Ukraine-Russia, from invasion to Biden’s visit to Kiev: a year of war

In Moscow’s intentions it should have been ‘flash

Twelve months of war in Ukraine, a special military operation which, in Russia’s intentions, should have been ‘lightning’ and instead turned into a war of attrition with no end in sight. Here are the key events of this year:

The February 24, 2022, after months of growing tensions, with Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin gives the order to invade, speaking of a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify”. Just three days earlier, on February 21, Putin had publicly recognized the independence from Ukraine of two pro-Russian secessionist regions of Donbass, Donetsk and Luhansk. As airstrikes hit targets around Ukrainian cities, including Kiev, ground forces enter Mariupol, where fighting has been going on for weeks, the port city of Odessa in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast. Russian helicopters attack the military airport of Hostomel, near Kiev, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaims martial law, saying the government would give weapons to anyone who wants to fight and mobilizing all men aged 18 to 60.

March it is the month which, according to the UN, records the highest number of victims of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces liberate some areas of the country that had been conquered by Russia and discover the atrocities committed by the Russian military against civilians and which could be recognized as war crimes. In particular, the bodies of hundreds of civilians, including children, are discovered in Bucha, showing signs of torture and rape suffered and who are believed to have been killed by Russian troops. On 16 March the theater of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians had found refuge was bombed by the Russians, causing a very high number of victims. On March 29, the Russian armed forces announce that they will focus on the ‘liberation’ of Donbass. On 29 and 30 March, Istanbul hosts the first and only peace negotiations between the delegations of Ukraine and Russia, which end in nothing.

The April 7th the United Nations General Assembly expels Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The following day, on the 8th, a Russian missile raid against the Kramatorsk railway station killed at least 50 civilians, including women and children, and wounded another hundred. On the same day, Putin’s forces launch a new attack in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide and affirms that sanctions “are not enough”. On April 13, the missile cruiser Moskva was hit by the armed forces of Kiev and sank the following day, inflicting a heavy blow on the Russian army.

The 5 May Sweden and Finland announce their intention to join NATO, putting an end to a long history of neutrality. On the 19th hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers of the Azov battalion and civilians who had taken refuge together with the soldiers in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol surrendered, becoming the symbol of Ukrainian resistance. On the 29th Zelensky goes to Kharkiv, for the first official visit outside the Kiev region since the beginning of the war.

The June 6th the Ukrainian military claims to have pushed the Russian fleet back into the Black Sea at a distance of more than 100 kilometres. Russia loses control of Snake Island off the southern coast of Ukraine, where Kiev flies its flag. The United States supplies the first Himars rocket launchers to Ukraine. On June 16, then Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz travel by train to Kiev to meet Zelensky and express “a message of European unity in support of Ukraine”. On June 29, NATO officially invites Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance after overcoming the Turkish veto.

TO July Zelensky acknowledges that Russia has taken control of Luhansk Oblast. Meanwhile, Moscow shuts down the Nord Stream gas pipelines several times to put pressure on the West, aggravating the energy crisis. On the 22nd Moscow and Kiev reach an agreement, with the mediation of Ankara and the United Nations, to free up Ukrainian cereals, the blockage of which was threatening a global food crisis.

On 2 August, the first ship with Ukrainian wheat arrives in Turkey on the basis of the agreement reached between Moscow and Kiev with the mediation of the United Nations and the Ankara government. At the end of August, Ukraine launches a counter-offensive to reconquer the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv. In response, Russian forces are moved from Crimea to a new front from Zaporizhzhia to Kherson along the Dnipro River. On the 20th Daria Dugina, daughter of the Russian nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, dies in the explosion of a car bomb. Moscow blames Ukraine. On the 31st, Russia completely stopped exporting gas to Europe.

TO September the Ukrainian counter-offensive continues and reconquers the city of Izium. In response, on 21 September Putin declared a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 troops to be sent to Ukraine to fight, causing a mass exodus of Russians to neighboring countries to avoid conscription. On the 30th Russia officially annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia at the end of the referendums which took place from the 23rd to the 29th and which were declared illegal by international law. Zelensky responds by asking for NATO membership.

The 2nd October the Ukrainian military captures several villages along the Dnipro River obtaining the largest victory in the south since the beginning of the war. Also significant is the explosion of a truck loaded with explosives that blows up a bridge connecting Russia to Crimea. On the 10th, Russia launches a massive missile attack in various areas of Ukraine, including the capital Kiev, killing at least 23 civilians and wounding over 100 in what is a response to the explosion of the bridge.

L’11 November Ukrainian forces recapture Kherson after Russian troops withdraw. On the 30th, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg promises that Ukraine will be part of the Alliance.

The December 21st Zelensky is visiting the United States for the first time outside Ukraine since the beginning of the war, where he meets US President Joe Biden. After months of hesitation, Biden assures him that he will send the Patriot air defense system to Kiev. On Christmas day, Putin says Russia is ready to negotiate, but Ukraine refuses talks that could lead to the cession of territories.

TO January 2023 Germany decides to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after the United States signed a preliminary agreement to send M1 Abrams tanks. On the 12th, after months of fighting, Russia claims the conquest of the city of Soledar.

L’February 8th Zelensky travels to London, where in Parliament he thanks Great Britain for the support given to the war by requesting the sending of fighter jets, and meets the British premier Rishi Sunak and King Charles III. He then moves to Paris, where he meets French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. On the 9th he is in Brussels, where he speaks in the European Parliament and participates in the summit of the European Council. Here Zelensky has a bilateral agreement with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. On the 20th the American president made a surprise visit to Kiev to meet Zelensky. The next day, on the 21st, Giorgia Meloni is in Ukraine.