Russian invasion of Ukraine

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2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Part of the Russo-Ukrainian War
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.svg
Military situation as of 22 February 2024
   Controlled by Ukraine
   Controlled by Russia

Date24 February 2022 (2022-02-24) – present
(1 year, 11 months, 4 weeks and 2 days)
Status Ongoing (list of engagements · territorial control · timeline of events)
Commanders and leaders
Units involved
Order of battle Order of battle
  •  Russia: ~175,000–190,000[6][7]
  • Donetsk PR: 20,000[8]
  • Luhansk PR: 14,000[8]
  •  Ukraine:
    • 196,600 (armed forces)
    • 102,000 (paramilitary)[9]
Strength estimates are as of the start of the invasion.
Casualties and losses
Reports vary widely, see Casualties for details.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that had begun in 2014. The invasion is the biggest attack on a European country since the Second World War. It is estimated to have caused tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands of military casualties. By April 2023, about 8 million Ukrainians had been internally displaced. More than 8.2 million had fled the country by May 2023, creating Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. Extensive environmental damage caused by the war contributed to food crises worldwide.

Before the invasion, Russian troops massed near Ukraine's borders as Russian officials denied any plans to attack. Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" to support the Russian-backed breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, whose paramilitary forces had been fighting Ukraine in the Donbas conflict since 2014. Putin espoused irredentist views challenging Ukraine's right to exist, and falsely claimed that Ukraine was governed by neo-Nazis persecuting the Russian minority. He said his goal was to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine. Russian air strikes and a ground invasion launched at a northern front from Belarus towards Kyiv, a northeastern front towards Kharkiv, a southern front from Crimea, and a southeastern front from the Donbas. Ukraine enacted martial law and ordered a general mobilization.

Russian troops retreated from the northern front by April 2022 after encountering logistical challenges and stiff Ukrainian resistance. On the southern and southeastern fronts, Russia captured Kherson in March and Mariupol in May after a destructive siege. Russia launched a renewed offensive in the Donbas and continued to bomb military and civilian targets far from the front line, including the energy grid through the winter. In late 2022, Ukraine launched counteroffensives in the south and east. Soon after, Russia announced the illegal annexation of four partly-occupied regions. In November, Ukraine retook parts of Kherson Oblast, including the city of Kherson itself. In June 2023, Ukraine launched another counteroffensive in the southeast.

The invasion met international condemnation. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the invasion and demanding a full Russian withdrawal in March 2022. The International Court of Justice ordered Russia to suspend military operations and the Council of Europe expelled Russia. Many countries imposed sanctions on Russia and its ally Belarus, and provided humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. Protests occurred around the world, with anti-war protesters in Russia subject to mass arrests and increased media censorship. Over 1,000 companies left Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion. The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into possible crimes against humanity, war crimes, abduction of children, and genocide, issuing an arrest warrant for Putin in March 2023.


After the Soviet Union (USSR) dissolved, several former Eastern Bloc states joined NATO due to regional conflicts and the security threat posed by Russia.[10] In return for security guarantees, Ukraine signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1994, agreeing to dismantle the nuclear weapons the USSR had left in Ukraine.[11][14]

But when Ukraine and Georgia sought to join NATO in 2008, Putin warned that their membership would be a threat to Russia.[15] Some NATO members worried about antagonizing Russia.[16] At the 2008 Bucharest summit, NATO refused to offer Ukraine and Georgia membership, but Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also issued a statement that they would join one day.[17] Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would do everything it could to prevent their admittance.[18] Putin claimed that NATO members promised in 1990 not to let Eastern European countries join, but this is disputed.[19]

Ukrainian revolution, Russian intervention in Crimea and Donbas

Ukraine, with the annexed Crimea in the south and two Russia-backed separatist republics in Donbas in the east

Kremlin adviser Sergei Glazyev announced in September 2013 that if Ukraine signed an EU agreement as planned, Russia would be unable to guarantee Ukraine's independence.[20] In November, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych closer ties with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Unionover joining the EU. This coerced withdrawal triggered a wave of protests known as Euromaidan, culminating in the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014. Pro-Russian unrest followed in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian soldiers with no insignia took strategic positions in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and seized the Crimean Parliament.[21] Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, after a a questioned referendum. The war in Donbas in April 2014 began when armed Russian-backed separatists seized Ukrainian government buildings and proclaimed the independent Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.[22][23] Russian troops were deeply involved in the conflict.[24] The ceasefires of the Minsk agreements, signed in September 2014 and February 2015 in a bid to stop the fighting, repeatedly failed.[25] A dispute emerged over the role of Russia: Normandy Format members France, Germany, and Ukraine saw Minsk as an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, but Russia insisted Ukraine should negotiate directly with the two separatist republics.[26][27]

Putin refused Volodymyr Zelenskyy's offer in 2021 to hold high-level talks. The Russian government endorsed an essay by former president Dmitry Medvedev that said it was pointless to deal with Ukraine, a "vassal" of the United States.[28]

The Crimea annexation and Donbas War sparked a new wave of Russian nationalism and Russian fascism, with calls to annex more Ukrainian land for Novorossiya (New Russia).[29] Analyst Vladimir Socor called Putin's 2014 speech after the annexation a "manifesto of Greater-Russia Irredentism."[30] In July 2021, Putin published an essay titled "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians", stating that Russians and Ukrainians are "one people."[31] In the build-up to the invasion, Putin claimed that Ukraine was created by Russian Bolsheviks and "never had a tradition of genuine statehood."[32] American historian Timothy Snyder described Putin's ideas as imperialism.[33] British journalist Edward Lucas described it as historical revisionism. Other observers found that Russian leadership held a distorted view of modern Ukraine, as well as its own history,[34] and these distortions have been cemented and propagated through the state.[35]


Russian military build-up around Ukraine as of 3 December 2021

In March and April 2021, Russia began a major military build-up near the Russia–Ukraine border.[36] A second build-up followed in both Russia and Belarus from October 2021 to February 2022.[37] Members of the Russian government repeatedly denied having plans to invade or attack Ukraine.[38][39] Sources say the decision to invade Ukraine was made by Putin and a small group of war hawks or siloviki in Putin's inner circle, including national security adviser Nikolai Patrushev and defense minister Sergei Shoigu.[40]

During the second build-up, Russia demanded that NATO sign a treaty that would forbid Ukraine or any former Soviet state from ever joining NATO, and end all NATO activity in Eastern Europe.[41] Russia threatened an unspecified military response if NATO followed an "aggressive line."[42] These demands were widely seen as non-viable; Eastern European states had willingly joined NATO for security reasons, and their governments sought protection from Russian irredentism.[43] A treaty to prevent Ukraine joining would go against NATO's "open door" policy, despite NATO's unenthusiastic response to Ukrainian requests to join.[44] NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg replied that "Russia has no say" on whether Ukraine joins, and that "Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence to try to control their neighbors."[45] NATO's official policy is that it does not seek confrontation, and NATO and Russia had co-operated until Russia annexed Crimea.[46] NATO offered to improve communication with Russia to discuss missile placements and military exercises, as long as Russia withdrew troops from Ukraine's borders,[47] but Russia did not do so.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both made efforts in February 2022 to prevent war.[48] Macron met Putin but failed to convince him not to go ahead with the invasion. Scholz warned Putin that heavy sanctions would be imposed should he invade Ukraine. Scholz, in trying to negotiate a settlement, also told Zelenskyy to declare neutrality and renounce aspirations to join NATO; however, Zelenskyy said Putin could not be trusted to uphold such a settlement.[49]

Putin's invasion announcement

On 21 February, Putin made an address announcing that Russia recognized the Russian-controlled territories of Ukraine as independent states: the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. The following day, Russia announced it was sending troops into the territories as "peacekeepers",[50] while the Federation Council of Russia authorised the use of military force abroad.[51]

Putin's address to the nation on 24 February 2022. Minutes after Putin's announcement, the invasion began.

On 24 February, before 5 a.m. Kyiv time,[52] Putin made another address, announcing a "special military operation", "effectively declar[ing] war on Ukraine."[53][54] Putin said the operation was to "protect the people" of the Donbas, the Russian-controlled breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. He falsely claimed they had been "been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime."[55] Putin also falsely claimed that Ukraine's government officials were neo-Nazis under Western control, that Ukraine was developing nuclear weapons, and that NATO was building up military infrastructure in Ukraine to threaten Russia.[56] He said Russia sought the "demilitarisation and denazification" of Ukraine.[57] Putin said he had no plans to occupy Ukraine and supported the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination.[56] Russian missiles struck targets throughout Ukraine,[58] and Russian troops invaded from the north, east, and south.[59] An alleged report from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) was leaked that said that the intelligence agency had not been aware of Putin's plan to invade Ukraine.[60]


Military control around Kyiv on 2 April 2022

The invasion began at dawn on 24 February,[53] and was described as the biggest attack on a European country since the Second World War.[61] Russia launched a simultaneous ground and air campaign, commencing air and missile strikes across Ukraine,[62][63] with some rockets reaching as far west as Lviv.[64] Fighting began in Luhansk Oblast near Milove village on the border with Russia at 3:40 a.m. Kyiv time.[65] The main infantry and tank attacks were launched in four spearhead incursions, creating a northern front launched towards Kyiv from Belarus, a southern front from Crimea, a southeastern front from the Russian-controlled Donbas, and an eastern front launched from Russia towards Kharkiv and Sumy.[66] Russian vehicles were subsequently marked with a white Z military symbol (a non-Cyrillic letter), believed to be a measure to prevent friendly fire.[67]

Immediately after the invasion began, Zelenskyy declared martial law in Ukraine.[68] The same evening, he ordered a general mobilisation of all Ukrainian males between 18 and 60 years old,[69] prohibiting them from leaving the country.[70] Wagner Group mercenaries and Kadyrovites contracted by the Kremlin reportedly made several attempts to assassinate Zelenskyy, including an operation involving several hundred mercenaries meant to infiltrate Kyiv with the aim of killing the Ukrainian president.[71] The Ukrainian government said anti-war officials in Russia's FSB, shared the plans with them.[72]

The Russian invasion was unexpectedly met by fierce Ukrainian resistance.[73] In Kyiv, Russia failed to take the city and was repulsed in the battles of Irpin, Hostomel, and Bucha. The Russians tried to encircle the capital, but its defenders under Oleksandr Syrskyi held their ground, very effectively using Western Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to thin Russian supply lines and stall the offensive.[74]

On the southern front, Russian forces capture the major city of Kherson on 2 March. A column of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles was ambushed on 9 March in Brovary and sustained heavy losses that forced them to retreat.[75] The Russian army adopted siege tactics on the western front around the key cities of Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv, but failed to capture them due to stiff resistance and logistical setbacks.[76] In Mykolaiv Oblast, Russian forces advanced as far as Voznesensk, but were repelled south of Mykolaiv. On 25 March, the Russian Defence Ministry stated that the first stage of the "military operation" in Ukraine was "generally complete", that the Ukrainian military forces had suffered serious losses, and the Russian military would now concentrate on the "liberation of Donbas."[77] The "first stage" of the invasion was conducted on four fronts, including one towards western Kyiv from Belarus by the Russian Eastern Military District, comprising the 29th, 35th, and 36th Combined Arms Armies. A second axis, deployed towards eastern Kyiv from Russia by the Central Military District (northeastern front), comprised the 41st Combined Arms Army and the 2nd Guards Combined Arms Army.[78]

A third axis was deployed towards Kharkiv by the Western Military District (eastern front), with the 1st Guards Tank Army and 20th Combined Arms Army. A fourth, southern front originating in occupied Crimea and Russia's Rostov oblast with an eastern axis towards Odesa and a western area of operations toward Mariupol was opened by the Southern Military District, including the 58th, 49th, and 8th Combined Arms Army, the latter also commanding the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian separatist forces in Donbas.[78] By 7 April, Russian troops deployed to the northern front by the Russian Eastern Military District pulled back from the Kyiv offensive, apparently to resupply and redeploy to the Donbas region to reinforce the renewed invasion of southeastern Ukraine. The northeastern front, including the Central Military District, was similarly withdrawn for resupply and redeployment to southeastern Ukraine.[78][79] On 26 April, delegates of the US and 40 allied nations met at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss forming a coalition to provide economic support and military supplies and refitting to Ukraine.[80] Following Putin's Victory Day speech in early May, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said no short term resolution to the invasion should be expected.[81]

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with members of the Ukrainian Army on 18 June 2022

Ukraine's reliance on Western-supplied equipment constrained operational effectiveness, as supplying countries feared that Ukraine would use Western-made matériel to strike targets in Russia.[82] Military experts disagreed on the future of the conflict; some suggested that Ukraine should trade territory for peace,[83] while others believed that Ukraine could maintain its resistance thanks to the Russian losses.[84]

By 30 May, disparities between Russian and Ukrainian artillery were apparent, with Ukrainian artillery being vastly outgunned, in terms of both range and number.[82] In response to US President Joe Biden's indication that enhanced artillery would be provided to Ukraine, Putin said that Russia would expand its invasion front to include new cities in Ukraine. In apparent retribution, Putin ordered a missile strike against Kyiv on 6 June after not directly attacking the city for several weeks.[85] On 10 June 2022, Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine's military intelligence, stated during the Severodonetsk campaign that the frontlines were where the future of the invasion would be decided: "This is an artillery war now, and we are losing in terms of artillery. Everything now depends on what [the west] gives us. Ukraine has one artillery piece to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces. Our western partners have given us about 10% of what they have."[86] On 29 June, Reuters reported that Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, updating U.S. intelligence assessment of the Russian invasion, said that U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the invasion will continue "for an extended period of time ... In short, the picture remains pretty grim and Russia's attitude toward the West is hardening."[87] On 5 July, BBC reported that extensive destruction by the Russian invasion would cause immense financial damage to Ukraine's reconstruction economy stating: "Ukraine needs $750bn for a recovery plan and Russian oligarchs should contribute to the cost, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has told a reconstruction conference in Switzerland."[88]

Initial invasion of Ukraine (24 February – 7 April)

Animated map of the Russian invasion from 24 February to 7 April 2022

The invasion began on 24 February, launched out of Belarus to target Kyiv, and from the northeast against the city of Kharkiv. The southeastern front was conducted as two separate spearheads, from Crimea and the southeast against Luhansk and Donetsk.

Kyiv and northern front

The Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aircraft ever built, was destroyed during the Battle of Antonov Airport.

Russian efforts to capture Kyiv included a probative spearhead on 24 February, from Belarus south along the west bank of the Dnipro River. The apparent intent was to encircle the city from the west, supported by two separate axes of attack from Russia along the east bank of the Dnipro: the western at Chernihiv, and from the east at Sumy. These were likely intended to encircle Kyiv from the north-east and east.[63][62]

"The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride."

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, allegedly 25 February 2022, Associated Press

Russia tried to seize Kyiv quickly, with Spetsnaz infiltrating into the city supported by airborne operations and a rapid mechanised advance from the north, but failed.[89][90] The United States contacted Zelenskyy and offered to help him flee the country, lest the Russian Army attempt to kidnap or kill him on seizing Kyiv; Zelenskyy responded that "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride."[91] The Washington Post, which described the quote as "one of the most-cited lines of the Russian invasion", was not entirely sure of the comment's accuracy. Reporter Glenn Kessler said it came from "a single source, but on the surface it appears to be a good one."[92] Russian forces advancing on Kyiv from Belarus gained control of the ghost town of Chernobyl.[93] Russian Airborne Forces attempted to seize two key airfields near Kyiv, launching an airborne assault on Antonov Airport,[94][95] and a similar landing at Vasylkiv, near Vasylkiv Air Base, on 26 February.[96][97]

By early March, Russian advances along the west side of the Dnipro were limited by Ukrainian defences.[63][62] As of 5 March, a large Russian convoy, reportedly 64 kilometres (40 mi) long, had made little progress toward Kyiv.[98] The London-based think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) assessed Russian advances from the north and east as "stalled."[99] Advances from Chernihiv largely halted as a siege began there. Russian forces continued to advance on Kyiv from the northwest, capturing Bucha, Hostomel, and Vorzel by 5 March,[100][101] though Irpin remained contested as of 9 March.[102] By 11 March, the lengthy convoy had largely dispersed and taken cover.[103] On 16 March, Ukrainian forces began a counter-offensive to repel Russian forces.[104] Unable to achieve a quick victory in Kyiv, Russian forces switched their strategy to indiscriminate bombing and siege warfare.[105][106]

On 25 March, a Ukrainian counter-offensive retook several towns to the east and west of Kyiv, including Makariv.[107][108] Russian troops in the Bucha area retreated north at the end of March. Ukrainian forces entered the city on 1 April.[109] Ukraine said it had recaptured the entire region around Kyiv, including Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel, and uncovered evidence of war crimes in Bucha.[110] On 6 April, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said that the Russian "retraction, resupply, and redeployment" of their troops from the Kyiv area should be interpreted as an expansion of Putin's plans for Ukraine, by redeploying and concentrating his forces on eastern Ukraine.[79] Kyiv was generally left free from attack apart from isolated missile strikes. One did occur while UN Secretary-General António Guterres was visiting Kyiv on 28 April to discuss the survivors of the siege of Mariupol with Zelenskyy. One person was killed and several were injured in the attack.[111]

Northeastern front

Russian forces advanced into Chernihiv Oblast on 24 February and besieged its administrative capital. The next day Russian forces attacked and captured Konotop.[112][better source needed][113] A separate advance into Sumy Oblast the same day attacked the city of Sumy, just 35 kilometres (22 mi) from the Russo-Ukrainian border. The advance bogged down in urban fighting, and Ukrainian forces successfully held the city, claiming more than 100 Russian armoured vehicles were destroyed and dozens of soldiers were captured.[114] Russian forces also attacked Okhtyrka, deploying thermobaric weapons.[115]

On 4 March, Frederick Kagan wrote that the Sumy axis was then "the most successful and dangerous Russian avenue of advance on Kyiv", and commented that the geography favoured mechanised advances as the terrain "is flat and sparsely populated, offering few good defensive positions."[62] Travelling along highways, Russian forces reached Brovary, an eastern suburb of Kyiv, on 4 March.[63][62] The Pentagon confirmed on 6 April that the Russian army had left Chernihiv Oblast, but Sumy Oblast remained contested.[116] On 7 April, the governor of Sumy Oblast said that Russian troops were gone, but left behind rigged explosives and other hazards.[117]

Southern front

A destroyed Russian BMP-3 near Mariupol, 7 March 2022

On 24 February, Russian forces took control of the North Crimean Canal. Troops used explosives to destroy the dam across the river, allowing Crimea to obtain water from the Dnieper which had been cut off since 2014.[118] On 26 February, the siege of Mariupol began as the attack moved east linking to separatist-held Donbas.[115][119] En route, Russian forces entered Berdiansk and captured it.[120] On 1 March, Russian forces attacked Melitopol and nearby cities.[121] On 25 February, Russian units from the DPR were fighting near Pavlopil as they moved on Mariupol.[122] By evening, the Russian Navy began an amphibious assault on the coast of the Sea of Azov 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of Mariupol. A US defence official said that Russian forces were deploying thousands of marines from this beachhead.[123][124]

The Russian 22nd Army Corps approached the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on 26 February[125] and besieged Enerhodar. A fire began,[126][127] but the Ukrainian military said that essential equipment was undamaged.[128] A third Russian attack group from Crimea moved northwest and captured the bridge over the Dnieper.[129] On 2 March, Russian troops took Kherson; this was the first major city to fall to Russian forces.[130] Russian troops moved on Mykolaiv and attacked it two days later. They were repelled by Ukrainian forces.[131] On 2 March, Ukrainian forces initiated a counter-offensive on Horlivka,[132] controlled by the DPR.[133]

After renewed missile attacks on 14 March in Mariupol, the Ukrainian government said more than 2,500 had died.[134] By 18 March, Mariupol was completely encircled and fighting reached the city centre, hampering efforts to evacuate civilians.[135] On 20 March, an art school sheltering around 400 people, was destroyed by Russian bombs.[136] The Russians demanded surrender, and the Ukrainians refused.[66][137] On 27 March, Ukrainian deputy prime minister Olha Stefanishyna said that "(m)ore than 85 percent of the whole town is destroyed."[138]

Putin told Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on 29 March that the bombardment of Mariupol would only end when the Ukrainians surrendered.[139] On 1 April, Russian troops refused safe passage into Mariupol to 50 buses sent by the United Nations to evacuate civilians, as peace talks continued in Istanbul.[140] On 3 April, following the retreat of Russian forces from Kyiv, Russia expanded its attack on southern Ukraine further west, with bombardment and strikes against Odesa, Mykolaiv, and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.[141][142]

Eastern front

Russian bombardment on the outskirts of Kharkiv, 1 March 2022

In the east, Russian troops attempted to capture Kharkiv, less than 35 kilometres (22 mi) from the Russian border,[143][144] and met strong Ukrainian resistance. On 25 February, the Millerovo air base was attacked by Ukrainian military forces with OTR-21 Tochka missiles, which according to Ukrainian officials, destroyed several Russian Air Force planes and started a fire.[64] On 1 March, Denis Pushilin, head of the DPR, announced that DPR forces had almost completely surrounded the city of Volnovakha.[145] On 2 March, Russian forces were repelled from Sievierodonetsk during an attack against the city.[146] Izium was reportedly captured by Russian forces on 17 March,[147] although fighting continued.[148]

On 25 March, the Russian defence ministry said it would seek to occupy major cities in eastern Ukraine.[149] On 31 March, the Ukrainian military confirmed Izium was under Russian control,[150] and PBS News reported renewed shelling and missile attacks in Kharkiv, as bad or worse than before, as peace talks with Russia were to resume in Istanbul.[151]

Amid the heightened Russian shelling of Kharkiv on 31 March, Russia reported a helicopter strike against an oil supply depot approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of the border in Belgorod, and accused Ukraine of the attack.[152] Ukraine denied responsibility.[153] By 7 April, the renewed massing of Russian invasion troops and tank divisions around the towns of Izium, Sloviansk, and Kramatorsk prompted Ukrainian government officials to advise the remaining residents near the eastern border of Ukraine to evacuate to western Ukraine within 2–3 days, given the absence of arms and munitions previously promised to Ukraine by then.[154]

Southeastern front (8 April – 5 September)

Animated map of the Russian invasion from 7 April to 5 September 2022

By 17 April, Russian progress on the southeastern front appeared to be impeded by opposing Ukrainian forces in the large, heavily fortified Azovstal steel mill and surrounding area in Mariupol.[155]

On 19 April, The New York Times confirmed that Russia had launched a renewed invasion front referred to as an "eastern assault" across a 480-kilometre (300 mi) front extending from Kharkiv to Donetsk and Luhansk, with simultaneous missile attacks again directed at Kyiv in the north and Lviv in western Ukraine.[156] As of 30 April, a NATO official described Russian advances as "uneven" and "minor."[157] An anonymous US Defence Official called the Russian offensive "very tepid", "minimal at best", and "anaemic."[158] In June 2022 the chief spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defence Igor Konashenkov revealed that Russian troops were divided between the Army Groups "Center" commanded by Colonel General Aleksander Lapin and "South" commanded by Army General Sergey Surovikin.[159] On 20 July, Lavrov announced that Russia would respond to the increased military aid being received by Ukraine from abroad as justifying the expansion of its special military operation to include objectives in both the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.[160]

Russian Ground Forces started recruiting volunteer battalions from the regions in June 2022 to create a new 3rd Army Corps within the Western Military District, with a planned strength estimated at 15,500–60,000 personnel.[161][162] Its units were deployed to the front around the time of Ukraine's 9 September Kharkiv oblast counteroffensive, in time to join the Russian retreat, leaving behind tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and personnel carriers: the 3rd Army Corps "melted away" according to Forbes, having little or no impact on the battlefield along with other irregular forces.[163][164]

Fall of Mariupol

On 13 April, Russian forces intensified their attack on the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, and the remaining Ukrainian personnel defending it.[165] By 17 April, Russian forces had surrounded the factory. Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal said that the Ukrainian soldiers had vowed to ignore the renewed ultimatum to surrender and to fight to the last soul.[166] On 20 April, Putin said that the siege of Mariupol could be considered tactically complete, since the 500 Ukrainian troops entrenched in bunkers within the Azovstal iron works and estimated 1,000 Ukrainian civilians were completely sealed off from any type of relief.[167]

After consecutive meetings with Putin and Zelenskyy, UN Secretary-General Guterres on 28 April said he would attempt to organise an emergency evacuation of survivors from Azovstal in accordance with assurances he had received from Putin on his visit to the Kremlin.[168] On 30 April, Russian troops allowed civilians to leave under UN protection.[169] By 3 May, after allowing approximately 100 Ukrainian civilians to depart from the Azovstal steel factory, Russian troops renewed their bombardment of the steel factory.[170] On 6 May, The Daily Telegraph reported that Russia had used thermobaric bombs against the remaining Ukrainian soldiers, who had lost contact with the Kyiv government; in his last communications, Zelenskyy had authorised the commander of the besieged steel factory to surrender as necessary under the pressure of increased Russian attacks.[171] On 7 May, the Associated Press reported that all civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steel works at the end of the three-day ceasefire.[172]

A children's hospital in Mariupol after a Russian airstrike

After the last civilians evacuated from the Azovstal bunkers, nearly two thousand Ukrainian soldiers remained barricaded there, 700 of them injured. They were able to communicate a plea for a military corridor to evacuate, as they expected summary execution if they surrendered to Russian forces.[173] Reports of dissent within the Ukrainian troops at Azovstal were reported by Ukrainska Pravda on 8 May indicating that the commander of the Ukrainian Marines assigned to defend the Azovstal bunkers made an unauthorised acquisition of tanks, munitions, and personnel, broke out from the position there and fled. The remaining soldiers spoke of a weakened defensive position in Azovstal as a result, which allowed progress to advancing Russian lines of attack.[174] Ilia Somolienko, deputy commander of the remaining Ukrainian troops barricaded at Azovstal, said: "We are basically here dead men. Most of us know this and it's why we fight so fearlessly."[175]

On 16 May, the Ukrainian General staff announced that the Mariupol garrison had "fulfilled its combat mission" and that final evacuations from the Azovstal steel factory had begun. The military said that 264 service members were evacuated to Olenivka under Russian control, while 53 of them who were "seriously injured" had been taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk also controlled by Russian forces.[176][177] Following the evacuation of Ukrainian personnel from Azovstal, Russian and DPR forces fully controlled all areas of Mariupol. The end of the battle also brought an end to the Siege of Mariupol. Russia press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed that the fighters who surrendered would be treated "in accordance with international standards" while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address that "the work of bringing the boys home continues, and this work needs delicacy—and time." Some prominent Russian lawmakers called on the government to deny prisoner exchanges for members of the Azov Regiment.[178]

Fall of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk

Military control around Donbas as of 24 March 2023: pink highlights areas held by the DNR, LNR, and Russia, yellow highlights areas held by the Ukrainian government.

A Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk railway station in the city of Kramatorsk took place on 8 April, reportedly killing at least 52 people[179] and injuring as many as 87 to 300.[180] On 11 April, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine expected a major new Russian offensive in the east.[181] American officials said that Russia had withdrawn or been repulsed elsewhere in Ukraine, and therefore was preparing a retraction, resupply, and redeployment of infantry and tank divisions to the southeastern Ukraine front.[182][183] Military satellites photographed extensive Russian convoys of infantry and mechanised units deploying south from Kharkiv to Izium on 11 April, apparently part of the planned Russian redeployment of its northeastern troops to the southeastern front of the invasion.[184]

On 18 April, with Mariupol almost entirely overtaken by Russian forces, the Ukrainian government announced that the second phase of the reinforced invasion of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions had intensified with expanded invasion forces occupying of the Donbas.[185]

On 22 May, the BBC reported that after the fall of Mariupol, Russia had intensified offensives in Luhansk and Donetsk while concentrating missile attacks and intense artillery fire on Sievierodonetsk, the largest city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province.[186]

On 23 May, Russian forces were reported entering the city of Lyman, fully capturing the city by 26 May.[187][188] Ukrainian forces were reported leaving Sviatohirsk.[189] By 24 May, Russian forces captured the city of Svitlodarsk.[190] On 30 May, Reuters reported that Russian troops had breached the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk.[191] By 2 June, The Washington Post reported that Sievierodonetsk was on the brink of capitulation to Russian occupation with over 80 per cent of the city in the hands of Russian troops.[192] On 3 June, Ukrainian forces reportedly began a counter-attack in Sievierodonetsk. By 4 June, Ukrainian government sources claimed 20% or more of the city had been recaptured.[193]

On 12 June, it was reported that possibly as many as 800 Ukrainian civilians (as per Ukrainian estimates) and 300–400 soldiers (as per Russian sources) were besieged at the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk.[194][195] With the Ukrainian defences of Severodonetsk faltering, Russian invasion troops began intensifying their attack upon the neighbouring city of Lysychansk as their next target city in the invasion.[196] On 20 June it was reported that Russian troops continued to tighten their grip on Severodonetsk by capturing surrounding villages and hamlets surrounding the city, most recently the village of Metelkine.[197]

On 24 June, CNN reported that, amid continuing scorched-earth tactics being applied by advancing Russian troops, Ukraine's armed forces were ordered to evacuate the Severodonetsk; several hundred civilians taking refuge in the Azot chemical plant were left behind in the withdrawal, with some comparing their plight to that of the civilians at the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol in May.[198] On 3 July, CBS announced that the Russian defense ministry claimed that the city of Lysychansk had been captured and occupied by Russian forces.[199] On 4 July, The Guardian reported that after the fall of the Luhansk oblast, that Russian invasion troops would continue their invasion into the adjacent Donetsk Oblast to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut.[200]

Kharkiv front

Saltivka residential area after the battle of Kharkiv on 19 May 2022

On 14 April, Ukrainian troops reportedly blew up a bridge between Kharkiv and Izium used by Russian forces to redeploy troops to Izium, impeding the Russian convoy.[201]

On 5 May, David Axe writing for Forbes stated that the Ukrainian army had concentrated its 4th and 17th Tank Brigades and the 95th Air Assault Brigade around Izium for possible rearguard action against the deployed Russian troops in the area; Axe added that the other major concentration of Ukraine's forces around Kharkiv included the 92nd and 93rd Mechanised Brigades which could similarly be deployed for rearguard action against Russian troops around Kharkiv or link up with Ukrainian troops contemporaneously being deployed around Izium.[202]

On 13 May, BBC reported that Russian troops in Kharkiv were being retracted and redeployed to other fronts in Ukraine following the advances of Ukrainian troops into surrounding cities and Kharkiv itself, which included the destruction of strategic pontoon bridges built by Russian troops to cross over the Seversky Donets river and previously used for rapid tank deployment in the region.[203]

Kherson-Mykolaiv front

Missile attacks and bombardment of the key cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa continued as the second phase of the invasion began.[156] On 22 April 2022, Russia's Brigadier General Rustam Minnekayev in a defence ministry meeting said that Russia planned to extend its Mykolaiv–Odesa front after the siege of Mariupol further west to include the breakaway region of Transnistria on the Ukrainian border with Moldova.[204] The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine called this plan imperialism and said that it contradicted previous Russian claims that it did not have territorial ambitions in Ukraine and also that the statement admitted that "the goal of the 'second phase' of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine."[204] Georgi Gotev of Reuters noted on 22 April that occupying Ukraine territory from Odesa to Transnistria would transform it into a landlocked nation with no practical access to the Black Sea.[205] Russia resumed its missile strikes on Odesa on 24 April, destroying military facilities and causing two dozen civilian casualties.[206]

Explosions destroyed two Russian broadcast towers in Transnistria on 27 April that primarily rebroadcast Russian television programming, Ukrainian sources said.[207] Russia renewed missile attacks at the end of April on runways in Odesa, and destroyed some of them.[208] In the week of 10 May, Ukrainian troops began to dislodge Russian forces on Snake Island in the Black Sea approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Odesa.[209] Russia said on 30 June 2022 that it had withdrawn its troops from the island after their objectives were completed.[210]

On 23 July, CNBC reported a Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian port of Odesa, swiftly condemned by world leaders amid a recent U.N. and Turkish-brokered deal to secure a sea corridor for exports of grains and other foodstuffs.[211] On 31 July, CNN reported significantly intensified rocket attacks and bombing of Mykolaiv by Russians, which also killed Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadaturskyi.[212]

Zaporizhzhia front

French president Emmanuel Macron called the Russian missile attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk on 28 June 2022 a "war crime"

Russian forces continued to fire missiles and drop bombs on the key cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.[156] Russian missiles destroyed the Dnipro International Airport on 10 April 2022.[213] On 2 May the UN, reportedly with the cooperation of Russian troops, evacuated about 100 survivors from the siege of Mariupol to the village of Bezimenne near Donetsk, from whence they would move to Zaporizhzhia.[214] On 28 June, Reuters reported that a Russian missile attack on the city of Kremenchuk northwest of Zaporizhzhia detonated in a public mall and caused at least 18 deaths. France's Emmanuel Macron called it a "war crime."[215][failed verification]

Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom called the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "extremely tense", although it was still operated by its Ukrainian staff. As many as 500 Russian soldiers controlled the plant; Kyiv's nuclear agency said they were shelling nearby areas and storing weapons and "missile systems" there. Almost the entire country went on air raid alert. "They already shell the other side of the river Dnipro and the territory of Nikopol," Energoatom president Pedro Kotin said.[216] Russia agreed on 19 August to allow IAEA inspectors access to the Zaporizhzhia plant after a phone call from Macron to Putin. As of July 2023, however, access to the plant remained limited and required extensive negotiation.[217]

Russia reported that 12 attacks with explosions from 50 artillery shells had been recorded by 18 August at the plant and the company town of Enerhodar.[218] Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK's Defence Select Committee, said on 19 August that any deliberate damage to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that could cause radiation leaks would be a breach of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, under which an attack on a member state of NATO is an attack on them all. US congressman Adam Kinzinger said the following day that any radiation leak would kill people in NATO countries, an automatic activation of Article 5.[219][220]

Shelling hit coal ash dumps at the neighbouring coal-fired power station on 23 August, and the ash was on fire on 25 August. The 750kV transmission line to the Dniprovska substation, the only one of the four 750 kV transmission lines still undamaged and cut by military action, passes over the ash dumps. At 12:12 p.m. on 25 August the line cut off due to the fire, disconnecting the plant and its two operating reactors from the national grid for the first time since its startup in 1985. In response back-up generators and coolant pumps for reactor 5 started up, and reactor 6 reduced generation.[221]

Incoming power was still available across the 330 kV line to the substation at the coal-fired station, so the diesel generators were not essential for cooling reactor cores and spent fuel pools. The 750 kV line and reactor 6 resumed operation at 12:29 p.m., but the line was cut by fire again two hours later. The line, but not the reactors, resumed operation again later that day.[221] On 26 August, one reactor restarted in the afternoon and another in the evening, resuming electricity supplies to the grid.[222] On 29 August 2022, an IAEA team led by Rafael Grossi went to the plant to investigate .[223] Lydie Evrard and Massimo Aparo were also on the team. No leaks had been reported at the plant before their arrival, but shelling had occurred days before.[224]

Russian annexations and occupation losses (6 September – 11 November 2022)

Animated map of the Russian invasion from 5 September 2022 to 11 November 2022

On 6 September 2022, Ukrainian forces launched a surprise counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, beginning near Balakliia. led by General Syrskyi.[225] An emboldened Kyiv launched a counteroffensive 12 September around Kharkiv successful enough to make Russia admit losing key positions and for The New York Times to say that it dented the image of a "Mighty Putin", and it sought more arms from the West to sustain the counteroffensive.[226] On 21 September 2022, Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation and minister of defence Sergei Shoigu said 300,000*reservists would be called.[227] He also said that his country would use "all means" to "defend itself." Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that the decision was predictable, and was an attempt to justify "Russia's failures."[228] British Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan called the situation an "escalation",[229] while former Mongolian president Tsakhia Elbegdorj accused Russia of using Russian Mongols as "cannon fodder."[230]

Russian annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts

In late September 2022, Russian-installed officials in Ukraine organised referendums on the annexation of those occupied territories of Ukraine. These included the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic in Russian occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, as well as the Russian-appointed military administrations of Kherson Oblast and Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Denounced by Ukraine's government and its allies as sham elections, the elections' official results showed overwhelming majorities in favor of annexation.[231]

On 30 September 2022, Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in an address to both houses of the Russian parliament.[232][233] Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations all denounced the annexation as illegal.[234]

Zaporizhzhia front

Damage to a residential building in Zaporizhzhia following an airstrike on 9 October 2022. Putin has been labeled a war criminal by international experts.[235]

An IAEA delegation visited the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia on 3 September, and on 6 September reported damage and threats to security caused by external shelling and the presence of occupying troops in the plant.[236][237] On 11 September, at 3:14 a.m., the sixth and final reactor was disconnected from the grid, "completely stopping" the plant. Energoatom said that preparations were "underway for its cooling and transfer to a cold state."[238]

In the early hours of 9 October 2022, Russian Armed Forces carried out an airstrike on a residential building in Zaporizhzhia, killing 13 civilians and injuring 89 others.[239]

Kherson counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, participating in reraising the Ukrainian flag in Kherson a few days after the city's liberation

On 29 August, Zelenskyy advisedly vowed the start of a full-scale counteroffensive in the southeast. He first announced a counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory in the south concentrating on the Kherson-Mykolaiv region, a claim that was corroborated by the Ukrainian parliament as well as Operational Command South.[240]

On 4 September, Zelenskyy announced the liberation of two unnamed villages in Kherson Oblast and one in Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainian authorities released a photo showing the raising of the Ukrainian flag in Vysokopillia by Ukrainian forces.[241][242] Ukrainian attacks also continued along the southern frontline, though reports about territorial changes were largely unverifiable.[243] On 12 September, Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces had retaken a total of 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 sq mi) from Russia, in both the south and the east. The BBC stated that it could not verify these claims.[244]

In October, Ukrainian forces pushed further south towards the city of Kherson, taking control of 1,170 square kilometres (450 sq mi) of territory, with fighting extending to Dudchany.[245][246] On 9 November, defence minister Shoigu ordered Russian forces to leave part of Kherson Oblast, including the city of Kherson, and move to the eastern bank of the Dnieper.[247] On 11 November, Ukrainian troops entered Kherson, as Russia completed its withdrawal. This meant that Russian forces no longer had a foothold on the west (right) bank of the Dnieper.[248]

Kharkiv counteroffensive

   Controlled by Ukraine
   Occupied by Russia
Map of the Kharkiv front as of 22 February 2024

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces launched another surprise counteroffensive on 6 September in the Kharkiv region, beginning near Balakliia. This counteroffensive was led by General Syrskyi.[225] By 7 September, Ukrainian forces had advanced some 20 kilometres (12 mi) into Russian occupied territory and claimed to have recaptured approximately 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi). Russian commentators said this was likely due to the relocation of Russian forces to Kherson in response to the Ukrainian offensive there.[249] On 8 September, Ukrainian forces captured Balakliia and advanced to within 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) of Kupiansk.[250] Military analysts said Ukrainian forces appeared to be moving towards Kupiansk, a major railway hub, with the aim of cutting off the Russian forces at Izium from the north.[251]

On 9 September, the Russian occupation administration of Kharkiv Oblast announced it would "evacuate" the civilian populations of Izium, Kupiansk and Velykyi Burluk. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said it believed Kupiansk would likely fall in the next 72 hours,[252] while Russian reserve units were sent to the area by both road and helicopter.[253] On the morning of 10 September, photos emerged claiming to depict Ukrainian troops raising the Ukrainian flag in the centre of Kupiansk,[254] and the ISW said Ukrainian forces had captured approximately 2,500 square kilometres (970 sq mi) by effectively exploiting their breakthrough.[255] Later in the day, Reuters reported that Russian positions in northeast Ukraine had "collapsed" in the face of the Ukrainian assault, with Russian forces forced to withdraw from their base at Izium after being cut off by the capture of Kupiansk.[256]

By 15 September, an assessment by UK's Ministry of Defence confirmed that Russia had either lost or withdrawn from almost all of their positions west of the Oskil river. The retreating units had also abandoned various high-value military assets.[257] The offensive continued pushing east and by 2 October, Ukrainian Armed Forces had liberated another key city in the Second Battle of Lyman.[258]

Winter stalemate, attrition campaign and military surge (12 November 2022 – 7 June 2023)

After the end of the twin Ukrainian counteroffensives, the fighting shifted to a semi-deadlock during the winter,[259] with heavy casualties but reduced motion of the frontline.[260] Russia launched a self-proclaimed winter offensive in eastern Ukraine, but the campaign ended in "disappointment" for Moscow, with the offensive stalling and gains being limited.[259][261] Analysts variously blamed the failure on Russia's lack of "trained men", and supply problems with artillery ammunition, among other problems.[259][261] Near the end of May, Mark Galeotti assessed that "after Russia’s abortive and ill-conceived winter offensive, which squandered its opportunity to consolidate its forces, Ukraine is in a relatively strong position."[262]

On 7 February, The New York Times reported that Russians had newly mobilised nearly 200,000 soldiers to participate in the offensive in the Donbas, against Ukraine troops already wearied by previous fighting.[263] The Russian private military company Wagner Group took on greater prominence in the war,[264] leading "grinding advances" in Bakhmut with tens of thousands of recruits from prison battalions taking part in "near suicidal" assaults on Ukrainian positions.[261]

In late January 2023, fighting intensified in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.[265][266] In nearby southern parts of Donetsk Oblast, an intense, three-week Russian assault near the coal-mining town of Vuhledar was called the largest tank battle of the war to date,[267] and ended in disaster for Russian forces, who lost "at least 130 tanks and armored personnel carriers" according to Ukrainian commanders. The British Ministry of Defense stated that "a whole Russian brigade was effectively annihilated."[267][268]

Battle of Bakhmut

File:Battle of Bakhmut 2.jpg
Ukrainian soldier in a trench during the Battle of Bakhmut
View of western Bakhmut during the battle, 5 April 2023

Following defeat in Kherson and Kharkiv, Russian and Wagner forces have focused on taking the city of Bakhmut and breaking the half year long stalemate that has prevailed there since the start of the war. Russian forces have sought to encircle the city, attacking from the north via Soledar. After taking heavy casualties, Russian and Wagner forces took control of Soledar on 16 January 2023.[269][270] By early February 2023, Bakhmut was facing attacks from north, south and east, with the sole Ukrainian supply lines coming from Chasiv Yar to the west.[271]

On 3 March 2023, Ukrainian soldiers destroyed two key bridges, creating the possibility for a controlled fighting withdrawal from eastern sectors of Bakhmut.[272] On 4 March, Bakhmut's deputy mayor told news services that there was street fighting in the city.[273] On 7 March, despite the city's near-encirclement, The New York Times reported that Ukrainian commanders were requesting permission from Kyiv to continue fighting against the Russians in Bakhmut.[274]

On 26 March, Wagner Group forces claimed to have fully captured the tactically significant Azom factory in Bakhmut.[275] Appearing before the House Committee on Armed Services on 29 March, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported that, "for about the last 20, 21 days, the Russia have not made any progress whatsoever in and around Bakhmut." Milley described the severe casualties being inflicted upon the Russian forces there as a "slaughter-fest."[276]

By the beginning of May, the ISW assessed that Ukraine controlled only 1.89 square kilometres of the city, less than five percent.[277] On 18 May 2023, The New York Times reported that Ukrainian forces had launched a local counteroffensive, taking back swathes of territory to the north and south of Bakhmut over the course of a few days.[278]

2023 counteroffensive (8 June 2023 – present)

In June 2023, Ukrainian forces gradually launched a series of counteroffensives on multiple fronts, including Donetsk Oblast, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and others.[279] On 8 June 2023, it was reported that counteroffensive efforts were focused near settlements such as Orikhiv, Tokmak, and Bakhmut.[280] However, the counteroffensive operations have faced stiff resistance from Russia,[281] with the American think tank Institute for the Study of War labeling the Russian defensive effort as having "an uncharacteristic degree of coherency."[282] By 12 June, Ukraine reported its fastest advance in seven months, claiming to have liberated several villages and advanced a total of 6.5 km. Russian military bloggers also reported that Ukraine had taken Blahodatne, Makarivka and Neskuchne, and were continuing to push southward.[283] Ukraine continued to liberate settlements over the next few months, raising the Ukrainian flag over the settlement Robotyne in late August.[284]

On 24 June, the Wagner Group launched a brief rebellion against the Russian government, capturing several cities in western Russia largely unopposed before marching towards Moscow.[285] This came as the culmination of prolonged infighting and power struggles between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense.[286] After about 24 hours, the Wagner Group backed down[287] and agreed to a peace deal in which Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin would go into exile in Belarus, and his forces would be free of prosecution.[285] Pro-Russian bloggers also reported that Ukrainian forces had made gains in the southern Kherson region, establishing a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro river after crossing it.[288]

In August, The Guardian reported that Ukraine had become the most mined country in the world, Russia laying millions of mines attempting to thwart Ukraine's counteroffensive. The vast minefields forced Ukraine to extensively demine areas to allow advances, Ukrainian soldiers unearth five mines for every square metre in certain places.[289][290]

Following Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the conflict on the Black Sea escalated with Ukraine targeting Russian ships. On 4 August, Ukrainian security service sources reported that the Russian landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak had been hit and damaged by an unmanned naval drone. Video footage released by Ukraine's security services appeared to show the drone striking the ship, with another video showing the ship seemingly listing to one side.[291] On 12 September, both Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Russian naval targets in Sevastopol had been struck by unconfirmed weaponry, damaging two military vessels, one of them reportedly a submarine.[292] Ukraine also reported that several oil and gas drilling platforms on the Black Sea held by Russia since 2015 had been retaken.[293]

In September 2023, Ukrainian intelligence estimated that Russia deployed over 420,000 troops in Ukraine.[294][295]

On 21 September, Russia began missile strikes across Ukraine, damaging the country's energy facilities.[296] On 22 September, the US announced it would send long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine,[297] despite the reservations of some government officials.[298] The same day, the Ukrainian Main Directorate of Intelligence launched a missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, killing several senior military officials.[299][300]

In mid-to-late October 2023, Ukrainian marines – partly guided by defecting Russian troops – crossed the Dnipro River, downstream of the destroyed Kakhovka Dam, to attack the Russian-held territory on the east side of the river.[301][302]

In November 2023, the wife of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine was hospitalised after being diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning.[303]

On December 1 2023, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that the Ukrainian counter-offensive was not successful, citing a lack of weapons and ground forces.[304][better source needed][305] Zelenskyy also stated that it will be easier for Ukraine to regain the Crimean peninsula than the Donbas region in the east of the country, because the Donbas is heavily militarized and there are frequent pro-Russian sentiments.[306] In December 2023, multiple international media outlets described the Ukrainian counteroffensive as having failed to regain any significant amount of territory or meet any of its strategic objectives.[307][308][305]



Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in April 2022, after Russia's defeat at the Battle of Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Ukrainian servicemen defending the city of Bakhmut in December 2022

The supreme commanders-in-chief are the heads of state of the respective governments: President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. Putin has reportedly meddled in operational decisions, bypassing senior commanders and giving orders directly to brigade commanders.[309]

US general Mark Milley said that Ukraine's top military commander in the war, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, "has emerged as the military mind his country needed. His leadership enabled the Ukrainian armed forces to adapt quickly with battlefield initiative against the Russians."[310] Russia started its "special military operation" with no overall commander. The commanders of the four military districts were each responsible for their own offensives.[311]

After initial setbacks, commander of the Russian Southern Military District Aleksandr Dvornikov was placed in overall command on 8 April 2022,[312] while still responsible for his own campaign. Russian forces benefited from the centralization of command under Dvornikov,[313] but continued failures to meet expectations in Moscow led to multiple changes in overall command:[314]

  • commander of the Eastern Military District Gennadii Zhidko (Eastern Military District, 26 May – 8 October 2022)
  • commander of the southern grouping of forces Sergei Surovikin  October 2022 – 11 January 2023)
  • commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces Valerii Gerasimov (from 11 January 2023)

Russia has suffered a remarkably large number of casualties in the officer ranks, including 12 generals.[315]

Missile attacks and aerial warfare

Aerial warfare began the first day of the invasion. dozens of missile attacks were recorded across both eastern and western Ukraine,[62][63] reaching as far west as Lviv.[64]

By September, the Ukrainian air force had shot down about 55 Russian warplanes.[316] In mid-October, Russian forces launched missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure, intended to knock out energy facilities.[317] By late November, hundreds of civilians had been killed or wounded in the attacks,[318] and rolling blackout had left millions without power.[319]

Dead bodies 8 April 2022 after the Kramatorsk railway bombing. Ukrainian investigators identified more than 600 suspected war crimes in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, some notably involving Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.[320]

In December, drones launched from Ukraine allegedly carried out several attacks on Dyagilevo and Engels air bases in western Russia, killing 10 and heavily damaging two Tu-95 aircraft.[321]

Crimea attacks

Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia since 2014 (Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol) and 2022 (others). The 2022 annexation created a strategic land bridge between Crimea and Russia.

On 31 July 2022, Russian Navy Day commemorations were cancelled after a drone attack reportedly wounded several people at the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol.[322] On 9 August 2022, large explosions were reported at Saky Air Base in western Crimea. Satellite imagery showed at least eight aircraft damaged or destroyed. Initial speculation attributed the explosions to long-range missiles, sabotage by special forces or an accident;[323] Ukrainian general Valerii Zaluzhnyi claimed responsibility on 7 September.[324]

The base is near Novofedorivka, a destination popular with tourists. Traffic backed up at the Crimean Bridge after the explosions with queues of civilians trying to leave the area.[325] A week later Russia blamed "sabotage" for explosions and a fire at an arms depot near Dzhankoi in northeastern Crimea that also damaged a railway line and power station. Russian regional head Sergei Aksyonov said that 2,000 people were evacuated from the area.[326] On 18 August, explosions were reported at Belbek Air Base north of Sevastopol.[327] On the morning of 8 October 2022, the Kerch Bridge linking occupied Crimea to Russia, partially collapsed due to an explosion.[328] On 17 July 2023, there was another large explosion on the bridge.[329]

Russian attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure

Russia has carried out waves of strikes on Ukrainian electrical and water systems.[330]

On 16 October 2022, The Washington Post reported that Iran was planning to supply Russia with both drones and missiles.[331] On 18 October the U.S. State Department accused Iran of violating Resolution 2231 by selling Shahed 131 and Shahed 136 drones to Russia,[332] agreeing with similar assessments by France and the United Kingdom. Iran denied sending any arms to Russia for the Ukraine war.[333] On 22 October France, Britain and Germany formally called for a UN investigation.[334] On 1 November, CNN reported that Iran was preparing to send ballistic missiles and other weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.[335] On 21 November, CNN quoted an intelligence assessment that Iran had begun to help Russia produce Iran-designed drones in Russia.[336]

A 29 December New York Times report stated that the US was working to "choke off Iran’s ability to manufacture the drones, make it harder for the Russians to launch the unmanned “kamikaze” aircraft and — if all else fails — to provide the Ukrainians with the defenses necessary to shoot them out of the sky."[337]

On 15 November 2022, Russia fired 85 missiles at the Ukrainian power grid, causing major power outages in Kyiv and neighboring regions.[338] On 31 December, Putin in his New Year address called the war against Ukraine a "sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants" as missiles and drones rained down on Kiev.[339][340]

On 10 March 2023, The New York Times reported that Russia has converted its massive missile attacks of Ukraine towards the preferred use of hypersonic missile systems, which are more effective in evading conventional Ukrainian anti-missile defenses which were proving useful against conventional, non-hypersonic Russian missile systems.[341]

Naval blockade and engagements

Commemorative stamp about the phrase Russian warship, go fuck yourself!
The Russian Black Sea flagship Moskva was sunk on 14 April 2022, reportedly after being hit by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.

Ukraine lies on the Black Sea, which has ocean access only through the Turkish-held Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. On 28 February, Turkey invoked the 1936 Montreux Convention and sealed off the straits to Russian warships not registered to Black Sea home bases and not returning to their ports of origin, denying passage of four Russian naval vessels through the Turkish Straits.[342] On 24 February, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine announced that an attack on Snake Island by Russian Navy ships had begun.[343] The guided missile cruiser Moskva and patrol boat Vasily Bykov bombarded the island with their deck guns.[344] When the Russian warship identified itself and instructed the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender, their response was "Russian warship, go fuck yourself!"[345][346] After the bombardment, a detachment of Russian soldiers landed and took control of Snake Island.[347]

Russia stated on 26 February that US drones supplied intelligence to the Ukrainian navy to help target Russian warships in the Black Sea, which the US denied.[348] By 3 March, the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny, the flagship of the Ukrainian navy, was scuttled in Mykolaiv to prevent its capture by Russian forces.[349] On 14 March, the Russian source RT reported that the Russian Armed Forces had captured about a dozen Ukrainian ships in Berdiansk, including the Polnocny-class landing ship Yuri Olefirenko.[350] On 24 March, Ukrainian officials said that a Russian landing ship docked in Berdiansk – initially reported to be the Orsk and then its sister ship, the Saratov – was destroyed by a Ukrainian rocket attack.[351][120] In March 2022, the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) sought to create a safe sea corridor for commercial vessels to leave Ukrainian ports.[352] On 27 March, Russia established a sea corridor 80 miles (130 km) long and 3 miles (4.8 km) wide through its Maritime Exclusion Zone, for the transit of merchant vessels from the edge of Ukrainian territorial waters south-east of Odesa.[353][354] Ukraine closed its ports at MARSEC level 3, with sea mines laid in port approaches, until the end to hostilities.[355]

The Russian cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, was, according to Ukrainian sources and a US senior official,[356] hit on 13 April by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, setting the ship on fire. The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the warship had suffered serious damage due to a munition explosion caused by a fire, and said that its entire crew had been evacuated.[357] Pentagon spokesman John Kirby reported on 14 April that satellite images showed that the Russian warship had suffered a sizeable explosion onboard but was heading to the east for expected repairs and refitting in Sevastopol.[358] Later on the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defence stated that Moskva had sunk while under tow in rough weather.[359] On 15 April, Reuters reported that Russia launched an apparent retaliatory missile strike against the missile factory Luch Design Bureau in Kyiv where the Neptune missiles used in the Moskva attack were manufactured and designed.[360] On 5 May, a US official confirmed that the US gave "a range of intelligence" (including real-time battlefield targeting intelligence)[361] to assist in the sinking of the Moskva.[362]

In early May, Ukrainian forces launched counterattacks on Snake Island. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have repelled these counterattacks. Ukraine released footage of a Russian Serna-class landing craft located in the Black Sea being destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian drone.[363] The same day, a pair of Ukrainian Su-27 conducted a high-speed, low level bombing run on Russian-occupied Snake Island; the attack was captured on film by a Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drone.[364] On 1 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted that Ukraine's policy of mining its own harbours to impede Russia maritime aggression had contributed to the food export crisis, stating that: "If Kyiv solves the problem of demining ports, the Russian Navy will ensure the unimpeded passage of ships with grain to the Mediterranean Sea."[365] On 30 June 2022, Russia announced that it had withdrawn troops from the island in a "gesture of goodwill."[210] The withdrawal was later officially confirmed by Ukraine.[366]

Nuclear threats

Four days into the invasion, President Putin placed Russia's nuclear forces on high alert, raising fears that Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine, or a wider escalation of the conflict could occur.[367] Putin alluded in April to the use of nuclear weapons, and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said there was a "real" danger of a World War III.[368][369] On 14 April, CIA director William Burns said that "potential desperation" in the face of defeat could encourage President Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons.[370] In response to Russia's disregard of safety precautions during its occupation of the disabled former nuclear power plant at Chernobyl and its firing of missiles in the vicinity of the active Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Zelenskyy called on 26 April for an international discussion on Russia's use of nuclear resources, saying: "no one in the world can feel safe knowing how many nuclear facilities, nuclear weapons and related technologies the Russian state has ... If Russia has forgotten what Chernobyl is, it means that global control over Russia's nuclear facilities, and nuclear technology is needed."[371] In August shelling around Zaporizhzhia power plant became a crisis, prompting an emergency inspection by the IAEA. Ukraine described the crisis nuclear terrorism by Russia.[372] On 19 September Biden warned of a "consequential response from the U.S."[373] Before the United Nations on 21 September he criticized Putin's nuclear sabre-rattling, calling Putin was "overt, reckless and irresponsible... A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."[374] Writing for Time in January 2023, Graham Allison presented a seven-point summary of Putin's hypothetical intention to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.[375] In March 2023, Putin announced plans to install Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.[376]

Ukrainian resistance

Civilians in Kyiv preparing Molotov cocktails, 26 February 2022

Ukrainian civilians resisted the Russian invasion by volunteering for territorial defence units, making Molotov cocktails, donating food, building barriers like Czech hedgehogs,[377] and helping to transport refugees.[378] Responding to a call from Ukravtodor, Ukraine's transportation agency, civilians dismantled or altered road signs,[379] constructed makeshift barriers, and blocked roadways.[380] Social media reports showed spontaneous street protests against Russian forces in occupied settlements, often evolving into verbal altercations and physical standoffs with Russian troops.[381] By the beginning of April, Ukrainian civilians began to organise as guerrillas, mostly in the wooded north and east of the country. The Ukrainian military announced plans for a large-scale guerrilla campaign to complement its conventional defence.[382]

People physically blocked Russian military vehicles, sometimes forcing them to retreat.[381][383] The Russian soldiers' response to unarmed civilian resistance varied from reluctance to engage the protesters,[381] to firing into the air, to firing directly into crowds.[384] There have been mass detentions of Ukrainian protesters, and Ukrainian media has reported forced disappearances, mock executions, hostage-taking, extrajudicial killings, and sexual violence perpetrated by the Russian military.[385] To facilitate Ukrainian attacks, civilians reported Russian military positions via a Telegram chatbot and Diia, a Ukrainian government app previously used by citizens to upload official identity and medical documents. In response, Russian forces began destroying mobile phone network equipment, searching door-to-door for smartphones and computers, and in at least one case killed a civilian who had pictures of Russian tanks.[386]

As of 21 May 2022, Zelenskyy indicated that Ukraine had 700,000 service members on active duty fighting the Russian invasion.[387] Ukraine withdrew soldiers and military equipment back to Ukraine over the course of 2022 that had been deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions like MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[388]

International aspects


UN General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1 vote on 2 March 2022 condemning the invasion of Ukraine and demanding a complete withdrawal of Russian troops
  In favour

The invasion received widespread international condemnation from governments and intergovernmental organisations.[389] On 2 March 2022 and on 23 February 2023, 141 member states of the UN General Assembly voted for a resolution saying that Russia should immediately withdraw. Seven, including Russia, voted against the measure.[390] Political reactions to the invasion included new sanctions imposed on Russia, which triggered widespread economic effects on the Russian and world economies.[391] Over seventy sovereign states and the European Union delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and nearly fifty countries plus the EU provided military aid.[392] Economic sanctions included a ban on Russian aircraft using EU airspace,[393] a ban of certain Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system, and a ban on certain Russian media outlets.[394] Reactions to the invasion have included public response, media responses, peace efforts, and the examination of the legal implications of the invasion.

The invasion received widespread international public condemnation. Some countries, particularly in the Global South, saw public sympathy or outright support for Russia, due in part to distrust of US foreign policy.[395] Protests and demonstrations were held worldwide, including some in Russia and parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia.[396] Calls for a boycott of Russian goods spread on social media platforms,[397] while hackers attacked Russian websites, particularly those operated by the Russian government.[398] Anti-Russian sentiment against Russians living abroad surged after the invasion.[399] In March 2022, Russian President Putin introduced prison sentences of up to 15 years for publishing "fake news" about Russian military operations,[400] intended to suppress any criticism related to the war.[401]

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2023, 31 percent of the world's population live in countries that are leaning towards or supportive of Russia, 30.7 percent live in neutral countries, and 36.2 percent live in countries that are against Russia in some way.[402]

By October 2022, three countries—Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—had declared Russia a "terrorist state."[403] On 1 August, Iceland became the first European country to close its embassy in Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.[404]

The invasion prompted Ukraine,[405] Finland and Sweden to officially apply for NATO membership.[406] In April 2023, Finland was accepted as a member of NATO.[407]

Foreign involvement

  Countries sending lethal military equipment
  Countries sending non-lethal military aid

The Kiel Institute tracked $155.9 billion from 41 countries and European Union institutions in financial, humanitarian, and military aid to Ukraine from 24 January 2022 to 24 February 2023.[408] NATO is coordinating and assisting member states in providing billions of dollars in military equipment and financial aid to Ukraine.[409] The United States has provided the most military assistance, having committed over $29.3 billion from 24 February 2022 to 3 February 2023.[410][d] Many NATO allies, including Germany, have reversed past policies against providing offensive military aid in order to support Ukraine. The European Union, for the first time in its history, supplied lethal arms, and has provided €3.1 billion to Ukraine.[413] Bulgaria, a major manufacturer of Soviet-pattern weapons, has covertly supplied more than €2 billion worth of arms and ammunition to Ukraine, including a third of the ammunition needed by the Ukrainian military in the critical early phase of the invasion; Bulgaria also provides fuel supplies and has, at times, covered 40% of the fuel needed by the Ukrainian armed forces.[414]

   Countries on Russia's "Unfriendly Countries List" The list includes countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.[415]

Foreign involvement in the invasion has been worldwide and extensive, with support ranging from foreign military sales and aid, foreign military involvement, foreign sanctions and ramifications, and including foreign condemnation and protest.[416][417] The US adopted a policy of "no boots on the ground" in Ukraine.[418] Western and other countries imposed limited sanctions on Russia for recognising the separatist people's republics as independent nations. When the attack began, many countries applied new sanctions intended to cripple the Russian economy.[419] The sanctions targeted individuals, banks, businesses, monetary exchanges, bank transfers, exports, and imports.[416][417]

Belarus has allowed Russia use of its territory to stage part of the invasion, and to launch Russian missiles into Ukraine.[420]

Politico reported in March 2023 that Chinese state-owned weapons manufacturer Norinco shipped assault rifles, drone parts, and body armor to Russia between June and December 2022, with some shipments via third countries including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.[421] According to the United States, Chinese ammunition has been used on battlefields in Ukraine.[422] In May 2023, the EU identified that Chinese and the UAE firms were supplying weapon components to Russia.[423]

In June 2023, US military intel suggested Iran was providing UAV production material to Russia.[424]

On 21 September 2023, Poland said it would cease sending arms to Ukraine after a dispute between the two countries over grain.[425]

International arrest warrants

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into possible crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.[426] On 17 March 2023 the ICC issued a warrant for Putin's arrest, charging him with individual criminal responsibility in the abduction of children forcibly deported to Russia.[427] It was the first time that the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for the head of state of a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council[427] (the world's five principal nuclear powers).[428] Moscow has denied any involvement in war crimes, a response Vittorio Bufacchi of University College in Cork says "has bordered on the farcical,"[429] and its contention that the images coming out of Bucha were fabricated "a disingenuous response born by delusional hubris, post-truth on overdrive, (that) does not merit to be taken seriously." Even the usually fractured United States Senate came together to call Putin a war criminal.[430] One of several efforts to document Russian war crimes concerns its repeated bombardment of markets and bread lines, destruction of basic infrastructure and attacks on exports and supply convoys, in a country where deliberate starvation of Ukrainians by Soviets the Holodomor still looms large in public memory.[431] Forcible deportation of populations, such as took place in Mariuopol, is another area of focus, since "(f)orced deportations and transfers are defined both as war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Protocol II and Article 8 of the Rome Statute—and as crimes against humanity—under Article 7 of the Rome Statute. As both war crimes and crimes against humanity, they have several mechanisms for individual accountability, the International Criminal Court and also, at the individual state level, universal jurisdiction and Magnitsky sanctions legislation.[432]


Ukrainian soldiers killed in the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2022

Combat deaths can be inferred from a variety of sources including satellite imagery of military action. Russian and Ukrainian sources may both inflate the casualty numbers for opposing forces, and downplay their own losses for the sake of morale; certainly both have been accused of doing so.[433] Leaked US documents say that "under-reporting of casualties within the [Russian] system highlights the military's 'continuing reluctance' to convey bad news up the chain of command."[434] Russian news outlets have largely stopped reporting the Russian death toll.[435] Russia and Ukraine have each admitted suffering "significant"[436] and "considerable" losses, respectively.[437][438] BBC News has reported that Ukrainian Russian casualty figures included the injured.[439]

The numbers of civilian and military deaths have been as always impossible to determine precisely.[440][441] Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that neither it nor independent conflict monitors were able to verify Russian and Ukrainian claims of enemy losses and suspected that they were inflated.[442] On 12 October 2022, the independent Russian media project iStories, citing sources close to the Kremlin, reported that more than 90,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, seriously wounded, or gone missing in Ukraine.[443]

On 16 June 2022, the Ukrainian Minister of Defence told CNN that he believed that tens of thousands of Ukrainians had died, adding that he hoped that the total death toll was below 100,000.[444] In the destroyed city of Mariupol alone, Ukrainian officials believe that at least 25,000 have been killed;[445] but morgue records indicate far higher numbers, and in September some bodies remained uncollected.[446] The mayor said over 10,000 and possibly as many as 20,000 civilians died in the siege of Mariupol and that Russian forces had brought mobile cremation equipment with them when they entered the city.[447][448] AP investigation gives number of up to 75,000 killed civilians in Mariupol area alone.[449][failed verification] AFP says that "a key gap in casualty counts is the lack of information from Russian-occupied places like the port city of Mariupol, where tens of thousands of civilians are believed to have died".[450] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports similar issues. It believes that the actual civilian casualties are significantly higher than it has been able to confirm.[451]

Confirmed casualties
Numbers Time period Source
Ukrainian civilians 9,614 killed, 17,535 wounded 24 Feb 2022 – 10 September 2023 United Nations (OHCHR)[451]
16,500+ killed[e] 24 Feb 2022 – 17 September 2023 Ukrainian government[452]
Ukrainian forces (ZSU) up to 13,000 killed 24 Feb 2022 – 2 December 2022 Ukrainian official
Mykhailo Podolyak[453]
Russian forces (DPR/LPR excluded) 32,656 killed[f] 24 Feb 2022 – 22 September 2023 Mediazona, BBC News Russian[454]
Donetsk & Luhansk PR 11,500+ killed, 8,400+ missed 24 Feb 2022 – 4 August 2023 BBC News Russia[455]
Estimated and claimed casualties
Numbers Time period Source
Ukrainian civilians 1,499 killed,
4,287 wounded
in DPR/LPR areas
17 Feb 2022 – 22 June 2023 DPR[g] and LPR[459][460]
Ukrainian forces
70,000 killed,
100,000–120,000 wounded
24 Feb 2022 – 18 August 2023 US estimate[461]
Russian forces 66,000+ killed (DPR/LPR excluded)

86,000+ killed (DPR/LPR included)

24 Feb 2022 – 29 September 2023 BBC News Russian[462]
120,000 killed,
170,000–180,000 wounded
24 Feb 2022 – August 18, 2023 US estimate[461]
60,000+ killed, 210,000 wounded (of which 102,000 heavily (irreversible)[h]) (DPR/LPR excluded)

80,000+ killed (DPR/LPR included)

24 Feb 2022 – 4 August 2023 BBC News Russian[463]
irreversible losses
(killed and wounded)
24 Feb 2022 – 23 June 2023 BBC News Russian
47,000 killed February 24, 2022 – May 31, 2023 Mediazona, Meduza[465]

Prisoners of war

Official and estimated numbers of prisoners of war (POW) have varied.[466] On 24 February Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the US, said that a platoon of 74th Guards from Kemerovo Oblast had surrendered, saying they were unaware that they had been brought to Ukraine and tasked with killing Ukrainians.[467] Russia claimed to have captured 572 Ukrainian soldiers by 2 March 2022,[468] while Ukraine said it held 562 Russian soldiers as of 20 March.[469] It also released one soldier for five of its own and exchanged another nine for the detained mayor of Melitopol.[470]

Ukrainian soldiers released during the exchange between Ukraine and Russia on 6 May 2023

On 24 March 2022, 10 Russian and 10 Ukrainian soldiers, as well as 11 Russians and 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors, were exchanged.[471] On 1 April 86 Ukrainian servicemen were exchanged[472] for an unknown number of Russian troops.[473] The Independent on 9 June 2022 cited an intelligence estimate of more than 5,600 Ukrainian soldiers captured, while the Russian servicemen held prisoner fell to 550 from 900 in April after several prisoner exchanges.

An 25 August 2022 report by the Humanitarian Research Lab of the Yale School of Public Health identified some 21 filtration camps or Ukrainian "civilians, POWs, and other personnel" in the vicinity of Donetsk oblast. Imaging of one of these, Olenivka prison, found two sites with disturbed earth consistent with "potential graves."[474] Kaveh Khoshnood, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said: "Incommunicado detention of civilians is more than a violation of international humanitarian law—it represents a threat to the public health of those currently in the custody of Russia and its proxies." Conditions described by freed prisoners include confinement include exposure, insufficient access to sanitation, food and water, cramped conditions, electrical shocks and physical assault.[474]

In March 2023, UN human rights commissioner Volker Türk reported that more than 90% of the Ukrainian POWs interviewed by his office, which could only include those who were released from Russia, said in Russia "they were tortured or ill-treated, notably in penitentiary facilities, including through so-called – it is an awful phrase – 'welcoming beatings' on their arrival, as well as frequent acts of torture throughout detention."[475]

In April 2023, several videos started circulating on different websites purportedly showing Russian soldiers beheading Ukrainian soldiers.[476] Zelensky compared Russian soldiers to "beasts" after the footage was circulated.[477] Russian officials opened an investigation of the footage shortly thereafter.[478]


Humanitarian impact

The humanitarian impact of the invasion has been extensive and has included negative impacts on international food supplies and the 2022 food crises.[479] An estimated 6.6 million Ukrainians were internally displaced by August 2022, and about the same number were refugees in other countries.[480] The invasion has also had a negative impact upon the cultural heritage of Ukraine,[481] with over 500 Ukrainian cultural heritage sites, including cultural centers, theatres, museums, and churches, affected by "Russian aggression." Ukraine's Minister of Culture called it cultural genocide.[482] The deliberate destruction and looting of Ukrainian cultural heritage sites in this way is considered a war crime.[483][better source needed]

The Russian attacks on civilians, causing mass civilian casualties and displacement, have been characterized as genocide and democide.[484]

On the 15th of September 2023, a U.N.-mandated investigative body presented their findings showing that Russian occupiers tortured Ukrainians so brutally that some of their victims died, and forced families to listen as they raped women next door.[485] The commission has previously said that violations committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including the use of torture, may constitute crimes against humanity.[486]

Refugee crisis

Ukrainian refugees in Kraków protesting against the war, 6 March 2022
Protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, organised by political youth organisations in Helsinki, Finland, 26 February 2022

The war caused the largest refugee and humanitarian crisis within Europe since the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s;[487][488] the UN described it as the fastest growing such crisis since World War II.[489] As Russia built up military forces along the Ukrainian border, many neighbouring governments and aid organisations prepared for a mass displacement event in the weeks before the invasion. In December 2021, the Ukrainian defence minister estimated that an invasion could force three to five million people to flee their homes.[490]

In the first week of the invasion, the UN reported over a million refugees had fled Ukraine; this subsequently reached over eight million by 31 January 2023.[491][492] On 20 May, NPR reported that, following a significant influx of foreign military equipment into Ukraine, a significant number of refugees are seeking to return to regions of Ukraine which are relatively isolated from the invasion front in south-eastern Ukraine.[493] However, by 3 May, another 8 million people were displaced inside Ukraine.[494]

Most refugees were women, children, the elderly, or people with disabilities.[495] Most male Ukrainian nationals aged 18 to 60 were denied exit from Ukraine as part of mandatory conscription,[496][497] unless they were responsible for the financial support of three or more children, single fathers, or were the parent/guardian of children with disabilities.[498] Many Ukrainian men, including teenagers, opted to remain in Ukraine voluntarily in order to join the resistance.[499][500]

Regarding destinations, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees, as of 13 May, there were 3,315,711 refugees in Poland, 901,696 in Romania, 594,664 in Hungary, 461,742 in Moldova, 415,402 in Slovakia, and 27,308 in Belarus, while Russia reported it had received over 800,104 refugees.[501] As of 13 July 2022, over 390,000 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in the Czech Republic, where the average refugee was a woman accompanied by one child. These refugees were twice as likely to have a college degree as the Czech population as a whole.[502] Turkey has been another significant destination, registering more than 58,000 Ukrainian refugees as of 22 March, and more than 58,000 as of 25 April.[503] The EU invoked the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time in its history, granting Ukrainian refugees the right to live and work in the EU for up to three years.[504] Britain has accepted 146,379 refugees, as well as extending the ability to remain in the UK for 3 years with broadly similar entitlements as the EU, three years residency and access to state welfare and services.[505]

According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia has engaged in "massive deportation" of over 1.3 million Ukrainian civilians, potentially constituting crimes against humanity.[506][507] The OSCE and Ukraine have accused Russia of forcibly moving civilians to filtration camps in Russian-held territory, and then into Russia. Ukrainian sources have compared this policy to Soviet-era population transfers and Russian actions in the Chechen War of Independence.[508][509] For instance, as of 8 April, Russia claimed to have evacuated about 121,000 Mariupol residents to Russia.[509] Also, on 19 October, Russia announced the forced deportation of 60,000 civilians from areas around the line of contact in Kherson oblast.[510] RIA Novosti and Ukrainian officials said that thousands were dispatched to various centers in cities in Russia and Russian-occupied Ukraine,[511] from which people were sent to economically depressed regions of Russia.[512] In April, Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said Russia planned to build "concentration camps" for Ukrainians in western Siberia, and that it likely planned to force prisoners to build new cities in Siberia.[513][514][i]

Long-term demographic effects

Both Russia and Ukraine were facing the prospect of significant population decline even before the war, having among the lowest fertility rates worldwide and, in the Ukrainian case, considerable emigration. Russia had a fighting-age (18- to 40-year-old) male population more than four times higher than Ukraine's and slightly higher birth rates, while the willingness to fight was more pronounced in Ukraine.[516]

Several sources have pointed out how the war is considerably worsening Ukraine's demographic crisis, making significant shrinking very likely.[517][518] A July 2023 study by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies stated that "[r]egardless of how long the war lasts and whether or not there is further military escalation, Ukraine is unlikely to recover demographically from the consequences of the war. Even in 2040 it will have only about 35 million inhabitants, around 20% fewer than before the war (2021: 42.8 million) and the decline in the working-age population is likely to be the most severe and far-reaching." The study took different scenarios, from a "best case" (end of the war in 2023 without much further escalation) to a "worst case" (end of the war in 2025 with further escalation) into account. Flight from war affects especially the southern and eastern regions and especially educated women of child-bearing age and their children. With an estimate of more than 20% of refugees not returning, study author Maryna Tverdostup concludes that this will lead to long-term shrinking and will significantly impair the conditions for reconstruction.[519]

Since February 2022, hundreds of thousands of Russians have left their country, with estimates ranging from 370,000 to over 700,000. Combined with mobilization, this might have removed roughly between half a million and one million working-age males from Russia's population.[520] Studies report that this will have a demographic effect especially in Russia lasting much longer than the conflict will take place, and much longer than Putin will remain president.[521][522][523]

According to BBC:[524]

They come from different walks of life. Some are journalists like us, but there are also IT experts, designers, artists, academics, lawyers, doctors, PR specialists, and linguists. Most are under 50. Many share western liberal values and hope Russia will be a democratic country one day. Some are LGBTQ+. Sociologists studying the current Russian emigration say there is evidence that those leaving are younger, better educated and wealthier than those staying. More often they are from bigger cities.

According to Johannes Wachs, "The exodus of skilled human capital, sometimes called brain drain, out of Russia may have a significant effect on the course of the war and the Russian economy in the long run."[525]

Environmental impact

An explosion due to the shelling of a tank filled with nitric acid during the Battle of Severodonetsk, 31 May 2022

Based on a preliminary assessment, the war has inflicted USD 51 billion in environmental damage in Ukraine; according to a report by the Yale School of the Environment, some 687,000 tons of petrochemicals have burned as a result of shelling, while nearly 1,600 tons of pollutants have leaked into bodies of water. Hazardous chemicals have contaminated around 70 acres of soil, and likely made agricultural activities temporarily impossible.[526] Around 30% of Ukraine's land is now littered with explosives and more than 2.4 million hectares of forest have been damaged.[527]

According to Netherlands-based peace organization PAX, Russia's "deliberate targeting of industrial and energy infrastructure" has caused "severe" pollution, and the use of explosive weapons has left "millions of tonnes" of contaminated debris in cities and towns.[528] In early June 2023, the Kakhovka Dam, under Russian occupation, was damaged, causing flooding and triggering warnings of an "ecological disaster."[529]

The Ukrainian government, international observers and journalists have described the damage as ecocide.[530] The Ukrainian government is investigating more crimes against the environment and ecocide (a crime in Ukraine).[531] Zelenskyy has met with prominent European figures (Heidi Hautala, Margot Wallstrom, Mary Robinson and Greta Thunberg) to discuss the environmental damage and how to prosecute it.[532]

Peace efforts

As of January 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin made recognition of Russian sovereignty over the annexed territories (pictured) a condition for peace talks with Ukraine.[533]

Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine took place on 28 February, 3 March, and 7 March 2022, in an undisclosed location in the Gomel Region on the Belarus–Ukraine border, with further talks held on 10 March in Turkey and a fourth round of negotiations beginning 14 March.[534]

On 13 July, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said that peace talks were frozen and Ukraine must first recover the lost territories in the east of the country, before negotiations come.[535] On 19 July, former Russian President and current Deputy head of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, said: "Russia will achieve all its goals. There will be peace – on our terms."[536]

Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that any peace plan could only proceed from Ukraine's recognition of Russia's sovereignty over the regions it annexed from Ukraine in September 2022.[537][538] By 29 December, following the Russian declared annexation of multiple Ukrainian oblasts, hopes for Ukrainian peace talks with Russia dimmed significantly with Russia taking a hardline position that the full Russian occupation of the four oblasts would be non-negotiable under any circumstances.[539] In addition, Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was president and signed a decree to ban such talks.[540] In January 2023, Putin's spokesperson Peskov said that "there is currently no prospect for diplomatic means of settling the situation around Ukraine."[541]

In May 2023, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said peace negotiations to end the Russo-Ukrainian War were "not possible at this moment", saying it was clear that Russia and Ukraine were "completely absorbed in this war" and each "convinced that they can win."[542]

In June 2023, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that the peace plans presented by China, Brazil and Indonesia are attempts at mediation on behalf of Russia, and "they all currently want to be mediators on Russia's side. That's why this sort of mediation currently doesn't fit for us at all because they aren't impartial."[543] He said that Ukraine was willing to accept China as a mediator only if Beijing could convince Russia to withdraw from all the territories it had occupied.[544]

See also


  1. ^ a b The Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic were Russian-controlled puppet states that declared their independence in May 2014. They received international recognition from each other, Russia, Syria and North Korea, and some other partially recognised states. On 30 September 2022, Russia declared it had formally annexed both entities.
  2. ^ Russian forces were permitted to stage part of the invasion from Belarusian territory.[1][2] Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko also stated that Belarusian troops could take part in the invasion if needed,[3] and Belarusian territory was used to launch missiles into Ukraine.[4] Ukrainian officials have claimed that Belarusian troops have entered Ukraine.[5] See also: Belarusian involvement in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
  3. ^ Including regions held by Russian or pro-Russian forces since 2014 like Crimea or Donetsk city; the war has also affected a number of localities in western Russia.
  4. ^ By early September 2022 the US had given 126 M777 howitzer cannons and over 800,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition for them.[411] By January 2023 the US had donated 250,000 more 155 mm shells to Ukraine. The US is producing 14,000 155 mm shells monthly and plans to increase production to 90,000 shells per month by 2025.[412]
  5. ^ See here for a detailed breakdown of civilian deaths by oblast, according to Ukrainian authorities.
  6. ^ BBC Russia says the actual losses are "definitely higher"
  7. ^ DPR said 1,285 civilians were killed and 4,243 wounded between 1 January 2022 and 22 June 2023,[456][457] of which 8 died and 23 were wounded between 1 January and 25 February 2022,[458] leaving a total of 1,277 killed and 4,220 wounded in the period of the Russian invasion.
  8. ^ "According to the calculations of our colleagues, the ratio of seriously wounded to the number killed during this war may be 1.7 to 1 – that is, 102 thousand people were heavily injured and will not be able to return to duty."
  9. ^ Most likely, new cities meant new industrial cities in Siberia, the construction plans of which were announced by Shoigu in the fall of 2021.[515]


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  14. ^ Russia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) agreed in the Budapest Memorandum to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine.[12] In 1999, Russia signed the Charter for European Security, affirming the "right of each and every participating state to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance."[13]
  15. ^ Bevan, Scott (5 April 2008). "Ukraine-Georgia NATO membership a 'direct threat to Russia'". ABC News.
    • Evans, Michael (5 April 2008). "President tells summit he wants security and friendship". The Times. p. 46. President Putin, in a bravura performance before the world's media at the end of the Nato summit, warned President Bush and other alliance leaders that their plan to expand eastwards to Ukraine and Georgia "didn't contribute to trust and predictability in our relations.
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