Understanding the Crisis in Ukraine Part Three - The First 33 Days

This blog follows on from "Understanding What is Happening in Ukraine from a Historical Perspective (Part 1)" and "Understanding the Regions at the centre of the current Ukrainian-Russian Conflict (Part Two)".

Over the last month I've struggled to comprehend what was happening in Ukraine. If you've followed along with my previous blogs on this subject then you'll know I have family over there and my Grandfather is Ukrainian so I feel it is my responsibility to try and understand what is transpiring.


Every day we hear stories and news of the war but it is hard to keep up with everything and know what is truth compared to opinion. For this reason I've tried to simplify some of the major incidents and events and track the course of the first month of this conflict. These are the first 33 days.


Day Zero - 21st February 2022:

Russian President Putin acknowledges the DPR & LPR, 21 February 2022 (Euronews.com)

Russia (aka President Putin) recognises the sovereignty of two Ukrainian separatist regions: Luhansk and Donetsk [See previous blog post]. This action was condemned internationally with the first round of sanctions enacted by NATO countries.


I know at the time I thought that this was such a bold statement that there would be no further escalation. I was wrong.


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WEEK ONE

Day One - 21st February 2022

Some of the first images from the conflict, 21 February 2022 (BBC World News)

Before dawn on 21 February 2022, President Putin went on Russian state TV to announce that a special military operation would be launched in Eastern Ukraine to demilitarise the country and to topple the (basically what he called) socialist regime. Within minutes of this announcement explosions were reported in Kiev, Kharkiv, Odessa and Donbas. Utilising the point where Ukraine meets Belarus and Russia troops invaded, as they did through the already annexed Crimea.



Almost immediately martial law was declared in Ukraine as most of the nation seemed to come under attack. To list all of the places that fell to Russia wouldn’t do the scale of the invasion justice but across the nation Ukrainian’s rallied and had many of their own victories in repelling the enemy.


Snake Island at the centre of Day One Events

One of the most re-told stories from day one of this offensive occurred at Snake Island where audio recordings of the border guards refusing to surrender to the Russian naval ships went viral. It was presumed all were killed but they became Ukrainian heroes.



[UPDATE: ON 30th March 2022 it would be announced that the Ukrainian's were taken captive not killed and in a prisoner exchange the man responsible for standing up to Russia was returned to Ukraine where he received a bravery award].



This first day of fighting saw at least 137 Ukrainian civilians and military personnel killed; the Chernobyl power plant was also taken by the Russian’s.


Late in the evening all Ukrainian men, aged 18-60 were mobilized and banned from leaving the country.


The map below helped understand the conflict in these first few days:


Day Two – 25th February 2022

It became evident on day two that the Russian’s were met with more resistance than expected, especially in the north where they faced heavy fighting and possible heavy casualties. Russian forces began entering Kiev but they faced heavy opposition and were held back. Before 4am a Russian aircraft was shot down with the debris falling on the capital.


The Russian’s were also accused of targeting civilian sites and in response the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (backed by Russia) reported that Ukrainian fire had hit a school killing two teachers.


Across Ukraine guns were issued to those willing to defend the country.


Day Three – 26th February 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky elects to stay in Ukraine rather than evacuate, 26 February 2022 (CNN)

The third day of the conflict began with heavy fighting in the south of the capital Kiev, largely based around an air base. As fighting intensified around the capital President Zelensky elected to stay in Ukraine, rather than be evacuated which was offered by the American’s.


Ukrainian forces did well to hold off the Russian advances, including in the air however the Chechen Republic sent troops into Ukraine as well on this day whom the Ukrainian forces had to combat as well as the Russian's. Despite this the Ukrainian’s had managed to stop the Russians laying siege to the Capital and were cutting off crucial supply lines to the Russian military.


Two foreign cargo ships were struck by Russian missiles in the Black Sea. These were a Japanese cargo-ship, MV Namura Queen and Moldovan MV Millennial Spirit. Luckily no one was killed on either ship but the Millennial Spirit had to be abandoned with all crew rescued by Ukrainian forces. According to reports most of the crew of the Millennial Spirit were Russian.


Day Four – 27th February 2022

The main image on the news today was that of a damaged nine-story building in Kharkiv with 80-people frantically being rescued by Ukrainian emergency services after it was hit by Russian artillery (pictured below). This combined with the hospital hit the day before, where a six-year-old boy was killed further fuelled the media’s representation of the war crimes being committed by the Russian’s.


The city of Nova Kakhovka was seized by the Russian’s (they are said to have destroyed Kozatske and Vesele) and they entered Kharkiv where fighting took place in the streets. There were reports that the Russian’s surrendered and the Oblast of Kharkiv was back in Ukrainian control but this seemed questionable.


In the East Pro-Russian-Ukrainian forces, connected the Crimea with Eastern Ukraine by besieging Mariupol and Berdiansk. Russian forces also captured and destroyed Stanytsia Luhanska, Shchastia and Volnovakha.


In the north Kiev saw a reprieve with the Russian offensive paused, likely to re-fuel and stock the Russian’s.


Day Five – 28th February 2022

Fighting didn’t stop overnight around the besieged Mariupol while Greek-Russian relations were tested when Russian forces bombed the settlements of Buhas and Sartana which have large Greek populations. In the attack twelve Greek’s were killed which sparked outrage in Greece and saw them send support to Ukraine.


Diplomatic talks between Ukraine and Russia, held in Belarus, failed. Putin’s terms included Ukrainian neutrality, demilitarisation and recognition of Crimea as Russian territory.


Day Six – 1st March 2022

Over 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed when Russian’s shelled a military base in Okhtyrka. Later in the day when Freedom Square in Kharkiv was bombed at least ten citizens were killed.


Ukraine announced that Belarussian forces had joined the Russian invasion in the Chernihiv Oblast, north-east of the Capital (it would later be claimed that a false-flag operation by Russia, to bring the Belarussian’s into the war caused this, denied by Belarusian spokespeople).


In Kiev Russian’s targeted broadcasters with missiles taking Ukrainian TV channels off the air and killing at least five people.


Berdiansk and Melitopol were captured by Russian forces.


Day Seven – 2nd March 2022

Russian’s captured Trostianets and Kherson while Ukranian forces took back Makariv.

In Mariupol civilian casualties were rising with relentless bombing.


The Bangladeshi bulk carrier Banglar Samriddhi was struck by a missile setting it on fire and killing one crew member.


WEEK TWO

Day Eight – 3rd March 2022

In the second round of peace talks Russia agreed to open a humanitarian corridor to evacuate citizens.


In Germany the sale of missiles to Ukraine was authorised by law and a law was also passed in Ukraine allowing the seizure of Russian owned assets.


The Estonian cargo ship Helt sunk after an explosion in Odessa. Luckily all crew survived.

Russian troops claimed Balakiliia.


Day Nine – 4th March 2022

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was hit with a projectile causing a fire. This didn’t impact the radiation levels but after a brief battle Russian troops captured the plant.


NATO refused to impose a no-fly ban over Ukraine stating that would lead to World War Three.


Day Ten – 5th March 2022

Russia announces the humanitarian corridor will open to allow 200,000 civilians from Mariupol to evacuate the city which now had no water or electricity. The agreed ceasefire was broken very soon afterwards effectively closing the corridor. Both sides blame each other.


Russian troops claimed Bucha and Hostomel.


Day Eleven – 6th March 2022

United States media reported that around 95% of the troops stationed outside Ukraine ahead of the invasion had entered the country.


Russian airstrikes destroyed an international airport and armour plant while a second attempt to evacuate Mariupol was frantically attempted.


Day Twelve – 7th March 2022

Russian forces captured Vasylivka, Tokmak, Polohy while the Mayor of Hostomel was killed and the Mayor of Irpin was captured.


Russian missiles hit two oil depots leading to large fires while Ukrainian forces re-claimed Chuhuiv.


Six humanitarian corridors were to be opened by Russia however only two led to non-Russian or Belarussian territory.


Day Thirteen – 8th March 2022

Evacuation of Mariupol via the humanitarian corridor was once again blocked by Russian forces.


Day Fourteen – 9th March 2022

It was reported that 40,000 Ukrainian citizens were evacuated across Ukraine throughout the day.


WEEK THREE

Day Fifteen – 10th March 2022

The attack on Chernihiv intensifies, early March 2022 (Local media)

Tri-lateral talks, hosted by Turkey failed to yield any results while Russia agreed to open humanitarian corridors into Russia at 10am each day.


Russian troops grew closer to Kiev and Chernihiv was entirely isolated.


In Zagred, the capital of Croatia a Russian drone crashed. What does this have to do with the war? Why was a Russian drone in Croatia?


Day Sixteen – 11th March 2022

Fighting around the capital intensified and in the west Russian forces targeted Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk.


In Africa volunteers from the Central African Republic were said to be ready to enter the war for Russia. Putin’s troops also had amassed 4,000 Syrian missionaries. Indeed the global reach of the war was increasing.


Day Seventeen – 12th March 2022

The Donetsk People’s Republic captured Volnovakha while Kiev remained under heavy fire throughout the day, especially the neighbouring cities as well.


It was announced that Russia had plans to create the “Kherson People’s Republic” with a government sympathetic to Russia. A city in the south of Ukraine it had been under control since the 3rd March 2022 and little further has been discussed on this topic in the media so it is unclear if it is a legitimate claim or not.


Around 13,000 Ukrainian’s were evacuated throughout the day.


Day Eighteen – 13th March 2022

The aftermath in Yavoriv, 13 March 2022 (Ukraine.com)

The biggest news of the day was the Russian attack on the Yavoriv International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security, just 10km from the Polish border. While there were around 1,000 individuals training from across the world there were no NATO personnel on site. Usually there would have been however they had evacuated already.


The Russian navy had effectively blockaded the Black Sea stopping international maritime trade with Ukraine.


In Romania a Russian drone crashed while back in Ukraine reports that progress was being made in peace talks was welcome news.


Also, on this day an American journalist was shot dead as a result of Russian fire.


Day Nineteen – 14th March 2022

A missile was shot down over the city of Donetsk with the Republic stating Ukraine was responsible however Ukraine claimed Russia was behind the attack.


On all fronts Russian advances had been stalled however it was unlikely the attacks would end.


Day Twenty – 15th March 2022

Russian forces took complete control of the Kherson Oblast and began closing in from the sea on the city of Odessa.


Meanwhile the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Poland met with President Zelensky in Kiev as a show of support.


Day Twenty-One – 16th March 2022

A Ukrainian counter-offensives began in Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin to repel troops heading for the capital. Offensives also were undertaken in Mykolaiv heading towards Kherson.


Making the headlines though was the Russian bombing of a theatre in Mariupol where around 1,000 civilians were sheltering.

The theatre that was sheltering women and children in Mariupol is destroyed by a Russian bomb, 16 March 2022

WEEK FOUR

Day Twenty-Two: 17th March 2022

Rubizhne in Eastern Ukraine was captured by Russian troops.


Rescue workers in Ukraine continued to search the rubble of the Mariupol Theatre for survivors following the bombing yesterday.


Over 200 Ukrainian soldiers are thought to have died after a Russian attack on the Mykolaiv barracks.


Day Twenty-Three: 18th March 2022

Around 200,000 people gathered in Moscow to celebrate eight years since Russia annexed Crimea. Interestingly the stadiums capacity is just 81,000 so there may be some inflation in those numbers.


In Mariupol hundreds remained trapped in the theatre following the bombing days earlier however there were no reports of deaths. In Lviv, a city that has been a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict, Russia began bombings.


According to military experts Russia has made little advance in the last week and a tweet-war between Russia and Canada took off over a draft letter from Russia to the UN (see picture below).


The biggest news of the day was a video by Arnold Schwarzenegger calling on the Russian people to stop listening to miss-information


Day Twenty-Four: 19th March 2022

In a more “light-hearted” story, Russian cosmonauts boarded the International Space station in Ukrainian colours! Apparently, it wasn’t a political move but the colours of their university.


Day Twenty-Five: 20th March 2022

The fighting in the besieged Mariupol reached the centre of the city and Russia claimed the first use of a hypersonic missile.


What does that mean? It is a highly mobile missile that can move at 5 times the speed of sound.


Day Twenty-Six: 21st March 2022

Does it seem like the news is slowing down? It kind of does but in actual fact the front lines were just bogged down and fighting did continue with little gains on either side. On this day the main news was of an ammonia leak at a chemical plant in Sumy.


Day Twenty-Seven: 22nd March 2022

It was announced that Russian forces now had highly dangerous radioactive material that they had obtained when they destroyed a lab at the Chernobyl Power Plant.


Day Twenty-Eight: 23rd March 2022

The farming town of Voznesensk made the headlines when it held off Russian forces after a two-day battle. The local resistance and Ukrainian troops blew up a strategic bridge which significantly halted the Russian advance.

The bridge that was destroyed by locals protecting Voznesensk, 23 March 2022

It was estimated that within this one month of fighting 3.6 million Ukrainians had left Ukrainian with another 6.5 million people remaining internally displaced. Of the 3.6 million around 2.1 million were now in Poland while 40% of the 6.5 million had made their way to western Ukraine. (Data source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60555472)


WEEK FIVE

Day Twenty-Nine: 24th March 2022

No news is good news right? In this instance we hope so! What was to come next would see a tide-turn in the war with Ukrainian resistance truly rallying.


Day Thirty: 25th March 2022

Ukrainian forces mounted a counter attack around Kiev reclaiming some places such as Lukianovka however Russian forces took the city of Slavutych, which is close to Chernobyl.


Though Russian bombs continued to rain down across Ukraine it was claimed that the first stage of the Russian military operation was now complete and that the focus was now the liberation of the Donbas.


According to the World Health Organisation there have been over 70 attacks on hospitals and health care facilities.


Day Thirty-One: 26th March 2022

In Slavutych, after protests by the local Ukrainians, Russian forces agreed to pull back so long as there were no Ukrainian military personnel in the city.


Around Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces took back a number of key sites however in the west the Russian’s began an attack on Lviv. This coincided with a visit by US President Joe Biden to Poland where he met with Ukrainian ministers.


Day Thirty-Two: 27th March 2022

Heavy missile strikes continued across Ukraine while Ukrainian counter-offensives near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region continued.


Day Thirty-Three: 28th March 2022

It was reported that Ukrainian’s attempting to flee the besieged Mariupol were being forced into Russia and the buzz topic of the day was the concept that Russia was attempting to divide Ukraine into East and west much like Korea was divided into north and south.


In Luhansk plans were proposed to hold a referendum on the topic of joining Russia but this was refused by Kiev.


Around Kiev Ukrainian forces were fighting back while in the south the Russian offensive was considered to have slowed.


The best way to understand the conflict is the map by the BBC World Service below:


COMING SOON: FOLLOWING THE CONFLICT (PAGE LINK)


Has this helped you understand how history has brought us to where we are today? If your answer is no, don't worry because I also still have many questions I'd like to explore and answer. For this reason I am planning a few more blogs that will cover:


  • Part Four: The Ongoing Crisis, [feat. Chernihiv] (wouldn't it be great if this blog wasn't needed)!

  • Part Five: A Closer look at Ukraine's History (incl. the Cossack State).

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Further Reading (A selection):

*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:

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.

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