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Russia's invasion of Ukraine one year on: A timeline

From the chaos in Kyiv as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine to the siege of Mariupol and the liberation of Kherson, CNA takes a look back at some of the key moments of Europe's largest conflict since World War II.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine one year on: A timeline

A woman looks at the grave of her husband, Ukrainian serviceman Serhiy Klymenko, at a cemetery in Kharkiv on Dec 23, 2022. (File photo: AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

SINGAPORE: Friday (Feb 24) marks one year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

In the 365 days since the conflict began, thousands have been killed, millions have fled their homes and cities across Ukraine have been reduced to rubble.

A year on, there is no end in sight, and there are ever-present concerns that the war could spread beyond its current battlegrounds.

Here is a look back at some of the key moments of Europe's largest conflict since World War II.

Feb 24, 2022: War returns to Europe

After months of rising tensions with roots in the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union and the 2014 toppling of a pro-Russia Ukrainian president, Russian President Vladimir Putin launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south.

Airstrikes are reported in the capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv while troops are said to have landed in Mairupol and Odesa.

While Russian troops had been massing at the countries' border for weeks, the sirens and shelling on that Thursday morning still shock the world.

Putin says in an address to the nation that he had ordered a "special military operation" to bring about the "demilitarisation" and "denazification" of Ukraine, protect ethnic Russians in the country and prevent Kyiv from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, compares Russia's invasion of his country to military campaigns carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Women, children, the elderly and foreign students begin to flee, many with pets in tow, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Russia makes swift territorial gains, taking control of Snake Island in the Black Sea and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Countries around the world begin to slap sanctions on Russia, though many notably do not.

From Melbourne to Mexico City and Tokyo to Tel Aviv, and even in Moscow and St Petersburg, protesters begin taking to the streets to condemn the invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seen with his advisers in Kyiv on Feb 25, 2022, in a screengrab from a video posted on social media. (Image: AFP/Facebook/Volodymyr Zelenskyy)

Feb 25, 2022: "We are all here"

Russian troops quickly reach Kyiv's outskirts, but their attempts to capture the capital and other cities in the north-east meet stiff resistance.

Amid rumours that he had fled the country Zelenskyy records a video outside his headquarters to show he is staying and remains in charge.

"We are here," he says, standing in front of the presidency building, flanked by his top advisers. "We are in Kyiv. We are protecting Ukraine."

"Our army is here. Our civil society is here. We are all here," he continues, holding the camera himself and wearing military green.

"We are defending our independence, our state, and we will continue to do so."

One person caught up in the Kyiv fighting is Singaporean former actor Ix Shen, whose wife is a Ukrainian reservist medical officer. The couple say they have no plans to evacuate and that their main focus is to "help in any way".

They would eventually leave for Poland in March, before returning to help in humanitarian efforts a month later.

Listen: What will be Ukraine President Zelenskyy's legacy?

In this picture posted on social media on Mar 2, 2022, by Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya, the building of the Permanent Mission of Singapore to the UN in New York is seen lit up in the colours of Ukraine's flag. (Photo: Twitter/Sergiy Kyslytsya)

Feb 28, 2022: "We uphold principles"

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announces that Singapore will impose sanctions on Russia "in concert with other like-minded countries", citing "the unprecedented gravity" of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions include imposing export controls on items that can be used directly as weapons in Ukraine, and blocking certain Russian bank and financial transactions connected to Russia.

Delivering a ministerial statement on the matter in Parliament, Dr Balakrishnan details Singapore's approach to conducting foreign policy.

"Instead of choosing sides, we uphold principles" he says.

He adds that Singapore must expect the measures to "come at some cost and implications" for businesses, citizens and to the country.

"However, unless we, as a country, stand up for principles that are the very foundation for the independence and sovereignty of smaller nations, our own right to exist and prosper as a nation may similarly be called into question," he says.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterates Dr Balakrishnan's points in a post on social media, as does Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Burhan Gafoor in a speech during a rare emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Russian ground forces are seen as they approach Nova Kakhovka, near Kherson, in a Maxar satellite image taken and released on Feb 26, 2022. (Image: AFP/Maxar Technologies)

Mar 2, 2022: Kherson falls

A week into the invasion, the southern city of Kherson becomes the first major urban centre to fall into Russia's hands.

In the opening days of March, Russian forces also seize the rest of the Kherson region and occupy a large part of the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, including the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest.

However, the Russian army has also found itself mired near Kyiv, and its convoys – stretching along highways leading to the Ukrainian capital – become easy prey for Ukrainian artillery and drones.

In New York, meanwhile, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopts a resolution demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine.

A total of 141 of the UN's 193 members vote in favour of the resolution, which "reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity".

Thirty-five members abstain, including China, while five vote against the resolution – Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria joining Russia in the "no" column.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (centre, speaking) and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski (left), Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (second from left) and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (third from left) hold a joint briefing following their meeting in Kyiv on Mar 15, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Ukraine Presidency handout)

Mar 15, 2022: A show of solidarity

In the first of many high-profile visits by world leaders to show support for Ukraine, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia arrive in Kyiv by train.

"It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made. It is here, that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki writes on Twitter.

In the months that followed, then United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Sholz, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be among the dozens of leaders to call on Zelenskyy, along with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The destroyed Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol is seen in a satellite image distributed by Maxar Technologies on Mar 29, 2022. The giant white letters on the ground next to the theatre read "DETI", "children" in Russian. (Image: AFP/Maxar Technologies)

Mar 16, 2022: "Children"

Ukraine claims that Russia has destroyed a theatre harbouring more than a thousand people in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

Officials post images that appear to show the once gleaming whitewashed three-storey theatre hollowed out and ablaze, with bricks and scaffolding piled high.

Days before the apparent attack, satellite images shared by private company Maxar clearly showed the word "DETI" –  "children" in Russian – etched out in the ground on either side of the building.

Russia's defence ministry denies that its forces bombed the city and states that the building was destroyed in an explosion set off by Ukraine's nationalist Azov battalion.

Moscow had already blamed the military unit for the bombing a week earlier of a maternity hospital in Mariupol.

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kyiv on Mar 28, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Sergei Supinsky)

Mar 29, 2022: Russia steps back from Kyiv

After "meaningful" talks in Istanbul, Russia says that it will "radically" reduce its military activity in northern Ukraine, including near the capital Kyiv.

Moscow says that it will instead focus on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.

Some analysts note that Russia's promise to reduce fighting mostly covers areas where it has been losing ground.

Apr 3, 2022: Bucha

The Russian pullback from Kyiv reveals hundreds of bodies of civilians in mass graves or left in the streets of the town of Bucha, many of them bearing signs of torture in scenes that prompt world leaders to say Russia should be held accountable for possible war crimes.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine and says that the deaths in Bucha were a "monstrous forgery" staged by the West to discredit it.

Days later, on Apr 7, the UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

A woman passes by bodies covered with plastic sheets after a rocket attack killed dozens of people at a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on Apr 8, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Fadel Senna)

Apr 8, 2022: Kramatorsk

A missile strike on a train station in eastern Ukraine kills dozens as civilians race to evacuate, fearing a looming Russian offensive in the region.

World leaders condemn the attack in Kramatorsk, the capital of Donetsk, with United States President Joe Biden accusing Russia of being behind a "horrific atrocity" that the French condemn as a "crime against humanity".

At least 52 people including five children are dead, the regional government says, while Zelenskyy reports 300 wounded, saying that the strike showed "evil with no limits".

Russia denies being behind the strike.

A Kyiv resident holds up Ukrainian stamps depicting a border guard giving the middle finger to the Moskva on Apr 15, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Fadel Senna)

Apr 14, 2022: The sinking of the Moskva

The Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, sinks after being evacuated following a fire and an explosion.

Ukraine claims that a successful missile strike did the damage, while Russia says it was exploding ammunition that proved to be fatal for the cruiser.

May 16, 2022: Last stand in Mariupol

Troops holed up in the giant Azovstal steel mill, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged port of Mariupol, begin evacuating, appearing to cede control of the once prosperous city to Russia after months of bombardment.

Ukraine's military says it has "ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel" and that troops there have fulfilled their combat mission.

Ukrainian troops say they held out in the steel mill for 82 days, buying time for the rest of Ukraine to battle Russian forces and secure Western arms needed to withstand Russia's assault.

Mariupol's fall cuts Ukraine off from the Azov coast and secures a land corridor from the Russian border to Crimea.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg poses with application documents presented by Finland's ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen and Sweden's ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff during a ceremony in Brussels on May 18, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Johanna Geron, Pool)

May 18, 2022: NATO expansion?

Finland and Sweden submit their applications to join NATO in a major blow to Moscow over the expansion of the military alliance.

Sweden and Finland were both neutral throughout the Cold War, and their decision to join NATO is one of the most significant changes in Europe's security architecture for decades, reflecting a sweeping shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia launched its invasion.

"This is a historic moment, which we must seize," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says at a short ceremony in which the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance hand over their application letters.

Jun 1, 2022: HIMARS on the way

The US says that it will supply advanced rockets to Kyiv to help it force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war.

US President Joe Biden announces the supply of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and munitions that could strike with precision at long-range Russian targets as part of a US$700 million weapons package.

The new supplies come on top of billions of dollars worth of other equipment already provided by the US including drones and anti-aircraft missiles.

Addressing concerns that such weapons could draw the United States into direct conflict, senior administration officials say that Ukraine gave assurances the missiles would not be used to strike inside Russia.

Moscow says it views the new US aid package "extremely negatively".

This handout picture taken and released by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine on Jul 7, 2022, shows the Ukrainian flag flying on Snake Island. (File photo: AFP/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine handout)

Jun 30, 2022: Russia withdraws from Snake Island

Occupied since day one of the conflict, Snake Island is abandoned by Russian troops. The pullback weakens Russia's blockade of Ukraine's ports.

Russia says it pulled out as a "gesture of goodwill" to show that it was not obstructing UN attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grain to be shipped from Ukraine.

The island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, when the rocky outcrop's defenders told a Russian warship that called on them to surrender to "go f**k yourself", an incident that spurred a defiant meme and commemorative postage stamps.

The bulk carrier MV Razoni, carrying a cargo of 26,000 tonnes of corn, leaves the Ukrainian port of Odesa on Aug 1, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Oleksandr Gimanov)

Jul 22, 2022: Ukrainian Black Sea grain shipments resume

With mediation by Turkey and the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine agree on a deal to unblock supplies of grain stuck in Ukraine's Black Sea ports, ending a stand-off that threatened global food security.

The UN expects the deal to restore shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes a month, senior UN officials say.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world's top food exporters, and Moscow's invasion had blockaded Ukrainian ports, stranding dozens of ships, leaving 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos and driving up world grain prices.

The first shipment under the deal would leave Ukraine on Aug 1.

People rest on a beach in Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Aug 9, 2022, as smoke and flames rise after explosions at a Russian military airbase. (File photo: Reuters/Stringer)

Aug 9, 2022: Explosions in Crimea

Powerful explosions strike an air base in Crimea, with more blasts hitting 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.

Russia's defence ministry is adamant that the "detonation of several aviation ammunition stores" had caused the explosions, however, Ukraine's top military officer later acknowledges that the attacks were launched by Kyiv's forces.

A portrait of Darya Dugina, who was killed in a car bomb explosion, is displayed near her coffin as the letter "Z", the tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, is seen on the clothing of an attendee of a farewell ceremony for her at the Ostankino TV centre in Moscow on Aug 23, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Aug 20, 2022: The killing of Darya Dugina

Darya Dugina, the daughter of Russian nationalist ideologist Alexander Dugin, is killed in a car bomb explosion outside Moscow that the Russian authorities blame on Ukraine.

Dugina, a 29-year-old commentator with a nationalist Russian TV channel, dies when a remotely controlled explosive device planted in her SUV blows up on the night of Aug 20 as she is driving on the outskirts of Moscow, ripping the vehicle apart and killing her on the spot, authorities say.

Both she and her father, who is a philosopher, writer and political theorist, ardently supported Putin's decision to send troops into Ukraine.

Kyiv vehemently denies any involvement in her death.

Sep 21, 2022: Russia mobilises reservists, stages referendums

Amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive which has seen the retaking of cities like Izium and Kupiansk, Putin orders the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists – Russia's first wartime mobilisation since World War II.

It is an unpopular move that prompts hundreds of thousands of Russian men to flee to neighbouring countries to avoid recruitment.

Putin also effectively announces plans to annex four Ukrainian provinces, saying that Moscow would assist with referendums on Ukraine's Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions becoming part of Russia, and implement the results.

On Sep 27, authorities in the four regions and the TASS news agency say that an overwhelming majority of people there have voted to join Russia.

On Sep 30, Putin signs documents to annex the four regions at a Kremlin ceremony.

Sep 29, 2022: Leaks found in Nord Stream pipelines

Russia says that leaks spewing gas into the Baltic Sea from pipelines to Germany appear to have been the result of state-sponsored "terrorism", as a European Union official says the incident had fundamentally changed the nature of the conflict in Ukraine.

The EU is investigating the cause of the leaks in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines and has said that it suspects sabotage was behind the damage off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden.

Four days after the leaks were first spotted, it remains unclear who might be behind any attack.

Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge that links Crimea to Russia on Oct 8, 2022. (File photo: AFP)

Oct 8, 2022: Crimea bridge damaged in blast

A truck laden with explosives blows up on the bridge linking Crimea to Russia's mainland, seriously damaging the road-and-rail link.

The bridge is a prestige symbol of Moscow's annexation of the peninsula and a key supply route to Russian forces battling to hold territory captured in southern Ukraine.

Russia responds to the attack on Oct 10 with missile strikes on Ukraine's power plants and other key infrastructure.

The barrage would continue on a regular basis in the months that followed, resulting in blackouts and power rationing across the country.

Nov 11, 2022: Kherson is liberated

Days after Russia announced a pullback from Kherson under a Ukrainian counteroffensive, abandoning the only regional centre Moscow captured – jubilant residents welcome Ukrainian troops arriving in the city.

The withdrawal marks the third major Russian retreat of the war.

"Today is a historic day. We are getting the south of the country back, we are getting Kherson back," Zelenskyy says in an evening video address.

Russia says it has withdrawn 30,000 troops across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier. But Ukrainians paint a picture of a chaotic retreat, with Russian troops ditching their uniforms, dropping weapons and drowning while trying to flee.

Dec 5, 2022: Russian airbases hit by drones

The Russian military says that Ukraine used drones to target two bases for long-range bombers deep inside Russian territory.

Another strike takes place later in the month, underlining Ukraine's readiness to up the ante and revealing gaps in Russian defences.

Under its usual policy on incidents inside Russia, Ukraine does not comment.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the United States Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a Ukrainian flag that Zelenskyy gave them at the US Capitol in Washington on Dec 21, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Dec 21, 2022: Zelenskyy goes to Washington

In his first trip abroad since the war began, Zelenskyy heads to Washington where he meets with Biden to secure Patriot air defence missile systems and other weapons, and addresses the US Congress.

"Your money is not charity," Zelenskyy says, clad in the khaki fatigues that have been his public uniform throughout the conflict. "It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way."

His arrival is greeted with multiple raucous ovations in the nearly full chamber, with three members holding up a large Ukrainian flag as he walks in.

He also presents Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris with a Ukrainian flag signed by frontline soldiers.

"It is a great honour for me to be at the US Congress and speak to you and all Americans. Against all doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine did not fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking," he says.

Debris from a temporary deployment centre for Russian soldiers in Makiivka in Ukraine's Donetsk region is seen on Jan 16, 2023. (File photo: AFP/Stringer)

Jan 1, 2023: Russia's biggest reported loss

Just moments into the new year, scores of freshly mobilised Russian soldiers are killed by a Ukrainian missile strike on the city of Makiivka.

Russia's defence ministry says that 89 troops were killed, while Ukrainian officials put the death toll in the hundreds.

The ministry later blames the attack on the illegal mass use of mobile phones by servicemen.

"This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers' location for a missile strike," it says in a statement on Jan 4.

Ukrainian army medics evacuate a wounded soldier on a road near Soledar in the Donetsk region on Jan 14, 2023. (File photo: AFP/Anatolii Stepanov)

Jan 13, 2023: Soledar is captured

After months of ferocious fighting, Russia declares the capture of the salt-mining town of Soledar on Jan 12, although Kyiv does not acknowledge this until days later.

It is Russia's first significant gain since July 2022.

Moscow also presses its offensive to seize the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut.

On Jan 14, when 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.

Ukrainian soldiers who are undergoing training at Bovington Camp, a British Army base in south-west England, wave a Ukrainian flag on Feb 22, 2023. (File photo: AFP/Ben Birchall, Pool)

Jan 25, 2023: Tanks pledged by US, Germany

The United States and Germany announce just hours apart that they will supply Ukraine with advanced battle tanks.

The US promises 31 M1 Abrams tanks worth US$400 million in a matter of months, while Germany says it will send an initial company of 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its own stocks and also approve shipments by allied European states.

The announcements follow the UK's decision to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

United States President Joe Biden walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in front of St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery as he arrives in Kyiv on Feb 20, 2023. (File photo: AFP/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service handout)

Feb 20, 2023: Biden goes to Kyiv

Biden makes a trip to Kyiv organised in strict secrecy where he promises US$500 million in fresh arms deliveries and "unwavering" American support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

Air raid sirens ring out across Kyiv at one point as Biden walks alongside Zelenskyy during what is the US president's first visit to the country since Russian troops invaded.

"One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands," Biden says, speaking beside Zelenskyy at the Ukrainian president's official residence, the Mariinsky Palace.

"Putin's war of conquest is failing," he adds.

Zelenskyy hails the visit as a key sign of support.

Feb 21, 2023: Duelling speeches

In speeches just hours apart, Putin and Biden address the situation in Ukraine.

In his annual state of the nation address, Putin vows to continue with Russia's year-long war in Ukraine and accuses NATO of fanning the flames of the conflict in the mistaken belief that it could defeat Moscow in a global confrontation.

Later in the day in Poland, Biden rallies NATO allies, proclaiming support for Kyiv and a commitment to bolstering the alliance's eastern flank.

"One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv," Biden says at Warsaw's Royal Castle.

"I can report: Kyiv stands strong, Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and, most important, it stands free."

Source: Agencies/CNA/kg(zl)


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