This week marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine and began an un-relenting barrage against the Ukrainian people.
I remember vividly waking to the news. We were isolating as close COVID contacts so were stuck at home - stuck but safe. My family in the Ukraine were not safe and to this day are not safe.
I ended my last blog on the war at Orthodox Christmas (click here for previous blog). At the time it was anticipated that a ceasefire would be reached for the holiday however it was made clear that this would not come to pass.
The start of 2023 has seen many Western nations pledge extra support for Ukraine as the war continues well beyond what anyone expected, in fact the items being granted by other nations seems to be what is making headline news. Russia has reacted to the support of the West for Ukraine by stating that the world is engaging in "local" business and impeding Russian rights.
One reprieve for Ukraine this year has been the news that Russian artillery fire had decreased by almost 75% in some places in early January.
The focus of the war shifted to Soledar, in Donetsk where the Russian claimed the Wagner Group (Russia’s private military) had killed approximately 500 Ukrainians. While Russia shared this news Ukrainian officials rushed to evacuate the city and stated that no side seemed to be in control. The location is important to the Ukrainian economy as it produces 95% of the countries salt and is home to a salt mine. By the 11th January Russia was claiming control of the region however the population had dropped from over 10,000 at the start of 2023 to just 559 on 13 January 2023.
On the 26 January Russia launched a series of attacks across the country, including on the capital Kiev. In the attacks 11 people were killed and at least 11 were injured including those in the capital attack.
The next mass attack came on the 10 February when 17 Russian missiles hit Zaporizhzhia within just one hour and other missiles targeted other parts of the power grid. Indeed, Russia was continuing the war on Ukrainian infrastructure.
By mid-February Ukrainian media were reporting that Russia was suffering losses of over 800 soldiers per day. This is significantly higher than mid-2022 when it was thought they were losing around 170 per-day.
As I write this blog the main news story is the recent visit of American President Jope Biden to Kiev on 20 February. This visit and a speech given by Biden coincided with an address by Putin. A great clip by the BBC World news highlights the very different speeches presented by two very different leaders, telling two very different versions of the same story. To see the BBC comparison in 50 seconds follow this link: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-64726390
In a year of war what are some of the key moments?
1. 24 February 2022 – Russia launches a
“special military operation” and troops quickly reach the capital Kiev however Ukrainian forces keep them at bay in the outskirts of the city.
2. 2 March 2022 – Russian forces capture the city of Kherson and the surrounding region. This was one of the first major cities to be taken by Russian forces.
3. 16 March 2022 – Russia hits a theatre in Mariupol where around 1,000 civilians were sheltering. Hundreds are killed in the largest civilian attack of the war. This focused the world’s attention on the city and it would remain the centre of headlines for over a month as Russian troops bombarded the city until it fell in May.
4. 29 March 2022 – Russia withdraws its troops from Kiev to focus on the Donbas. In the aftermath the horror of what the suburbs around Kiev faced becomes apparent with mass graves and a high loss of life found as Ukrainian troops re-enter the towns and villages.
5. 13 April 2022 – Ukraine hits and sinks the Russian flagship Moskva. At the time it was just reported that the ship was just damaged however it was more severely damaged that Russian news would reveal and days later news trickled out that the ship had indeed sunk. This was a major blow to Russian national pride.
6. 9 August 2022 – Attacks are launched within Crimea, focussed on the Russian Saky Military Airbase in Novofedorivka with approximately 20 explosions. It was later revealed these were undertaken under orders from Kiev with President Putin starting that the war began with Crimea so it should end with it. On the 8 October the main bridge linking Crimea to the mainland was attacked by Ukrainian forces. In response Russia would go on a campaign targeting Ukrainian power plants. By early October almost 40% of Ukraine would be without power.
7. 6 September 2022 – Ukraine launches a surprise counter offensive in Kharkiv taking back territory that had been held by Russia for months. Ukrainian forces then began moving towards the city of Kherson.
8. 30 September 2022 – Russia annexes four Ukrainian regions after holding referendums in the oblasts which passed unanimously. These regions were Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
9. 9 November 2022 - Kherson is reclaimed by Ukraine however it remains at the centre of Russian attacks.
10. 1 January 2023 - At 00:01 precisely, Ukraine launched a missile strike on Makiivka which is in Russian held Donetsk, killing 400 Russian soldiers and injuring a further 300 (according to Ukrainians reports). The site of the attack was a Russian military camp for new conscripts. Russian reports suggest just 63 were killed however their figure was later updated to 89 and Russian media has blamed the conscripts use of their mobile phones for drawing Ukrainian attention to their position. Despite the camp being in an undisclosed location and phone usage banned it it said that conscripts ignored this order and so the mass appearance of mobile usage in the area is what alerted Ukrainian forces to their presence.
*This blog has been put together with multiple current news sources such as the BBC World News Podcast, local nightly news and media outlets such as News.com
Articles and Websites:
"Ukraine War in Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion", BBC News (15 August 2022), <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60506682>
"War in Ukraine", BBC World News (multiple articles), <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60525350>
War in Ukraine (website of the War in Ukraine hosted by Ukraine), <www.war.ukraine.ua>
"Global Conflict Tracker", Council on Foreign Relations (Updated 12 May 2022), <https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine>
Disclaimer: The observations and comments made in this blog are made after reflecting on the news stories and histories I read. History plays a big part in how I understand the present so my comments largely take into account history and the role it has in the present. After all, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.