Ukraine war: A month-by-month timeline of the conflict 2022-23

Ukraine war: A month-by-month timeline of the conflict 2022-23

February: The invasion begins

Russia invades on 24 February, a day etched in the mind of every Ukrainian.

Fierce fighting erupts in northern Ukraine as tens of thousands of Russian troops try to take the Ukrainian capital and decapitate the country. Wagner mercenaries are reportedly redeployed from Africa to assassinate the Ukrainian president.

A defiant Zelenskyy films himself walking through the streets of Kyiv, delivering a clear and compelling message: “I am here. We will not lay down any weapons.”

Vadim Ghirda/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The body of a serviceman is coated in snow next to a destroyed Russian military multiple rocket launcher vehicle on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. - Vadim Ghirda/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The move by the former comedian-turned-politician instantly becomes a PR masterstroke, rallying ordinary Ukrainians and the world behind him.

The EU throws open its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring out of Ukraine, with neighbouring countries like Poland, Hungary and Romania heavily praised for their generosity.

Some criticise the double standards shown by the bloc towards Ukrainians compared to those escaping violence in the Middle East or North Africa.

The United Nations overwhelmingly condemns Russia’s aggression and the West slaps sanctions on Moscow.

March: Horror in Bucha

Shockwaves from the Russian invasion reverberate around the world.

Food and energy prices climb as attention turns to the wider impact of the war. There are pointed concerns about the cost of living in the west, while food security becomes a worry across huge swathes of the developing world.

Russian forces encounter stubborn resistance around Kyiv and their advance starts to splutter and stall. Snaking convoys of tanks and military vehicles clog up roads, as military logistics and communications break down.

Some senior Russian commanders are killed trying to check on what is happening at the front.

Grizzly evidence of war crimes emerges as Russian forces pull back from areas around Kyiv. Hundreds of bodies of civilians are found in mass graves in Bucha. Many were bound and shot at close range, while others show signs of torture and rape.

But Russia's push to capture the Ukrainian capital has failed – for now.

Russia begins cracking down on independent media and festering opposition to the war inside the country, with several local stations shut down and access to foreign media restricted.

April: A new phase of war

A Russian missile strike hits a train station in Kramatorsk on 8 April, killing at least 50 civilians -- including women and children -- and wounding more than 100. Most of them were trying to evacuate to safety, say Ukrainian officials.

This catastrophe kicks off Moscow's pivot towards the east as it launches a new offensive to seize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Rodrigo Abd/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
The hand of a corpse buried along with other bodies is seen in a mass grave in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 3, 2022. - Rodrigo Abd/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

A suspected Ukrainian missile sinks the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva. It is a major blow to Moscow’s naval supremacy and military prestige.

Parents start asking questions about the fate of their missing sons as authorities remain tight-lipped about casualties among the ship's 500-strong crew.

Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children are now displaced by war, says the UN.

May: NATO grows

Sweden and Finland unveil their bids to join NATO, although there is political opposition from Turkey and Hungary which will continue all year.

The pair were closely aligned with NATO for decades, but not formally part of the organisation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO expansion as one of the main reasons for invading Ukraine, but it appears the invasion has had the opposite effect of strengthening the western military alliance.

Russia holds its yearly Victory Day Parade on 9 May to mark the USSR’s defeat of Nazism in the Second World War.

In a rare glimpse of lighter news, Ukraine wins the Eurovision song contest, though Italian police reveal the event was targeted by Russian hackers.

Fighters in the Azovstal steel mill -- the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol -- finally hoist up the white flag. Holding out for several apocalyptic weeks in the sprawling Soviet industrial complex, their dogged struggle was watched closely by the world.

June: 100 days of war

100 days of war have now passed. Tens of thousands lay dead, millions more are uprooted from their homes and Ukraine’s historical and cultural sites are devastated by fighting.

Nike leaves Russia, becoming the latest in a string of western brands to exit the country over the war. Experts say these high-profile departures, along with international sanctions, are crippling the Russian economy.

However, there are still debates about Russia's economic resilience and whether sanctions are the right approach, with some claiming they unduly affect ordinary Russians and play into the government's anti-western rhetoric.

Ludovic Marin/AP
French President Emmanuel Macron examine debris as they visit Irpin, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, June 16, 2022. - Ludovic Marin/AP

But Russia is not the only one struggling. A global food crisis is looming, with millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain languishing in silos since the start of the war.

Up to 181 million people in 41 countries could face acute food insecurity and outright famine, UN projections show.

Ukrainian forces recapture Snake Island, a tiny islet off the coast of southern Ukraine in the Black Sea.

July: Russian advances in the east

The last city in the eastern Luhansk region falls to the grinding Russian invasion. Ukraine’s embattled forces focus on defending Donetsk, the second part of the prized Donbas.

The Donbas, a heavily industrialised region in eastern Ukraine, has become the site of the biggest battle in Europe in generations.

Inflation reaches record highs in the Eurozone, with the euro and the dollar reaching parity (1 EUR = 1 USD).

Russia begins to periodically shut down the Nord Stream gas pipelines in a bid to ratchet up pressure on Europe. European leaders are spooked, teetering on the edge of an energy precipice ahead of winter.

Ukraine and Russia agree to a landmark deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported across the Black Sea. It is a major breakthrough aimed at easing the global food crisis -- one that brings a moment of reprieve to millions.

HIMARS missiles from the US begin hitting Russian ammo depots, logistics and command and control systems.

August: Gas exports to Europe stop

Amnesty International publishes a report that accuses Ukraine of riding roughshod with civilian life by placing its military in residential areas. Kyiv acts with outrage, while others maintain its armed forces are not above scrutiny, even if the country is under attack.

Powerful explosions rock an airbase in the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula.

No side says what they think is behind the string of blasts, which destroy several Russian planes and damage more than 80 buildings. But Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov suggests that Russia’s “military guys” had failed to observe a “very simple” rule: “Don't smoke in dangerous places”.

Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Ukrainian servicemen take their position at the frontline in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, Aug. 8, 2022. - Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Ukraine and Russia have been flirting with catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine for months. But now UN chief Antonio Guterres says the pair should stop their “suicidal attacks” on the nuclear plant, saying both sides should end fighting there.

A suspected car bomb goes off in Moscow killing TV commentator Daria Dugina, though observers think her father Aleksandr Dugin – dubbed ‘Putin’s brain’ – may have been the intended target.

All gas exports to Europe are halted on 31 August, with Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom citing maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Prices surge immediately.

September: Mobilisation

Ukraine launches a rapid counter-offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region, sending Russian units into retreat.

Zelenskyy raises the Ukrainian flag in the war-scarred city of Izium on 10 September. Occupied by Russia for six months, it is a big strategic win for Kyiv.

Putin announces a “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, triggering a mass flight of Russians escaping conscription into neighbouring Georgia and Kazakhstan.

The US claims “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainian citizens are being forcibly deported to Russia in a “series of horrors”.

Almost 1,200 protestors are arrested in cities across Russia after the call-up, as the authority's vice-like grip on anti-war dissent tightens. Many of these demonstrations are in areas populated by Russia's ethnic minorities, who claim they are disproportionately targeted by the draft.

Russia officially annexes Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia on 30 September. In a move branded illegal under international law, Putin says the annexed regions will be part of Russia "forever".

October: Sabotage

A large explosion tears through a bridge linking Russia and Crimea, which serves as a major supply route for Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine. It happens one day after Putin’s birthday.

Kyiv does not take responsibility for the blast, though Russia points to “Ukrainian terror”. Russia’s prestige in the region is dealt a stinging blow.

AP/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Flame and smoke rise from Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait, in Kerch, Crimea, on Oct. 8, 2022. - AP/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Russia begins bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, knocking out power and heating ahead of winter. Military analysts tell Euronews this is a “strategy of escalation” intended to “break the national morale”.

The war in Ukraine and rising inflation plunge an additional four million children into poverty, according to an October report by UNICEF. A large proportion of them -- 2.8 million -- are Russian.

November: Kherson liberated

Ukrainian troops pour into Kherson on 11 November.

The southern port city, once home to 250,000 people, was one of the first to fall to Russian forces, during the early days of the war. There are jubilant scenes across Ukraine, though officials warn of an unfolding humanitarian disaster in the bombed-out ruins.

Poland is put on high alert after a blast near the Ukrainian border kills two. It turns out the deadly explosion was caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile.

Inflation in Europe eases but it is still in painful double digits, hitting 10% in November. Russia is hoping surging consumer prices and new waves of Ukrainian refugees will erode European leaders' resolve.

NATO promises to admit Ukraine into the western alliance, though there are considerable doubts over when Kyiv will be allowed to join.

December: Grim warnings for spring

Zelenskyy heads to the US -- his first state visit outside the country since the start of the war.

Saying that Ukraine will “never be alone”, US President Joe Biden promises to send Patriot air defence systems to help Ukraine stave off Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure.

The US had been reluctant to supply this long-range weapon to Ukraine over fears of inflaming tensions with Russia. Moscow warns Washington over sending more weapons to Kyiv.

Biden and Zelenskyy met at the White House. - OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP or licensors

Ukrainian authorities raise fears that Russia may try to take Kyiv again in the New Year, after its abortive offensive at the start of the war.

On Christmas Day, Putin claims Russia is “ready to negotiate” with Ukraine - a demand ruled out by leaders in Ukraine. The Russian president publicly uses the word "war" to refer to his country's invasion for the first time.

January 2023: Tanks, tanks, tanks

Amid mounting political pressure, Germany finally agrees to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks, paving the way for the US and other NATO allies to follow suit.

Some hailed the move as a significant boost to Kyiv’s war effort -– which could enable fresh offensives -– though others questioned if the number of tanks was enough and whether Ukraine would be able to use them effectively on the battlefield.

Russia slammed it as a “blatant provocation”.

Almost as soon as the tank deliveries got the green light, Kyiv began asking for fighter jets -– something Scholz flatly ruled out.

After months of gritty fighting, Ukraine admits withdrawing from the eastern town of Soledar, reversing Russia's military fortunes.

Moscow has portrayed the fight as key to seizing the strategic town of Bakhmut and the prized Donbas region. But the importance of the salt-mining town is debated.

Russia and Belarus begin joint drills, sparking fears that Moscow could use its ally to launch a fresh ground offensive in spring.