The war in Ukraine began one year ago when Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine, marking the biggest conflict in Europe since WWII. The war has had a devastating impact on Ukraine, with thousands killed and over 8 million Ukrainians fleeing abroad. The economic consequences have been significant, affecting energy supplies in Europe and grain prices in Africa. Governments around the world have imposed sanctions on Russia in an effort to end the conflict, but these measures have had limited success so far. Despite the odds, Ukraine’s military has managed to reclaim control of large areas of occupied territory and fend off Russian advances in the east.
The war has had a significant impact on Ukraine and the world, with thousands of lives lost, millions displaced, and an economic toll that continues to reverberate globally. It is important to recognize the need for continued international efforts to find a peaceful solution. It is also important to remember the human toll of the conflict, and to ensure that the voices of those affected are heard. The one-year mark of the war in Ukraine provides an opportunity to assess the ongoing conflict’s impact and to renew efforts to find a lasting solution.
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine can be traced back to November 2021 when the United States reported an unusual movement of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. By the end of the month, Ukraine reported a build-up of 92,000 Russian troops. In response, US President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of “strong economic and other measures” if Russia attacked Ukraine. However, Putin proposed a prohibition on Ukraine joining NATO, which Ukraine rejected.1 In January 2022, Russian troops began arriving in Belarus for military exercises, and the US gave Ukraine $200 million in security aid. As tensions continued to escalate, Putin ordered Russian forces to enter Ukraine on February 21, 2022, and announced the recognition of two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. This announcement led to the first round of economic sanctions from NATO countries the following day. The events leading up to the war in Ukraine demonstrate the complex political and economic tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with international actors playing a significant role in the conflict’s escalation.2
The war in Ukraine over the past year can be categorized into four distinct phases, beginning with the Initial Invasion, followed by the South-eastern front, Ukrainian counteroffensives, and finally the Second Stalemate.
On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, with the aim of demilitarizing and denazifying the country.3 Shortly after, explosions were reported in several Ukrainian cities and Russian troops were seen entering Ukrainian territory. The US believed that Russia intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government, while Russian forces were planning a pincer movement to surround Kyiv and envelop Ukraine’s forces in the east. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy proclaimed martial law and broke off relations with Russia. Russian missiles targeted Ukrainian infrastructure, and heavy fighting was reported in various parts of the country. However, Russian forces eventually retreat.4 Neighbouring countries and the EU opened their borders to people fleeing the conflict, but men of conscription age were prevented from leaving Ukraine. In response to the invasion, Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia, including freezing assets of political and business leaders and stopping transactions with Russia’s central bank.
In March 2022, heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces occurred on multiple fronts, resulting in significant casualties and destruction. The Yavoriv International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, a Ukrainian military base, was bombed by Russian forces, killing at least 35 people and wounding 134. Russia established a blockade around Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline, stopping its international maritime trade. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that nearly 125,000 civilians had been evacuated.5 Russian forces took control of Kherson Oblast and shot down drones, while visiting Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland showed support for Ukraine. Ukrainian forces began a counter-offensive to repel Russian forces approaching Kyiv, and Russia captured the city of Rubizhne in Eastern Ukraine.6 UN investigators report that at least 441 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and some killings, such as those in Bucha, may be war crimes. The conflict also led to a global food crisis, and Ukraine banned many agricultural exports, causing world food prices to reach a record high. Russia switched its focus to the Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists started a rebellion in 2014.
Commencing with April, the timeline documents the second phase of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which occurred from April 8th to September 11th, 2022, with the focus of heavy fighting shifting to the south and east of Ukraine.
April 2022, a missile strike on a train station in Kramatorsk resulted in the death of many civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, who were trying to escape the conflict.7 Ukrainian President Zelenskyy accused the Russians of targeting civilians because they lacked the strength and courage to face the Ukrainian army on the battlefield. Later in the month, the Ukrainian military sank Russia’s flagship vessel, the Moskva, in a symbolic victory. The UN reports that over five million people have now fled Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict, marking the largest refugee crisis in Europe this century.8
In May 2022, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described this as a “historic moment.” Russia continued to capture strategic Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol after a three-month siege. President Zelenskyy called on countries to help set up a fund to rebuild Ukraine at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 9
In June 2022, Russian missiles struck a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, and the World Bank approved $1.49 billion in additional financing to help pay public sector wages. The EU’s decision to partially phase out Russian oil was criticized by Russia. In July 2022, Russian forces completed the conquest of Luhansk province by capturing the city of Lysychansk, and Gazprom announced it would halve gas supplies to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.10
In July 2022, Russian forces took control of Lysychansk, thereby completing the takeover of Luhansk province in Eastern Ukraine. According to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), between July 1 and 24, 2022, there were 1,165 civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Of these, 285 were killed, including 83 men, 73 women, 6 girls, 8 boys, and 115 adults whose sex was not determined. Furthermore, 880 people were injured, including 128 men, 137 women, 15 girls, 25 boys, 8 children, and 567 adults whose sex was not determined.11
In August 2022, Ukrainian forces initiated a counter-offensive in the south near Kherson, which is the sole land access point to Crimea. The operation targeted Russian supply lines, ammunition depots, and an air base in Crimea. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the risk of nuclear conflict had returned after many years. He criticized the Russian shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility in Ukraine, describing it as “suicidal.”12
In September 2022, European gas prices increased up to 30% due to the indefinite closure of one of Russia’s main gas supply pipelines. Ukraine launched a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region, recapturing a key rail hub supplying the Russian frontline. Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilization of reservists, leading to an exodus of military-age men attempting to cross borders into neighboring countries.
The third phase spans from September 12, when Ukrainian forces launched successful counteroffensives in the south and east, to November 9, when they regained control of Kherson. During October, Russia launched a series of massive strikes targeting Ukrainian infrastructure, causing extensive damage.13
In October 2022, the only bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, was severely damaged by an explosion. In response, Russia launched missile strikes on Kyiv, marking the first such attack in months. Subsequently, Ukrainian energy infrastructure was targeted, and the country’s energy minister reported that at least 50% of its thermal energy capacity had been affected. A UNICEF report stated that an additional four million children have been pushed into poverty due to the ongoing war, with 2.8 million of them being Russian.14
The fourth phase of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine began on November 10, 2022, and continues until the present day. This phase follows the end of Ukrainian counteroffensives in November and is marked by Russia’s continued campaign of massive strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure, which began in October and carried over from the previous phase. Despite some advances by Russia, including the capture of Soledar on January 16, 2023, the conflict remains ongoing.15
In November 2022, Russia ordered its forces to withdraw from Kherson, the only regional capital they had previously captured. The Kherson region was among the four that Russian President Vladimir Putin had claimed would be a permanent part of Russia. The European Union (EU) was exploring options to increase assistance to Ukraine’s energy sector after “cruel and inhumane” attacks caused widespread power outages. The EU’s Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson, criticized Russia’s bombing of Ukrainian infrastructure, calling it a strategy to cause human suffering. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was disconnected from the power grid after being damaged by Russian shelling, had its external power restored after two days.16
In December 2022, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy visited the United States, becoming the first foreign leader to address the US Congress since the beginning of the war. He emphasized that providing aid to Ukraine was an investment in democracy.17 On Christmas Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia was willing to negotiate regarding Ukraine. However, Ukraine dismissed Moscow’s offer, insisting that talks would not be fruitful until all Russian soldiers had left its territory.18
In January 2023, Russian forces, reinforced by new recruits, made some gains on the battlefield by capturing the town of Soledar and focusing on the strategic town of Bakhmut. Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization reports that food prices hit a record high in 2022, rising by 14.3% due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The World Bank warned that the global economy could enter a recession in 2023. President Zelenskyy addressed world leaders during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, saying that the world will overcome Putin’s aggression, just as it had overcome other challenges in the past.
Impact of the war on Ukraine
The impact of the 2022 war on Ukraine can be analysed in terms of its economic, humanitarian, and political effects. Economically, the war has caused severe damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure, including power generation, digital infrastructure, bridges, and ports, which has disrupted trade and investment. This has led to a contraction in GDP and an increase in inflation. Additionally, the loss of access to the Black Sea has cut off seaborn trade, which accounts for half of Ukraine’s exports. The war has also had significant human and economic losses, with estimates indicating that over 8,000 non-armed individuals were killed, and over 12 million people displaced, leading to a significant humanitarian crisis.
In terms of humanitarian impact, the war has led to a severe crisis, with millions of Ukrainians in need of urgent assistance. Nearly six million people have little or no access to safe water, and the conflict has eroded human capital, with children likely to be particularly impacted by malnutrition, stunting, reduced years of schooling, and worsening labour market outcomes. Urgent humanitarian assistance is required, especially for the elderly and infirm who urgently require support.
Politically, the war has exacerbated existing divisions within Ukraine and strained the country’s relationship with its neighbours and international partners. The involvement of other countries in the conflict has increased tensions and raised concerns about the stability of the region. Additionally, the war has led to a rise in human rights abuses, including the targeting of civilians and the displacement of vulnerable groups, affecting access to essential services, including healthcare and education.19
International response to the war in Ukraine
The international community heavily criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, resulting in sanctions and economic consequences for both Russia and the world. The European Union provided military equipment to Ukraine and implemented various economic sanctions, and non-governmental reactions included widespread boycotts of Russia and Belarus in entertainment, media, business, and sport. Protests against the invasion occurred worldwide, including daily protests in Russia, but were met with repression by the Russian authorities, including censorship and imprisonment of opposition figures. There were also reported instances of discrimination against the Russian diaspora and Russian-speaking immigrants. In some parts of Ukraine that were newly occupied by Russian armed forces, protests against the occupiers took place. While many social media users in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Serbia, and the Arab regions showed sympathy for Russian narratives, a poll conducted in Russia by the Levada Center showed that 74% of Russians supported the invasion, with many respondents not wanting to answer pollsters’ questions for fear of negative consequences. Pope Francis warned that NATO’s “barking” at Russia’s door may have caused the invasion and accused Russia of “armed conquest, expansionism, and imperialism in Ukraine.”20
The EU’s response to the war in Ukraine has been characterized by a combination of diplomatic engagement, economic sanctions, and humanitarian aid. The latest response to Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine, adopted on 25 February 2023, was the tenth package of restrictive measures that aimed to increase pressure on Russia to end its military intervention in Ukraine.21
The newly agreed package of sanctions included bans on the export of critical technology and industrial goods, imports of asphalt and synthetic rubber, provision of gas storage capacity to Russians, and transit through Russia of EU exported dual-use goods and technology. The EU also suspended the broadcasting licenses of RT Arabic and Sputnik Arabic, restricted the possibility for Russian nationals to hold any position in the governing bodies of EU critical infrastructures and entities, and introduced new reporting obligations to ensure the effectiveness of sanctions. In addition, the EU imposed additional sanctions against 87 individuals and 34 entities, including key decision makers, military leaders, military commanders of the Wagner Group, and drone manufacturers.22
These measures demonstrate the EU’s determination to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against Ukraine and to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The sanctions aim to target Russia’s economy, military capabilities, and key individuals involved in the conflict. The EU’s measures also aim to support Ukraine by providing humanitarian aid and diplomatic support, as well as encouraging dialogue between the parties to the conflict.23
The military offensive in Ukraine was also condemned by the United Nations as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Since then, the UN has taken several measures, including appointing a Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, opening an investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity, establishing an independent international commission of inquiry, and demanding civilian protection and humanitarian access in Ukraine. The UN also called for the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council and requested justification from the five permanent members of the Security Council for the use of veto. The UN has expressed concerns about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, including sexual violence, trafficking, and the impact of the war on the planet’s food, energy, and financial security. The UN welcomed the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports and participated in trilateral meetings with the leaders of Turkey and Ukraine. The UN has also expressed concern about the construction of metal cages in Ukraine, which could be used for human rights abuses.24
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have launched coordinated emergency appeals totaling $1.7 billion to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to people in Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries. As of 25 April, the appeal was 70% funded, and on 26 April, the UN doubled its emergency appeal to $2.24 billion due to the worsening crisis in Ukraine. To date, the flash appeal is 86% funded. Humanitarian aid has been critical in providing food, cash assistance, and protection services to over 8.1 million people affected by the conflict, with more than 6.7 million people receiving food aid and almost 1.7 million receiving cash assistance. The UN and its partners are seeking an additional $226 million to prepare for the winter in Ukraine and provide assistance to 1.7 million people before the 2022/2023 winter season. The UN and over 580 humanitarian partners have provided life-critical aid and protection services to 13.3 million people across Ukraine. Humanitarian funding from the European Union is enabling the International Organization for Migration to support over 700,000 Ukrainians with multi-sectoral assistance this winter.25
The UN has prioritized the protection of civilians affected by the Russian military offensive in Ukraine and is increasing its humanitarian operations in the region. There have been numerous acts of violence against healthcare centers and at least 972 children have been killed or injured in the conflict. The war has widened gender gaps and increased gender-based violence. People with disabilities trapped in Russian-controlled zones are reportedly being used as “human shields.” The UN has warned that direct attacks on civilians are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has concluded that war crimes have been committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, with reasonable grounds to believe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has deplored the human cost of the war in Ukraine, which has left at least 8,006 civilians dead and 13,287 injured over the past 12 months.26
Challenges and opportunities for Ukraine after one year of war
After one year of war, Ukraine faces both challenges and opportunities. On the positive side, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has opened a liaison office in Kyiv to support the country’s reconstruction and recovery efforts. This move is supported financially by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, and the Slovak Republic.27
The focus for Ukraine, however, remains on securing a comprehensive and lasting peace for its people, in line with international law and UN resolutions. The immediate priority is to stop the conflict and to provide humanitarian aid to affected civilians.
Once peace is established, Ukraine can focus on rebuilding its infrastructure and economy. The OECD can play a crucial role in this process by helping Ukraine to plan and prepare for reconstruction efforts in line with the values of a free, open, market-based democracy. The country must work towards becoming a prospective member of the OECD, which can provide technical expertise, access to international markets, and support for good governance.28
Despite these opportunities, Ukraine also faces significant challenges. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and many more have been displaced. There is a need for international support to help provide humanitarian aid and rebuild damaged infrastructure.
Additionally, Ukraine must address issues such as corruption and political instability, which have hindered its development in the past. These challenges require sustained effort and commitment from the government and the international community.
In summary, the opening of the OECD liaison office in Kyiv is a positive development for Ukraine, providing support for the country’s reconstruction and recovery efforts. However, the conflict in the region remains a pressing concern, and the country must address significant challenges to achieve sustainable development and prosperity.29
In conclusion, the war in Ukraine marks a significant event in European history since World War II, with severe economic, humanitarian, and political impacts. The one-year anniversary of the conflict provides an opportunity to evaluate the ongoing impact and renew efforts towards a lasting solution. The four distinct phases of the conflict, starting with the initial invasion, followed by the south-eastern front, Ukrainian counteroffensives, and the second stalemate, signify the evolving nature of the conflict. The war has caused significant economic, humanitarian, and political damage to Ukraine, with millions displaced and thousands of lives lost. The future of the conflict remains uncertain, and it is crucial to recognize the need for continued international efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution. The conflict’s impact on Ukraine and the world is significant, and it is essential to ensure that the voices of those affected are heard, and their needs are met. It is hoped that the war in Ukraine can eventually come to an end, and Ukraine can rebuild and move towards a brighter future.
2 “Soldiers, Separatists, Sanctions: A Timeline Of The Russia-Ukraine Crisis”. Agence France-Presse. NDTV CONVERGENCE LIMITED. Agence France-Presse. 24 February 2022. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
3 John Haltiwanger (23 February 2022). “Russian President Vladimir Putin announces military assault against Ukraine in surprise speech”. Business Insider. MSN. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
7 Svyridyuk, Yuriy (10 April 2022). Кількість загиблих у Краматорську зросла до 57 [The death toll in Kramatorsk has risen to 57]. UNN (Українські Національні Новини [Ukrainian National News] (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 11 April 2022.
8 Press conference in Ukraine by President von der Leyen, HRVP Borrell and President Zelensky. European Commission. 8 April 2022. Archived from the original on 28 September 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022 – via YouTube.
9 Jonathan Beale (13 August 2022). “Ukraine war: Predicting Russia’s next step in Ukraine”. BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2022.
10 “Russian airstrike hits busy shopping mall in central Ukraine, sparking fears of mass casualties”. CNN.com. 27 June 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
12 Graham-Harrison, Emma (18 August 2022). “Russia to stage ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant, warns Ukrainian military”. the Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
15 Pavlova, Uliana (5 November 2022). “Putin signs law to mobilize Russian citizens convicted of serious crimes”. CNN. Retrieved 8 November 2022.