War in Ukraine: from invasion to Western tanks

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 26 2023 11:48 AM

Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored military vehicle on a road outside Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2022. Roman Pilipey, EPA-EFE/File 
Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored military vehicle on a road outside Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2022. Roman Pilipey, EPA-EFE/File 

KYIV — President Vladimir Putin launched the biggest attack on a European country since World War II when he ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 11-month-old war, which looked set to enter a new stage on Wednesday with Germany and the United States's decision to send Kyiv powerful tanks.

Here is a timeline of the main developments:

February 2022: invasion 

Putin announces a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24, saying he wants to demilitarize and "de-Nazify" the country as well as protect the predominantly Russian-speaking east from "genocide".

A full-scale invasion starts, with missile strikes on several Ukrainian cities that sparks a refugee crisis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stays in the capital Kyiv to lead the resistance.

The West imposes unprecedented sanctions on Russia and the European Union and United States send Ukraine weapons and aid.

March: advances in south but Kyiv holds 

Russian forces make gains in the south, seizing the city of Kherson, close to the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula.

Russian forces also attempt to surround Kyiv and take Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv in the northeast but meet fierce resistance.

A month into the fighting, Russia withdraws from the north to focus on the eastern industrial Donbas region, partly held by Russian-backed separatists, along with the south.

April: war crimes revealed

In early April, AFP discovers the bodies of at least 20 civilians lying on a single street in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha -- the first of several grisly discoveries in towns that Russian forces had occupied which spark an international outcry and war crimes investigations.

May: Mariupol falls 

On May 21, Russia announces the fall of the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which had been relentlessly bombed, after the last Ukrainian troops holding out at a steelworks surrender.

Sweden and Finland request membership of NATO, fearing they could be future targets of Russian aggression.

June: Donbas battle rages 

In June, Russia takes the Donbas city of Severodonetsk after one of the bloodiest battles of the war, followed soon after by the neighboring city of Lysychansk.

July: gas supplies cut 

On July 22, Kyiv and Moscow sign a deal to resume grain exports from Ukraine, in a bid to relieve a food crisis aggravated by Russia's blockade of the country's ports.

Russian gas giant Gazprom slashes its supply to Europe through the Nord Stream pipeline, fueling fears of gas shortages in Europe.

August: battle for Bakhmut 

Kyiv launches a major offensive to retake Kherson as a major battle begins for the eastern town of Bakhmut, spearheaded on the Russian side by the Wagner mercenary group.

September: annexation 

Ukraine retakes hundreds of towns and villages in a lightning counter-offensive around Kharkiv.

Putin launches a partial draft of 300,000 reservists, sparking an exodus of young Russian men of military age.

On Sept. 30, he formally annexes the Ukrainian regions of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

October: power supply hit 

On Oct. 8, an explosion causes major damage to a bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland -- a symbol of Moscow's annexation of the peninsula.

Putin blames Ukrainian secret services for the attack.

Russian forces retaliate with a barrage of strikes on energy infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, leaving millions without power in what becomes its new modus operandi throughout the winter.

November: retreat from Kherson 

On Nov. 9, Moscow orders its troops to retreat from Kherson in the face of advancing Ukrainian forces, marking a stunning defeat in one of the regions it annexed. Jubilant residents hail Ukrainian forces as liberators.

December: Zelensky goes to Washington 

On Dec. 22, Zelensky visits Washington on his first overseas trip since the war began. He meets President Joe Biden and addresses Congress.

January 2023: tanks on the way 

Russia suffers its biggest single loss of life since the invasion in a Ukrainian attack on a temporary base in the eastern town of Makiivka on Jan. 1. 

Moscow says 89 soldiers were killed in the hit.

On January 25, Germany finally agrees to send Ukraine some of its powerful Leopard tanks.

Moscow's ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nechaev, warns that the "extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation."

The United States follows, announcing that it will provide 31 Abrams tanks. Biden says the delivery poses no "offensive" threat to Russia.

Norway also says it will send Leopard 2 battle tanks.

The Ukrainian presidency says the Western tanks "will determine our future victory".

On the same day, Ukraine admits to AFP that it has pulled out of Soledar near Bakhmut, 2 weeks after Russia announced it had "liberated" the mining town.

© Agence France-Presse