On February 24,
a full-scale invasion
Russia’s war on
one year on
February 23, 2023
Putin orders a so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine. Photo: Sergei Illnitsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock, Video: Reuters
A photo provided by the Ukrainian President's office appears to show an explosion in Kyiv. There were explosions in a number of cities as Russia’s invasion began before dawn. Ukrainian President's Office
Audio of the exchange between Russian and Ukrainian military has been edited down for brevity. The Armed Forces of Ukraine
A satellite view of Snake Island. Maxar Technologies
The destroyed Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo plane is seen at the Antonov airfield in Hostomel, Ukraine. Mikhail Palinchak/Reuters
A satellite view shows fires and damage at Antonov Airport. Maxar Technologies
Ukrainian President Volodymyr and his cabinet declare ”We’re here” in Kyiv. From Facebook/Office of the President of Ukraine
A mother and son rest in Lviv, Ukraine, while waiting to board a train to Poland. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Not included on map: 134,000 refugees to other European countries. Russia total includes approximately 96,000 people from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions between Feb. 18 and Feb. 23. Totals for all other countries represent arrivals since Feb. 24. Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Data as of March 4.
People crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee across the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv. Emilio Morenatti/AP
Ukrainian soldiers try to save a man after an apparent Russian mortar attack killed Tetiana Perebyinis and her two children in Irpin. He had a weak pulse, however, and died, according to The New York Times. This graphic photo was widely shared around the world. Lynsey Addario/Getty Images
Emergency workers carry an injured pregnant woman outside of the bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
Drone footage of the destroyed Mariupol theater with the word “children” written outside. Reuters
Note: Photo from March 14, 2022. Source: Maxar Technologies
Bodies of civilians are seen in Bucha. Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times/Redux
A dead man’s eyes are open inside a body bag in Bucha. Carol Guzy/Zuma
Images emerged on social media showing Russia's guided-missile cruiser, the Moskva, badly damaged and on fire in the hours before it sank in the Black Sea. From Social Media
Ukrainian soldiers rest in their shelter inside the ruined Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Dmytro Kozatsky/Ukrainian National Guard Press Office/AP
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant. AP
Note: Photo from April 9, 2022. Source: Metinvest; Tim Lister, CNN; Maxar Technologies
A Ukrainian national guard serviceman stands next to a Ukrainian flag atop a destroyed Russian tank in the Kharkiv region. Leo Correa/AP
Ukrainian soldiers fire in the recently retaken city of Kupiansk. Kostiantyn Liberov/AP
A field is covered with craters left by shelling. Kostiantyn Liberov/AP
Wounded Ukrainian soldiers are seen inside a vehicle in the Kharkiv region. Kostiantyn Liberov/AP
*Latest available at time of production. Note: Net gains or losses are calculated by subtracting net land controlled in a month from the net land controlled in the previous month. Net land controlled is calculated by subtracting the total extent of territory lost within a month from the total extent of territory gained within that month. Source: The Institute for the Study of War with AEI’s Critical Threats Project
An Orthodox priest conducts a service for drafted reservists during a ceremony before their departure from Sevastopol, Crimea. Alexey Pavlisha/Reuters
Police detain a protester in Moscow after Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of citizens. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Smoke billows from the Kerch Strait road-and-rail bridge that links Crimea to Russia. Vera Katkova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Firefighters work to put out a fire at a power station hit by a Russian missile in Kyiv. Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images
People eat lunch by candlelight during a power outage in Kyiv. Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson stands with civilians in liberated Kherson as they sing. CNN
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden meet in the Oval Office of the White House. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
President Zelensky speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
President Zelensky and President Biden walk through the White House colonnade. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
During Zelensky’s address to Congress, US Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a Ukrainian flag signed by members of Ukraine’s military. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, right, sits on a Leopard 2 tank at field barracks in Germany. Martin Meissner/AP
President Biden and President Zelensky visit St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv. Gleb Garanich/Reuters
As Ukrainians mark a year since Russia’s full-scale invasion began, they know there’s no end yet in sight. The Ukrainian government has warned it believes Russia is preparing to launch another big offensive this spring.
February 24, 2022
Putin announces a “special military operation”
In the early hours of February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine.
Kyiv’s Western allies had been warning of looming Russian aggression for months. Still, Putin’s decision came as a shock to many in Ukraine and across the world.
Speaking on Russian state television, he announced the launch of what he called a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazifiy” Ukraine.
Moments later, the first explosions were heard across Ukraine.
February 24, 2022
Despite Putin threatening “consequences you have never experienced in your history” for anyone trying to interfere, Ukraine was determined to fight back.
An exchange between Ukrainian and Russian fighters on the first day of the war became a symbol of this defiance.
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.”
February 24, 2022
Antonov Airport battle
The capture of the Antonov airfield, a major cargo airport just north of Kyiv, was the first major victory notched up by the Russians.
But it didn’t go according to Moscow’s plan.
Russian troops inside the airport were encircled, without a chance to bring in reinforcements quickly.
By the time Ukrainian troops withdrew from the area, the airport had sustained so much damage it was not possible for Russia to use it to resupply.
The world’s largest plane, the Antonov An-225, was destroyed during the battle.
February 25, 2022
Zelensky’s “We’re here” video
Amid the chaos of the opening hours of the war, rumors started to swirl about Ukraine’s leadership fleeing the country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team reacted by filming a video of themselves in central Kyiv, reassuring the nation.
“We are all here defending our independence, our state and it will remain so. Glory to our defenders! Glory to our women defenders! Glory to Ukraine!” Zelensky said.
The president had refused a US offer to evacuate, according to the Ukrainian government, saying: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
March 2, 2022
Refugees at the Polish border
The brutality of Russia’s invasion forced hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to flee the country.
The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said that at least 100,000 people had left their homes in the first 24 hours of the military assault.
Thousands of cars formed queues at the borders, with people waiting several days to cross into neighboring Poland. Many others fled by train, waiting at train stations for days to cram into overcrowded carriages.
The majority were women, children and the elderly, as men of fighting age were largely prohibited from leaving the country.
March 6, 2022
Irpin bridge evacuation
As Russian troops began to approach Kyiv, people living in the northwestern suburbs of the capital got caught up in some of the heaviest street-by-street fighting of the war so far.
The main bridge crossing the Irpin River was destroyed by Ukrainians to thwart a Russian advance, which made evacuations difficult. According to the Ukrainian authorities, hundreds of civilians died attempting to flee.
March 9, 2022
Mariupol maternity hospital attack
A maternity hospital in the southeastern city of Mariupol was hit by a Russian missile. The attack came despite Russia agreeing to a 12-hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate.
A photo of a pregnant woman injured in the bombing being carried on a stretcher outside the devastated hospital became emblematic of Russia’s senseless aggression against its neighbor.
The woman and her baby both died.
March 16, 2022
Mariupol theater bombing
The bombing of Mariupol’s Drama Theater was among the most brazen of Russia’s attacks on civilians.
Ukrainian officials estimated 1,300 people were sheltering in the theater in the centre of a city which had, at that point, been under siege for weeks.
Around 300 died that day, authorities said at the time, but subsequent reports suggested the death toll could be higher.
Russia, which had been bombarding the city for weeks, denied its forces were responsible.
Painted on the ground outside the building — in giant Cyrillic letters visible from the air — was the word “CHILDREN.”
April 1, 2022
Bucha atrocities uncovered
When Russian troops withdrew from Bucha in early April, they left behind a trail of destruction — and evidence of summary executions, brutality and indiscriminate shelling.
Images showing dozens of bodies of civilians scattered around a single street in Bucha prompted calls for Russia to be investigated for war crimes.
Russia made baseless claims that the images were fake and has prosecuted several Russian journalists and dissidents who spoke up about the killings for spreading “false information” about the war.
International experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said they found “grave breaches” of international humanitarian law by Russian forces.
April 14, 2022
The sinking of the Moskva
Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank on April 14.
The cause remains disputed. Ukraine said it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles, sparking a fire that detonated stored ammunition. Russia blamed a fire of unknown origin.
Whatever the reason, the loss of the guided-missile cruiser was a major military embarrassment for Russia and its biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years.
May 17, 2022
Mariupol steel plant defenders
The sprawling Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol became another symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the face of a much larger enemy.
Defenders of the plant withstood weeks of relentless Russian bombardment before finally surrendering in May.
Ukrainian officials praised the fighters, saying their fierce defense of the complex had stalled Russian forces and prevented the capture of Zaporizhzhia, further west.
September 1, 2022
Russian forces flee Kharkiv region
A blistering Ukrainian counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine in September recaptured large swaths of territory and forced Russian troops to flee the Kharkiv region.
Moscow tried to spin the hasty withdrawal as “regrouping.”
But in a sign of just how badly things were going for Russia, the military was publicly criticized by a number of high-profile Kremlin loyalists including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who supplied thousands of fighters to the offensive.
September 21, 2022
Russia’s partial mobilization starts
Following a string of embarrassing defeats in Ukraine, Putin announced Russia’s first mobilization since World War II on September 21.
The controversial draft sparked protests — a rare sight in Russia — and an exodus of men of fighting age from the country.
The partial mobilization was beset by errors and produced fighters that were poorly equipped and largely untrained. However, it significantly increased Russia’s troop numbers.
October 8, 2022
Crimea bridge attack
In another major blow to Moscow, the only bridge connecting Russia with the Crimean Peninsula was severely damaged by an explosion.
The Kerch Strait road-and-rail bridge is both strategically important and hugely symbolic. It was opened by Putin in 2018, four years after Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
October 10, 2022
A new phase of the war began when Russia launched the first of several waves of missile strikes on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure.
Using missiles, artillery shells and Iranian-made drones, Moscow began targeting Ukrainian power facilities, leaving large areas of the country without power and water.
November 12, 2022
Kherson liberation scenes
After eight months of brutal Russian occupation, the southern city of Kherson was liberated on November 12, prompting scenes of celebration by residents.
Russia’s hasty withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River was another bleak moment for Moscow, since Kherson was the only Ukrainian regional capital that Russian forces had captured.
Putin himself had formally declared Kherson to be Russian territory just weeks before his troops’ retreat.
December 21, 2022
Zelensky at the White House
On December 21, Zelensky traveled to Washington, DC to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House and to address the US Congress.
It was a historic and consequential visit, the first foreign trip Zelensky had made since Russia launched its invasion.
Just ahead of Zelensky’s arrival, the Biden administration announced it was sending nearly $2 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine — including a sophisticated new Patriot air defense system.
January 25, 2023
Germany approves sending tanks to Ukraine
After weeks of geopolitical squabbling, a major moment arrived on January 25 when Germany announced it would provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and allow other European countries to export the German-made battle tank.
At the same time, Biden said the US would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
The move was hailed as a breakthrough in the West’s military support for Ukraine and signaled a bullish view in the West about Ukraine’s ability to reclaim occupied territory.
February 20, 2023
Biden visits Kyiv
Biden made a highly symbolic surprise visit to Kyiv on February 20, his first since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Standing alongside Zelensky, the US president recalled how the pair spoke by phone as Russian forces rolled in. “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden declared. “The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.” Zelensky said Biden’s visit brought Ukraine “closer to victory.”
The two leaders went on a walkabout in Kyiv just as air raid sirens sounded across the city.