Timeline: Six months of Russia’s war in Ukraine

On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine. These are the main events of the war over six months.

Ukrainian servicemen
Ukrainian servicemen near Bakhmut, in Donetsk region [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]

On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine from Belarus to the north, the Russian-annexed Crimea Peninsula to the south, and its own territory to the east.

The war has since killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed entire cities.

These are the main events of the war over the last six months.

Phase 1 – Russia sets out to conquer Ukraine and replace its government. The West reacts by imposing comprehensive financial and trade sanctions on Russia. 

February 24: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces his decision to launch a “special military operation” in Ukraine in a pre-dawn speech and the land, sea, and air invasion begins.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gives a brief and defiant national address to declare martial law and general mobilisation.

US President Joe Biden extends full blocking sanctions to four Russian banks and bans exports of sensitive US technologies, especially in the aviation, maritime and defence sectors.

February 26-27: Zelenskyy refuses a US offer to evacuate, saying: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride”.

Russia’s assault on Kyiv, the eastern city of Kharkiv and Chernihiv in the north stalls as Ukrainian defenders target supply vehicles with Javelin missiles.

The European Union bans selected Russian banks from SWIFT and freezes Russian central bank deposits. It also bans Russian aircraft from EU airspace.

Oil majors Shell, BP and Norway’s sovereign wealth fund pull out of Russian joint ventures.

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February 28: Ukraine applies to join the EU.

March 1: A 65km (40.4-mile) Russian military convoy moves towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

The US closes its skies to Russian air traffic.

March 2: Russian forces enter the southern city of Kherson. A million Ukrainian refugees have now fled the country.

March 4: Russian forces shell Europe’s biggest nuclear plant of Zaporizhzhia, raising fears of a Chernobyl-style disaster.

March 8: The European Commission unveils REPowerEU, a plan to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas by two-thirds by the end of the year. The US imposes a ban on Russian crude oil imports. Ukrainian refugee numbers reach two million.

US Congress approves $13.6bn in spending for Ukraine, divided equally between aid for refugees and military aid for the front.

March 11: Russian armour enters the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv, but already faces manpower shortages.  Putin approves the deployment of up to 16,000 irregular fighters from Syria.

The EU issues the Versailles Declaration in response to the Ukraine war, calling for member states to strengthen defence spending.

March 13: Russia broadens its targets westward, firing 30 cruise missiles at a military training base in Yavoriv, 25km (15.5 miles) from the Polish border, killing 35 people.

March 14: Top Putin aide Viktor Zolotov, who heads the national guard, becomes the first high-ranking Russian to admit the war in Ukraine is not going as planned.

March 16: Russia bombs a theatre in the southern port city of Mariupol, killing at least 300 civilians sheltering there.

March 23: NATO estimates that Russia has lost 7,000-15,000 troops in one month of war and that the number of Russian dead, wounded, captured and missing is 40,000.

Phase 2 – Russia refocuses on the east, as Ukraine launches counteroffensives in the north and south, taking back more than 1,000 settlements. The US and UK send advanced missile systems to Ukraine.

March 25: Russia says it will focus on consolidating its control over the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, in an apparent redefinition of its war aims.

More than 3.7 million Ukrainians have become refugees.

March 27: Zelenskyy tells Russian journalists on a video call that he is willing to consider geopolitical neutrality for Ukraine, and to compromise on the status of the eastern Donbas region, which formed part of the pretext for Russia’s invasion.

March 29: Russian and Ukrainian negotiators meet in Istanbul – their first in-person meeting in more than three weeks. Ukraine puts forward a detailed proposal of neutrality.

April 1: An Al Jazeera report reveals that Russia is using proxy groups in Syria to recruit fighters for Ukraine.

April 2: As Russian troops withdraw from Bucha, a town northwest of Kyiv, dozens of apparently civilian corpses are found on the streets.

April 4: US president Joe Biden calls for Putin to be tried in a war crimes tribunal for the alleged Russian killings of civilians in Bucha.

April 5: Internally displaced Ukrainians now number 7.1 million. Al Jazeera uncovers testimony from Bucha residents saying they were tortured and their lives threatened by Russian soldiers.

April 6: The Biden administration prohibits US investment in Russia and calls on the G20 to expel it from the group.

April 7: Russia fires cluster munitions into the Kramatorsk railway station packed with thousands of evacuees, killing at least 52.

The UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the organisation’s Human Rights Council.

April 8: Forensic experts start exhuming bodies in mass graves in Bucha.

The EU bans imports of Russian coal, depriving Russia of 8 billion euros ($7.97bn) a year. As part of a fifth round of sanctions, the EU also bans imports of Russian lumber, cement, seafood and fertilisers. The EU also bans the export to Russia of jet fuel and sensitive technologies and software.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen hands Zelenskyy a questionnaire, kicking off the beginning of Ukraine’s EU membership application process.


April 14: Ukraine sinks the Russian Black Sea fleet flagship Moskva, after hitting it with two Neptune missiles.

April 16: Russia’s defence ministry says it controls the port of Mariupol, although fighting continues.

April 18: Russian forces launch a new, large-scale offensive in east Ukraine to take full control of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

April 21: Putin declares victory in the battle for Mariupol, even though some 2,500 Ukrainian marines remain barricaded in the Azovstal steel plant.

April 28: US Congress revives lend-lease facilities to speed up weapons shipments to Ukraine. President Biden asks Congress to approve a $33bn spending package for Ukraine.

May 4: Ukrainian and Russian reports say a Ukrainian counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv has pushed Russian troops 40km (24.9 miles) back from the city, in the first significant Ukrainian success since winning the battle for Kyiv.

The European Commission unveils a sixth round of sanctions, including a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined, effective by the end of the year.

May 5: Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi says Ukrainian forces are transitioning to counteroffensive operations around the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Izyum, the first direct Ukrainian military statement of a shift to offensive operations.

May 11: Ukraine for the first time limits Russian gas transiting its territory to Europe, cutting by a quarter the flow of gas through one of two major pipelines.

May 12: Finland announces it will seek NATO membership.

The UNHCR says the number of Ukrainian refugees has passed the six-million mark.

May 15: Sweden announces it will apply for NATO membership, ending two centuries of neutrality.

May 16: Ukraine’s defence ministry says its troops have advanced to the Russian border 40km (24.9 miles) north of Kharkiv, and Russian defensive efforts are focusing on preventing an incursion towards Belgorod in Russia.

May 17: Ukraine’s military declares an end to the Azovstal resistance in Mariupol.

May 18: The European Commission announces a 220 billion euro ($219bn) plan to ditch all Russian fossil fuels over five years.

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol,
People stand amid newly-made graves in the course of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Staryi Krym outside Mariupol [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

May 19: US Congress approves a $40bn aid package for Ukraine, significantly more than the $33bn Biden initially asked for, about half of which is intended for military aid and supplies.

May 21: The battle for the city of Severdonetsk in the eastern Luhansk province begins.

Russia’s defence ministry announces it has full control of Mariupol, following the evacuation of 1,908 defenders of the Azovstal plant there, a month after Putin declared victory over the city.

May 25: Eduard Basurin, deputy head of the militia of the Russia-backed, self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, says Russia was temporarily forswearing the strategy of surrounding all Ukraine’s forces in the east with a grand pincer movement, instead focusing on piecemeal isolations. Russian forces also start building secondary lines of defence in Kherson and Zaporizhia, expecting Ukrainian counterattacks.

May 27: Russian forces advance on Severdonetsk from three different directions and begin direct assaults on built-up partsof the city in the north, taking control of the Mir hotel.


May 28: Ukraine launches a counteroffensive in Kherson, reportedly bringing Russian forces to a “disadvantageous” defensive position and inflicting heavy losses.

May 30: After some hesitation, Biden decides to send “more advanced rocket systems” to Ukraine to enable greater precision artillery raids. The US will send GMLRS and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with 80km (49.7-mile) range rockets.

May 31: Russian forces occupy the centre of Severdonetsk as Ukrainian troops make a tactical retreat, but fighting continues.

In the south, Ukrainian forces press a counteroffensive towards Kherson, pushing Russian forces east of the Inhulets river.

The EU bans Russian oil and petroleum products, following a decision on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia.

June 2: Kherson oblast military administration head Hennadiy Lahuta reports that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has liberated 20 villages.

A man rides his bike past flames and smoke rising from a fire following a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine
A man cycles past flames and smoke rising from a fire following a Russian attack in Kharkiv [File: Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

June 6: The UK announces it will send M270 multiple launch rocket systems with 80km (49.7 mile) range to Ukraine.

June 9: Putin likens his conquest of Ukraine to Peter the Great’s conquest of what is today northwestern Russia in a war fought against Sweden in 1700-1721.

June 13: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg appears to suggest that Ukraine will have to accept a loss of sovereignty or territory in return for peace, during a press conference in Finland.

June 15: Russia cuts gas deliveries to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40 percent of capacity.

June 22: Ukraine says it has taken 1,026 settlements back from Russian control.

June 24: Though there is still rearguard fighting, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai says Severodonetsk will be abandoned.

The EU officially invites Ukraine and Moldova to become candidate countries for EU membership.

June 27: Russian missiles target a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 people.

Russia defaults on its sovereign debt for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, as a 30-day grace period on $100m of interest payments expires.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance is to increase its Readiness Force (NRF) from 40,000 to 300,000.

June 29: NATO formally invites Finland and Sweden to become members of the alliance, after Turkey lifts its veto.

June 30: After being pounded by Ukrainian missiles, Russian forces withdraw from Snake Island in the Black Sea.

July 3: Russia claims to have taken Lysychansk, giving it nominal control of Luhansk oblast, though partisan fighting continues.

Destroyed houses are photographed in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine
Destroyed houses in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv [File: Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo]

Phase 3 – Russia re-expands its goals to include Kherson and Zaporizhia. Ukraine uses missiles to devastate Russian ammunition, bases and command posts deep behind the front lines.

July 4: Some 40 countries participate in an International Conference on the Restoration of Ukraine in Lugano, Switzerland. Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal says $750bn will be needed.

July 17: Zelenskyy says Russia has now fired 3,000 cruise missiles against his country.

July 20: In an interview with Russian newspaper Ria Novosti, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia had departed from its official goal of occupying the two eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, saying Zaporizhia and Kherson in the south are also important to take.

July 21: In the southern Kherson region, Ukraine says it has destroyed a Russian ammunition warehouse.

July 22: Russia and Ukraine sign a UN-brokered agreement allowing the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

July 26: Russian state company Gazprom says it will halve gas supply through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 percent of capacity. EU energy ministers agree to voluntarily reduce the use of natural gas by 15 percent between August this year and March 2023.

July 27: Ukrainian forces damage the Antonivka vehicle and rail bridges using HIMARS rocket artillery, rendering them unusable for heavy military transport. This helps cut off forward Russian positions in Kherson.

July 29: At least 50 Ukrainian PoWs are killed when their detention facility is blown up in Olenivka, Donetsk. Russia says Ukraine targeted its own men. Ukraine says Russia blew up its own penal colony “to cover up war crimes”.

July 31: A presumed Ukrainian drone flies into Russia’s Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol on Russia’s Navy Day, wounding five people.

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August 1: The first ship loaded with Ukrainian grain leaves port following a July 22 agreement to lift a Russian blockade.

August 6: Ukraine’s southern command says its forces destroyed 39 Russian rocket launchers and an ammunition warehouse.

August 7: Ukraine’s southern command reports the destruction of 24 Russian multiple rocket launchers, a T-62 tank, five armoured vehicles and an ammunition warehouse in attacks against Berislavsky and one other location in Kherson oblast.

August 9: An estimated nine Russian warplanes were destroyed on the ground at the airbase of Saky in Crimea, 225km (136.7 miles) behind the front line, in what would appear to be the first significant Ukrainian attack on a Russian base on the peninsula.

Ukraine also destroys Russian ammunition warehouses in Novooleksiivka in Crimea, 150km (93.2 miles) south of the front line, and a command post at Maksyma Horkoho on the southwestern Kherson coast.

August 16: A series of explosions shake the village of Mayskoye in Crimea, as a suspected Russian ammunition depot goes up in flames, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 people. Russia calls it “a result of sabotage” without assigning blame.

August 18: UN chief Antonio Guterres warns damage to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station would be “suicide”, as Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling close to the plant.

August 20: Darya Dugina, daughter of a prominent Russian ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, is killed in a car bomb blast near Moscow, in what may have been an assassination attempt on her father. Ukraine denied Russia’s accusations that it was behind the attack.

August 24: Ukraine marks its day of independence from Soviet rule and the six-month anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Public celebrations are cancelled amid fears that Russia could escalate attacks to coincide with the day, but Zelenskyy gives a defiant speech, saying Ukraine had been “reborn” when Russia invaded: “We don’t care what army you have, we only care about our land. We will fight for it until the end.”

Source: Al Jazeera