Since it erupted on Feb. 24, the Russia-Ukraine war will mark six months this week as a conflict that has shaken the world to its core-Zamkuwire
Since it erupted on Feb. 24, the Russia-Ukraine war will mark six months this week as a conflict that has shaken the world to its core.
While Kyiv is preparing to mark Independence Day this week, the war continues on a front stretching 1,300 kilometers (nearly 808 miles), nowadays concentrated in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as the southern regions of the country, replacing Russia’s initial lightning offensive with a slow-burning conflict.
In the early hours of Feb. 24, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, starting the war that Ukrainian authorities later admitted they already knew was inevitable at least a few days in advance.
The Russian military crossed into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Donbas, including the regions Kharkiv, Sumi, and Chernihiv. They also entered the northern Chernobyl region via Belarus.
In the chaotic first days, Russia simultaneously advanced from the north, south and east towards the capital Kyiv.
While military-age youth were not allowed to leave Ukraine, millions of women, children, and elderly rushed to safety abroad, mainly through western neighbors Poland and Romania.
Russian troops also landed in the Kherson and Melitopol regions via Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
These areas have been witnessing intense clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops.
In the second month of the war, Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions as the Ukrainian troops regained control.
Fall of Mariupol
Russian forces have targeted military infrastructure facilities, besieging Kharkiv in the northeast, as well as Mariupol, one of the most important port cities of Ukraine on the Sea of Azov.
As Moscow pushed to capture Mariupol, its forces bombed a children’s hospital on March 9, destroying the building, according to the city council.
The following day, Russian forces bombed a corridor used for civilian evacuation and, in doing so, prevented much-needed humanitarian supplies from reaching the besieged city.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that 90% of the buildings in Mariupol have been destroyed by Russian bombardment, adding that there was “nothing” left in the town of Volnovakha further north.
By the end of March, Mariupol’s city council claimed that Moscow had illegally deported 15,000 of its civilian residents to Russia on buses.
Kherson became the next city to come under Russian control. An initiative has been announced for the use of the Russian ruble to be expended from just one region to the rest of the city.
For the first time since the war erupted, the two sides’ foreign ministers held high-level talks, hosted by Türkiye.
As the conflict dragged on, however, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, asked the US to allow Poland to transfer MiG-29 jets to the Ukrainian Air Force.
Bucha horrors, Irpin devastation
By the end of March, the horrors in the town of Bucha, located near Kyiv, began to seep out to the rest of the world.
In the early days of April, Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said civilians in Bucha were found dead with their hands tied as Russian troops withdrew.
Andrey Nebitov, Kyiv’s police chief, said during a news conference in mid-April that more than 900 bodies were counted in areas where Ukrainian forces regained control, adding that the biggest death toll was recorded in Bucha, with over 350 bodies.
International denunciation has grown since images of the carnage surfaced, drawing the condemnation of most Western leaders.
Russia has denied involvement in the atrocities in Bucha.
The Kyiv suburb of Irpin also suffered devastation amid the clashes.
Soldiers and local authorities were scrambling to evacuate people from the strategic town, located on the river of the same name, amid rising smoke, intermittent explosions, emergency sirens, and gunshots.
People, especially children and the elderly, fled their homes to avoid the fighting and tried to get to Kyiv with only what they could carry with them.
After the Russian withdrawal, the war shifted towards the east of Ukraine in April.
Fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine
On April 18, Zelenskyy announced that Russia was launching a new offensive in eastern Ukraine to take full control of Luhansk and Donetsk.
On the same day, he also formally submitted Ukraine’s completed questionnaire to the EU, the first step for Kyiv to join the bloc.
Meanwhile, Russian troops continued advancing in the direction of the eastern cities of Popasna, Malinka, and Rubizhne.
By the end of that month, US President Joe Biden asked Congress to provide an additional $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and grant him new powers to crack down on Russian oligarchs.
This came just before a Pentagon announcement that the US has begun training Ukrainian forces on the use of new military systems at American military installations in Germany.
Russia has responded to such Western assistance to Ukraine by demanding that the US and NATO stop supplying arms to the country.
Moscow has also stepped up its attacks on the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. As of the second week of May, clashes increased over Snake Island, which is strategically location southwest of Ukraine, in the Black Sea.
Although the Ukrainian military has made attempts to take back the island, which the Russians captured at the beginning of the war, they have so far been unsuccessful.
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant
Amid rising international fear of a possible nuclear disaster, both Russian and Ukrainian authorities have been blaming each other over the past several weeks for shelling near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has reputedly demanded that the UN and other international bodies push Russian forces out of the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which has been under Russia’s control since March.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has urged “utmost restraint” around the site.
A delegation from the IAEA could visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in early September, Russia’s representative to the UN nuclear watchdog said last week.
The nearby town of Enerhodar has also been suffering under artillery fire.
Earlier in August, blasts at a Russian air base in Crimea reportedly destroyed nine warplanes, while explosions were also reported earlier this week at a Russian ammunition depot on the peninsula.
While the fog of war remains thick over Ukraine, the ongoing conflict also has not left global markets untouched.
Russia and Ukraine together export around a third of the world’s wheat and barley.
The UN Development Program has said that within the first three months of the war, climbing food and energy prices pushed some 71 million people worldwide into poverty.
Tons of Ukrainian grain remained stuck due to the war for months, causing global shortages and price hikes. Russia, which was accused of using food as a weapon, said Western sanctions were to blame for the shortages.
Over the course of the past six months of the conflict, Russian forces have targeted military vehicles and warehouses to Ukraine containing weapons and ammunition delivered by the US and European countries as part of their promised support to Kyiv.
Moscow first moved to cut off Ukraine’s connection with the Sea of Azov, thus taking control of the entire Luhansk region later in July.
The clashes left thousands of Ukrainians dead and millions displaced.
The UNHCR has recorded nearly 11 million border crossings out of Ukraine so far, as well as 4.7 million crossings back into the country.
Türkiye’s mediation role
Russian and Ukrainian delegations have held a total of four face-to-face negotiations to secure a cease-fire, with three of them in Belarus and one in Türkiye.
In Belarus, the sides could only agree on humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones.
As a result of the mediation efforts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Ukrainian side delivered the principles of a draft agreement to the Russian side in negotiations held in Istanbul on March 29.
However, less than a month later, Zelenskyy’s adviser Podolyak announced that talks between Ukraine and Russia had been suspended.
Come July 22, Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed a landmark deal to resume grain exports from the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Yuzhny, Chornomorsk, and Odesa.
To oversee the process, a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) was opened in Istanbul on July 27, comprising representatives from the three countries and the UN, to enable safe transportation of commercial foodstuffs and fertilizers by merchant ships.
“A total of 14 representatives from Türkiye, 22 from Russia, 12 from Ukraine, and 23 from the UN are currently employed by this center, which operates under the auspices of the UN and is hosted by Türkiye,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, adding that no military elements were on the field.
Thanks to the agreement, a total of 51 ships have sailed to ship grain on Aug. 1-20. While 27 of them left Ukrainian ports, 24 vessels have docked to be loaded with the war-torn country’s grain. A total of 721,449 tons have been shipped out as of Aug. 22.