The tragedy in Ukraine: one year on

February 24, 2023

Today marks the one year anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, which, to the world’s horror, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to unilaterally attack.

Far from the quick and painless victory that Putin imagined, the war in Ukraine instead became the most violent conflict in Europe since the Second World War. It has been a tale of destruction, devastation, Western resolve and Ukrainian resilience: one that unfortunately appears to be far from over. 

The conflict has dominated the world’s headlines and undoubtedly has had a devastating effect on the lives of many. 

And now, a year later, it’s time to look back.           


Phase 1

Invasion (Feb. 24, 2022)

After remaining camped at the border for months, an estimated 150,000 Russian troops invaded Ukraine from five directions simultaneously. 

Shortly after, in the early hours of Feb. 24 (around 5 a.m. Kyiv time), Vladimir Putin made an announcement. In his address, he claimed that his troops’ entrance into Ukraine was merely a “special military operation” and stated that he had no intentions to permanently remain there.

Instead, his rationale behind the invasion was to instead strengthen security for the Russian border, which he believed was under attack due to the expansion of NATO.  Putin also imagined that the Ukrainian army would immediately collapse and he would quickly install a puppet regime that would do his bidding, which was reflected by the puzzled Ukrainian defenders finding dress uniforms in the Russian vehicles they managed to disable in the first days of the invasion: part of the Russian plans had included a victory parade through central Kyiv.

The first day of the invasion indeed led to Russia making great progress and soon arrived on the outskirts of Kyiv. By sunset, Russian forces attacking from the north had captured nuclear site Chernobyl after fierce fighting. 

Battle of Antonov Airport (Feb. 24-25)

Immediately after entering, Russia had its eyes on Kiev, and in devastating time, the Russians were on the cusp of entering and capturing the capital. 

In the midst of the conflict at Antonov Airport, the world’s largest plane, the Antonov AN-225 was destroyed. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license)

The two sides soon met on an airfield at the cargo airport Antonov, located just 10 kilometers from Kyiv. Control of the airport for either side would be crucial. Defensively, it would aid the Ukrainians in defending their capital.

For the Russians, if they gained control of Antonov, it could serve as a key repository for troops and supplies. 

The fighting began when Putin’s troops conducted an air assault over the airport, which was only defended by a handful of defenders. Although the battle first appeared to be heading in the Russians’ favor, the Ukrainians rushed additional reinforcements to the airfield and held back the Russians. 

However, the next day, the Russians returned with a second air assault, which was aided by reinforcements from the Belarusian border and successfully captured the airport. Yet, the Ukrainians continued to fight, which led to the airport being eventually abandoned as it became too dilapidated to serve as a suitable base. 

The battle of Antonov Airport was, in retrospect, hugely important as it prevented the Russians from gaining an immediate entrance to deploy heavy equipment into Kyiv. If the airport had fallen quickly, the Russians would have swiftly entered Kyiv and targeted the Ukrainian leadership. Fortunately for the Ukrainian cause, that event did not happen all because of the outcome of one outnumbered group of soldiers who bought time for the defense to stabilize. 

The push from Crimea into Kherson (Feb. 24-March 2)

On the day of the invasion, Russian troops also entered the Kherson region from Crimea, the territory which Putin had illegally annexed back in 2014. After a few skirmishes the mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, surrendered the city to the Russians on March 2, making it the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Putin. 

 The struggle for Kherson brought about heavy Ukrainian casualties, with up to 300 civilians and soldiers being killed. Following its capture, the Russians quickly set up a military administration in the city, with this victory touted as a major Russian success. 

The siege of Kharkiv (Feb 24- May 13)

Along with Kyiv, a massive target for the Russian forces was Ukraine’s second most populous city, Kharkiv. 

The city, located just 30 kilometers from the Russian-Ukraine border, also has a notable Russian-speaking population. 

The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. (Photo by Україна via Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication)

On Feb. 24, Russian troops made their way to the city, and clashed with Ukrainian defenders on multiple occasions. Fierce fighting shortly broke out in the suburbs surrounding the city, and Putin’s troops soon encircled the city. 

Some Russian troops did manage to enter Kharkiv yet were ferociously fought off by Ukrainian troops. A couple of days later, the Russians switched tactics, and opted to resort to targeted air strikes.

Missiles barraged the city for weeks, and according to the city’s mayor, the Russians’ attack led to the destruction of thousands of buildings. Not even residential buildings were spared. 

In the midst of the fighting, the Ukrainians led a counter-offensive, and managed to push the Russians away from the city. By mid-May, many Russian forces had been reported to have withdrawn from the area. 

Throughout the war, Kharkiv has been one of the hardest hit cities. Over six hundred civilians have lost their lives due to shellings and conflict there. 

The ambush/slaughter in Bucha (Feb. 27-March 2022)

Not long after invading Ukraine, Russian forces advanced towards the city of Bucha. The goal was to capture the city and then move on to one of its neighboring cities, Irpin.

 Once in range of Bucha, the Russian artillery let loose and destroyed many of the city’s buildings. A portion of its residents were soon stripped of water, electricity and gas. 

By early March, Russian forces successfully entered the city. Yet Putin’s troops were ambushed by Ukrainian forces, who in turn managed to destroy many Russian armored vehicles together with a sizable loss of troops. The event was humiliating for the Russians, as photos soon began to circulate of the destroyed Russian equipment. 

However, by mid-March, the Russians had managed to completely capture the city. Following Bucha’s capture, many civilians successfully fled, but for those who remained, their fates were far less fortunate.

Still enraged following the humiliation they had previously faced in Bucha, the Russian troops opted to commit many atrocities against the city’s residents. 

Homes were looted and hundreds of civilians were horrifically tortured and butchered. Russian troops especially targeted men who could prove a fighting threat. Yet not even children were spared.

The streets of Bucha were littered with destroyed Russian equipment after Ukraine’s successful ambush of Russian forces. (Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Bucha was eventually liberated by Ukrainian forces, and it was then that many of the atrocities committed by the Russians came to light. Mass graves were discovered and autopsies conducted on bodies revealed the cruel fates that many suffered. 

During its Russian occupation, Bucha’s residents had to endure horror that most shall, and should, never have to face. 

The withdraw from Kyiv (April 6, 2022)

At the beginning of the war, it seemed inevitable that Kyiv was to fall in a matter of days. In the early hours of the invasion, Putin’s troops had made astounding progress and appeared to be on the cusp of ending the conflict in one swift, devastating swoop. 

Yet Ukrainians forces defied incredible odds, and for six weeks, Putin’s troops failed to make any real progress towards capturing the city. 

The conquest for the city appeared to be in a stalemate with no clear victor in sight, a situation that was clearly frustrating Putin with each passing day. 

In mid-April, the Pentagon announced that Russian troops had completely withdrawn from the Kyiv area. The rationale behind the move seemed to be that the Russians had both lost the initiative and lacked the logistics needed to take the capital, which required lengthy supply lines through its ally Belarus.  The invaders instead chose to concentrate their firepower on the eastern Donbas region which could be more easily supplied directly from Russia. 

This retreat was a massive victory for the Ukrainians, as they had stopped Putin from reaching his main objective: conquering Kyiv and toppling the Ukrainian government. 

Phase 2

The Russian offensive in Donbas (April 18, 2022- present)

After weeks of frustration facing the offensive in Kyiv, Putin finally gave the go-ahead for the withdrawal of Russian troops in the area. 

Instead, his troops would be focusing on a new target: the Donbas region, located in eastern Ukraine, a move which had been long anticipated. For years, Russia has been keen to completely annex the area, and the region itself is home to two Russian-backed separatist “republics.” Donbas also is home to valuable resources and its location, if taken by the Russians, could also serve as a “land-bridge” between the region and Crimea. 

 Tactics aside, the Donbas region also holds a more sentimental value for the Russians, as the region is home to a large population of ethnic Russians. 

The Russian’s push for the region signaled the dawn of a new phase of this invasion, and shortly after, Russian and Ukrainian forces began to clash. 

In late May, the Russians took control of the city of Mariupol, located on the border between Crimea and Donbas, and the siege was received as a much-needed victory for Putin.

 Similar to Kharkiv, the Russians showed no mercy towards the structure of the city, and much of Mariupol soon became rubble.

 The Russians pushed on, and with each passing week, more and more cities in the region were falling to Putin’s troops. Yet as of now, the Russians have failed to gain control of the entire region. 

The Ukrainian counterattack in the north (Sep 8-October, 2022)

Western weapons such as the HIMARS have proven especially useful for Ukrainian forces. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license)

After Ukraine publicly announced that it would be sending reinforcements to southern Ukraine, Russian troops were deployed to the area as well. 

Yet little did Putin know that by moving Russian troops to the south to combat the alleged Ukrainian

advancement, he was simply playing into Ukrainian hands. 

As while the Russians were distracted in the south, Ukraine quickly launched a surprise counterattack in northeastern Ukraine, throwing the Russian army into chaos and disarray. 

The counterattack was an instant Ukrainian success, and on the evening of Sep 8, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces had even advanced all the way to Balakyliva, a town located just 35 kilometers from Kharkiv. 

In the following days, Ukrainian sources confirmed that dozens of towns and villages had been liberated in the Kharkiv region, including the strategically important towns of Izyum and Kupiansk. 

A crucial part of Ukraine’s counterattack that contributed to its success was due to the recent weaponry systems that the defenders had gained. Especially notable were the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) which the Ukrainians had received from the United States. Motivated by the momentum they had received following the counterattack, the Ukrainian army continued to advance, which in turn forced many Russian troops to retreat.  

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the north was a somewhat bold move- and an ultimately triumphant one. 

 By early October, Ukrainian officials announced that the counterattack had even resulted in the defenders reclaiming 1,170 kilometers of land.

The attack on the Crimea bridge (October 8, 2022)

In the early hours of October 8 (around 6:00 a.m., Kyiv time), a truck made its way across the Kerch Bridge, a key bridge that connected Russia with its troops fighting in southern Ukraine. 

Alongside the truck, on the railroad section of the bridge, rode a train. 

There is no doubt, this (the Crimea bridge attack) is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying Russia’s critical civilian infrastructure

— Vladimir Putin

 Unbeknownst to the Russians, the truck was laden with explosives. 

Around 6:07 a.m,  the bomb detonated. 

The explosion had such a massive impact that it also ruptured fuel tanks in the adjacent train, and engulfed it in

flames. The impact of the bomb also caused a larger portion of the roadway to collapse into the sea below. 

The incident resulted in four deaths, and was a massive blow for the Russians. 

Repair of the bridge ended up taking months, and only was fully restored and reopened in late January.

Shortly after the attack, an investigation was launched to attempt to explain what – or who- was behind the attack. 

And it was soon revealed that the whole incident was orchestrated by the Ukrainians. Putin was enraged, and deemed the defenders’ attack to have been an “act of terrorism.”

Ethical or not, the attack resulted in a critical connection between Russia and many of its troops being destroyed. 

The reconquest of Kherson (November 9-11, 2022)

On March 2, the city of Kherson succumbed to Russian invaders- the first city to fall during the invasion. 

However, over eight months since its capture, Ukrainian forces launched a campaign to liberate the city in early November. This decision arrived following a highly successful counterattack in the northeast which led to the regain of much Ukrainian territory. 

On November 10, news broke that Ukrainian forces were making great progress towards the city, and had

The city of Kherson was finally able to rejoice after 10 months of Russian occupation following the city’s liberation in early November. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license)

liberated several towns and villages in proximity to Kherson. 

Feeling threatened, many Russian troops began to backpedal from the area. This response gave the Ukrainians the momentum they craved to keep pushing on, and soon advanced further into the Kherson oblast. 

The Russians in the area soon became disorganized, and continued to retreat, and struggled to resupply as HIMARS strikes progressively disabled the ability of heavy vehicles to use the bridges crossing the Dnieper River, which separated the Kherson garrison from the main Russian force. 

And on November 11, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that 30,000 soldiers and all military equipment in the Kherson area had been relocated across a river in an organized withdrawal.  

The Russian troops that remained were increasingly vulnerable to Ukrainian drone and targeted HIMARS strikes, and were finally forced to withdraw.  

The following day, Ukrainian forces successfully entered and liberated the city of Kherson. 

Crowds of civilians swarmed the streets to pay gratitude to the Ukrainian forces, and Volodymyr Zelensky himself even traveled to Kherson to witness the Ukrainian flag being raised over the city for the first time in months. 

Phase 3

The winter attrition (October, 2022-present)

Even after ten months into its invasion, the Kremlin had struggled to make much progress towards capturing Ukraine as a whole. As to Russia’s surprise and disappointment, Ukraine showed incredible resistance and resilience towards its invaders, leaving the war in a frustrating stalemate. 

And so, in the winter of 2022, Putin changed tactics, instead opting for the age-old tactic of attrition.  This tactic had an impact much broader than the battlefield, as it also included targeting most of Ukraine’s electrical grids with the intention of eliminating heat for most of the civilian population during a brutally cold winter. This included attacking Ukraine with barrages of cruise missiles along with Iranian-made drones, which hit targets hundred of kilometers away from the active fighting, essentially bringing all Ukrainians into the conflict. 

An Instagram post from Volodymyr Zelensky, who recently met President Biden in Kyiv.

At the same time, Russia, which had drafted 300,000 conscripts, started introducing its new soldiers into the battlefield on the Donbas, which included many frontal attacks on Ukrainian positions with high casualties on both sides.

The following months were incredibly difficult for the Ukrainian population. Without electricity, water and heat became much more burtal during the harsh and cold winter. The message was clear: the Kremlin hoped much of the Ukrainian population would freeze and starve, an outcome that would oblige Zelensky to call it quits. 

Yet as of the present, much of the Ukrainian population has managed to cling on, hoping that Putin may abandon attrition altogether.


Russia is now a year into its invasion, a campaign which at first was believed to only last for weeks. In the early days of Putin’s invasion, a quick and decisive Russian victory seemed imminent: almost destined. 

Yet, for 365 days, the Ukrainian people have persevered against immeasurable odds and have driven the war into a stalemate. Now both sides are at a crossroads, and it seems unlikely that a victor shall be decided anytime soon. 

Instead, many analysts are predicting that the war is to enter a new phase: one that perhaps shall be the most brutal and devastating yet. 

Since Putin’s invasion began, there have been heavy casualties on both sides, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians having lost their lives in horrific conflict. 

This war has been a significant tragedy, and one can only hope that society as a whole shall truly learn that in conflict, there are truly never any victors. 

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Ellen Jordan, The Delphi Staff

Ellen Jordan is currently a freshman at Del Val. This is her first year writing for The Delphi. Ellen is involved with the high school soccer team and...

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