the outskirts of the capital.
The images cause a world protest. The International Criminal Court opens an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It is not the only atrocity of those days. On April 8, a Russian missile attack hits a train station in Kramatorskkilling at least 50 civilians, including women and children, and injuring more than 100. Most of them were trying to evacuate to safety.
At the same time, Ukraine continues to resist. On April 14, Ukrainian forces score a major success with the sinking of Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea, the moskva. It is a heavy blow to Moscow’s naval supremacy and military prestige.
The fall of Mariupol
A city above all symbolizes the suffering of the first part of the war: Mariupola port on the Azov Sea, destroyed during a brutal three-month siege that left the city without vital infrastructure, water, electricity and heating.
The objective of the capture of this city is to allow Russia to ensure the union between its forces coming from crimea and the secessionist areas of Donbas.
But some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, entrenched in the factory’s maze of underground Azovstal with hundreds of civilians, they continue the fight.
They will hold out until mid-May before surrendering. According to kyiv, Mariupol is 90% destroyed and at least 20,000 people died.
On the geopolitical front, Sweden and Finlandfearful of being the target of future Russian attacks, present their candidacies for membership in the NATO in a decision that ends decades of neutrality of the two Nordic countries.
Final offensive in Donbas
June 3 marks the anniversary of the 100 days of war.
He Donbasa heavily industrialized region in eastern Ukraine, has become the site of the biggest battle in Europe in generations.
The Ukrainians, outgunned, ask the West for more powerful weapons to repel the attack.
Between May 25 and June 25, Russia takes the enclave of Severodonetsk to neutralize the Ukrainian troops in Donetsk as well as Lymanan important railway junction leading to the Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk and to the pro-Russian zone in the neighboring luhansk.
Agreement for the export of grains
Russia begins the siege of Lisichansk, the last stronghold under Ukrainian control in Lugansk and on the 3rd, he took it for granted and with it all of Lugansk. Beleaguered Ukrainian forces focus on defending Donetskthe second part of the precious Donbas.
On July 22, Russia and Ukraine seal a agreement to resume the grain exportin an attempt to alleviate a global food crisis caused by the blockade of tons of grain in Ukrainian ports.
Throughout the month, Russia begins to periodically shut down the Nord Stream pipelines in an attempt to increase pressure on Europe. European leaders accuse Moscow of using gas as a “weapon.”
Russia stops gas exports
On August 10, powerful explosions rock an airbase in the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
The series of explosions destroy several Russian planes and damage more than 80 buildings. None of the parties has ruled on what happened, although the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikovsuggests that the “military” of Russia did not observe a “very simple” rule: “Do not smoke in dangerous places”.
On August 20, a suspected car bomb explodes in Moscow, killing TV commentator Daria Duginaalthough observers believe that his father Aleksandr Dugin, nicknamed “Putin’s brain”, may have been the intended target.
On August 31, all gas exports to Europe stop. Russia’s state energy giant, Gazpromcites maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Prices rise immediately.
Partial mobilization and illegal referendums
During the summer, the US and the EU increase the supply of heavy weapons to kyiv, allowing it to mount a two-front offensive.
In early September, the Ukrainian army announced a counter-offensive in the south, before making a surprise, lightning advance of the Russian lines in the northeast, forcing the Russian army to abandon the region of Kharkivscene of violent combats.
In the south, the operation aims to reconquer Khersonthe only regional capital that fell into the hands of the Russian forces at the beginning of their invasion.
Step by step, the Ukrainian army, with Western weapons systems, seizes dozens of towns, relentlessly shelling Russian ammunition depots and supply lines in the region.
Increasingly cornered, on September 21 Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of Russians of fighting age (300,000 reservists called up), triggering a flight of thousands of men abroad. The same day he threatens the West with the use of nuclear weapons: “It’s not a bluff,” he says.
On September 30, Russia officially annexes the regions Donetsk, luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya after referendums illegal under international law. Putin says those territories will be part of Russia “forever.”
attack the bridge
Russia’s prestige suffers a severe blow on October 8 when the 19-kilometre bridge linking the Russian mainland with the annexed peninsula of crimea about him Kerch Straitpride of putin, is partially destroyed. The event occurs a day after the Russian president’s birthday and hits an important supply route for Moscow forces.
Ukrainian social networks are flooded with images of the bridge – a despised symbol of Russian annexation – in flames and with thick black smoke. kyiv does not take responsibility for the explosion, although Russia points to the Ukrainian secret services.
The reprisal for the Kerch bridge attack comes in the form of deadly missile and drone strikes against Kiev and other cities that are primarily aimed at destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and plunging the population into cold and darkness.
On October 17, kyiv residents wake up to the drone of Iranian-made explosive drones homing in on their targets.
The attacks leave millions of people without electricity or heat for hours in the dead of winter.
Russia suffers a major setback on November 9 when its forces abandon the city of Kherson. The southern port city, once home to 250,000 people, was one of the first to fall to Russian forces in the early days of the war. There are scenes of jubilation throughout the Ukraine.
Days later the inhabitants of Kherson celebrate the arrival of Ukrainian forces, “a historic day” hailed by President Zelensky.
The euphoria, however, is limited by the fear that Russia will continue to attack the city, something it does repeatedly.
Zelensky in the USA
Throughout the war, Volodimir Zelensky Emerged as a relentless commander-in-chief trying to rally support in his country’s epic battle against the mighty Russian army.
Without leaving kyiv, he embarked on a virtual tour of the parliaments of his Western allies to call for more weapons and help.
His diplomatic offensive culminates in December with his first trip out of his country to the United States, where he speaks before Congress. “Ukraine will never give up”says there, leading to a standing ovation from all present.
For his part, the President of the United States, Joe Bidenpromises to send air defense systems patriot to help Ukraine prevent Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure.
In the new year, the Russian army, reinforced by the 300,000 reservists mobilized since September and supported by the Wagner group paramilitaries, is back on the offensive, particularly in Donbas.
The fighting is modeled after World War I trench fighting, with soldiers on either side enduring harsh conditions in the dead of winter.
The fighting is intense, especially around Bakhmuta city in the east that Russia has been trying to conquer since the summer.
Faced with repeated requests from the Ukrainian president and after having hesitated for a long time for fear of provoking an escalation, the Americans and the Europeans promised to send dozens of heavy tanks to Kiev in early February, arousing the ire of Moscow.
Russia and Ukraine have not given a reliable balance of their losses for months. According to Norway, the war in Ukraine has caused about 180,000 deaths or injuries in the ranks of the Russian army, and 100,000 Ukrainians.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 would have lost their lives in a year of conflict, according to Western sources.
At the end of January, the UN estimated the number of civilians killed and injured at 18,000, although it acknowledged that “the real figures are much higher.” Among the dead, Ukraine speaks of “more than 400 children.”
Most of the victims were killed by Russian airstrikes, according to the UN.
The economic cost to Ukraine was enormous: its GDP contracted by 35% in 2022, according to the World Bank.
According to the UN, the fighting forced almost 8 million people to leave Ukraine and caused more than 5 million internal displacement.
Why Putin is now betting on a long and exhausting war
The United States warns that Ukraine faces a crucial moment in the resistance against the Russian invasion