February 24th, 2023, marks a year into the most brutal war fought in Europe since the end of WWII.
Putin’s war against Ukraine has left thousands dead, forced millions to flee their homes and reduced entire cities to rubble, with each day passing, fueling the fears of a possible confrontation between Russia and the West.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute to all those who have died since the war with Russia began last February, and through an emotional message, posted a day before the invasion’s year anniversary, promises that Ukraine will hold Moscow to account for “all the terror, all the killings, all the torture”, inflicted to its population.
Back in New York, the United Nations is expected to approve a resolution that condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for peace as soon as possible.
Today, of all days, Ukrainians, as US President Joe Biden noted in his speech in Warsaw, not only stand strong, but they also stand FREE.
Timeline of the events
February 24, 2022: In the early hours Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking on Russian state television, announced the launch of what he called a “special military operation”aimed at “demilitarisation” and “denazification” of the Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians, prevent Kyiv’s NATO membership and to keep it in Russia’s “sphere of influence”.
Outnumbered and ordered to surrender by an approaching Russian vessel, a small group of Ukrainian troops stationed on Snake Island, a tiny but strategic Black Sea outpost, responded by radio: “Russian warship: Go f**k yourself”.
Russian troops quickly reach Kyiv’s outskirts, but their attempts to capture the capital and other cities in the northeast meet stiff resistance. In their assault Russian forces occupy the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy records a video outside his headquarters to show he is staying and remains in charge.
March 2nd: Russia claims control of the southern city of Kherson. Russian forces also seize the rest of the Kherson region and occupy a large part of the neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region, including the largest Nuclear Power Plant in Europe.
The Russian army gets stuck near Kyiv, and its convoys — stretching along highways leading to the Ukrainian capital — become easy prey for Ukrainian artillery and drones.
March 16th: Russia strikes the city theatre of Mariupol, a strategic port city, killing hundreds of civilians in one of the war’s deadliest attacks.
March 29th: Moscow announces the withdrawal of forces from Kyiv and other areas, saying it will focus on the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas.
April 1st: Russian pullback from Kyiv reveals hundreds of bodies of civilians in mass graves and the streets of the town of Bucha. Many of them bearing signs of torture in scenes that prompt world leaders to claim that Russia should be held accountable for possible war crimes.
April 13th: Russia’s Black Sea fleet flagship, missile cruiser Moskva, is hit by Ukrainian missiles and sinks the next day, becoming Russia’s biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years.
May 16th: Ukrainian defenders of the giant Azovstal steel mill, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, agree to surrender after a brutal, nearly three-month siege.
May 18th: Finland and Sweden submit their applications to join NATO in a major blow to Moscow over the expansion of the military alliance.
More Western weapons flow into Ukraine, including U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers.
June 23rd: The EU formally invites Ukraine and Moldova to become candidate countries for membership.
June 24th: Ukrainian forces were ordered to retreat from the city of Severodonetsk, which falls into Russian control.
June 30th: Russian troops pull back from Snake Island.
July 3rd: Lyschansk falls to Moscow’s forces after civilians evacuate the city and with Ukrainian troops outgunned.
July 22nd: Turkey and the United Nations broker a deal between Kyiv and Moscow to resume grain exports, easing the world from a possible food supply crisis.
August 1st: The battle of Bakhmut begins. Russian forces and mercenaries of the Wagner Group are seen in the eastern outskirts of the city.
August 9th: Powerful explosions strike an air base in Crimea. More blasts hit a power substation and ammunition depots there a week later. signalling the vulnerability of the Moscow-annexed Black Sea peninsula that Russia has used as a major supply hub for the war.
August 20th: Darya Dugina, the daughter of Russian nationalist ideologist Alexander Dugin, dies in a car bomb explosion outside Moscow that the Russian authorities blame on Ukraine.
September 6th: Ukrainian forces launch a surprise counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region, quickly forcing Russia to pull back from broad areas held for months.
September 21st: Putin orders mobilisation of 300,000 reservists, an unpopular move that prompts hundreds of thousands of Russian men to flee the country to avoid recruitment.
Russia stages illegal “referendums” in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions on whether to become part of Russia. The votes are widely dismissed as a sham by Kyiv and the West.
September 30th: Putin signs documents to annex the four regions
October 8th: In another major blow to Moscow, the only bridge connecting Russia with the Crimean Peninsula was severely damaged by an explosion. Russia responds with missile strikes on Ukraine’s power plants and other key infrastructure, resulting in blackouts and power rationing across the country.
October 10th: Kyiv first blackout
November 9th: Russia announces a pullback from the city of Kherson under a Ukrainian counteroffensive, abandoning the only regional centre Moscow captured, in a humiliating retreat for the Kremlin.
December 5th: Russian military says Ukraine used drones to target two bases deep inside Russian territory.
December 21st: Zelenskyy visits the United States on his first trip abroad since the war began, meeting with President Joe Biden to secure Patriot air defence missile systems and other weapons and addressing Congress.
December 25th: Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian forces to implement a 36-hour long ceasefire in Ukraine between January 6 and 7, over Russian Orthodox Christmas.
January 12th, 2023: After months of ferocious fighting, Russia declares the capture of the salt-mining town of Soledar. Moscow also presses its offensive to seize the stronghold of Bakhmut.
January 14th: Russia launches another wave of strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities, a Russian missile hits an apartment building in the city of Dnipro, killing 45.
January 25th: After the UK, Germany approves sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, prompting Washington to commit to sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks as well.
February 20th: U.S. President Joe Biden makes a surprise visit to Kyiv where he meets with the Ukrainian president in a remarkable and defiant display of solidarity.
Reflections and future
Kyiv and Moscow are emerging from an ongoing winter stalemate, with the western tanks, according to analysts, set to change the landscape of the battlefield. The weapons that continue to reach Kyiv from all the countries that have pledged their help, are also considered to be a major challenge, when compared to already existing platforms in the Ukrainian army.
The Ukrainian military will need many hours to get to an optimal level of understanding and operating these Western support, with little to no time being available, as Russia continues to push on the eastern front, especially Bakhmut, but also in the south. Adding to that, Russia with a vast advantage in resources and weapons, wants to keep its former Soviet neighbour in its orbit and prevent it from ever joining NATO.
As of the morning of February 24th, 2023, Moscow holds nearly a fifth of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, a large part of the eastern industrial Donbas region and broad areas in the south, including Europe’s largest nuclear power station in Zaporizhzhia.
These territorial gains came at a large cost for Moscow’s ego, public appearance, with humiliating setbacks and retreats, throughout the year. At the same time, the Russian military has struggled to regroup following a year of heavy casualties and loss of equipment.
As the conflict enters its second year, several analysts speculate that with the help of Western weapons, Kyiv will be able to hold its position and push back the Russian troops in the south, while others notice that Russia has now adapted to the battlefield, avoiding the humiliating mistakes seen in the early phases of the conflict, and will most likely try to hold the parts of Ukraine it currently occupies, and take the rest of the four south-eastern regions Putin has declared belong to Moscow.
With neither side gaining enough leverage to impose terms in negotiations, the war will probably continue throughout 2023. Our analysts argue that the current stalemate will sooner or later lead to a “settlement” of the frontlines, with Russia holding Crimea and much of Donbas. This could lead to a truce, which could then lead to peace talks.
But as Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy stated, “any territorial compromises would make us weaker as a state”, making it abundantly clear that Kyiv’s approach will be the retreat of Russian troops from all Ukrainian territories, including Crimea.