Russia’s pre-dawn attack on February 24 shocked the world and confounded the near-universal expectation that Russian forces would quickly prevail.
Ukraine put up fierce resistance, and Russian troops were bogged down on the journey to the capital. Russia pulled back from the area around Kyiv in April, leaving blasted buildings, traumatised people and hundreds of corpses that Ukraine and its allies allege are evidence of war crimes.
Fighting also raged in Ukraine’s south and east, where Russia pushed outward from territory held by pro-Moscow forces since 2014. The port of Mariupol fell after a brutal three-month siege that reduced the city to ruins.
The war revived Cold War-era enmity between Russia and the West, pushing Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership and prompting NATO nations to flood troops and weapons into eastern Europe.
As winter approached Ukraine’s military – bolstered by weapons, ammunition and training from the US and other allies – pushed Russian forces out of the southern city of Kherson, a morale-boosting victory amid a grinding war that has shown no signs of ending.
The war also sent global energy prices soaring as Moscow squeezed supplies to the West in retaliation for sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine. Italy, Germany and other countries that relied on Russian oil and natural gas scrambled for alternative energy supplies. With millions of people suddenly struggling to pay their energy bills, governments came under intense pressure to step in with help.
Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and – in Russia’s case – fertiliser, and the war also drove up food prices and raised fears of global shortages. A UN-brokered deal to allow grain ships to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports was struck in July.
In recent months, Russia has been targeting energy infrastructure, aiming to cut electricity and heating to Ukrainians, as the freezing winter advances. And although the Ukrainian government is trying to move as fast as it can, it has been practically impossible to restore power for every single person in the country, including the more than three million residents of the capital.
“We … are preparing for the worst winter of our lives,” Kyiv resident Anastasia Pyrozhenko said on November 20.
As winter approached, Russia launched missile attacks aimed at Ukraine’s infrastructure, temporarily cutting power to swaths of the country and leaving millions facing a freezing, dark winter.