After several months of concerns about Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian borders, on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an offensive in Ukraine at dawn. The first images of a conflict where it is feared that the Ukrainian forces will be quickly overwhelmed then turned on a loop on television channels.
More than 6.5 million Ukrainian refugees, a series of sanctions against Moscow, the closure of airspace, fear of a global food crisis… 100 days have passed since the start of the Russian offensive and the war, which triggered a series of geopolitical turning points in Europe, is still raging at the gates of Europe. A look back at ten key moments in the conflict.
February 24: Beginning of the Russian invasion
Shortly before 4 a.m. on February 24, Russia attacked its neighbor and bombed military sites as well as homes. Russian troops enter Ukrainian territory from Russia and Belarus. During a televised speech, the Russian president announces a “special military operation” in Ukraine. He denounces the “genocide” suffered by the Russian-speaking populations of the east of the country and affirms that it is a question of “demilitarizing and denazifying” it. Very quickly, Ukrainian airspace was closed and several countries closed theirs to Russian planes.
From the first day of the invasion, the Twenty-Seven agreed to toughen the sanctions announced a few days earlier, after Russia’s recognition of the independence of the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. They target both the financial sector and Russian personalities.
February 27: the European Union announces the delivery of arms to Ukraine, a historic decision
This is a first for the Twenty-Seven of the European Union: Brussels announces that it will arm a country at war, thanks to a mechanism called “European Peace Facility”. The EU will therefore be able to provide a European framework for arms deliveries, and reimburse countries such as France which have deducted from their stocks.
At the same time, some countries are announcing that they are breaking with their historical doctrine of neutrality, such as Finland and Sweden.
March 14: A Russian journalist criticizes the Kremlin live on TV
“No to war! launches an employee of the Russian channel Pervï Kanal, Marina Ovsiannikova, in the middle of the television news. On his sign is written in black and white: “Do not believe the propaganda. Here, you are being lied to. Russians are against war. The newspaper is then interrupted and Marina Ovsiannikova arrested.
Sentenced to a fine shortly after her intervention, the Russian journalist nevertheless risks criminal prosecution because of a Russian law punishing “false information” about the Russian army in Ukraine. She is now a correspondent for the German daily “Die Welt”.
March 21: Brussels denounces a “major war crime” in Mariupol
Besieged from March 2, the port city of Mariupol quickly became a symbol of the war in Ukraine. Photos of this martyred city go around the world in March, first during the bombardment of a maternity hospital and a children’s hospital. A few days later, a theater sheltering civilians was bombed, killing several hundred people.
“What is happening in Mariupol is a major war crime. The indiscriminate bombings are devastating the city and killing everyone,” denounced the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, on 22 March. In mid-May, Russian forces announced that they were taking control of Mariupol, a city now almost wiped off the map.
March 29: Moscow announces reduction of military activity
While the Russian troops encounter more powerful Ukrainian resistance than expected, the Russian General Staff announces that it will reduce its military activity, particularly in the direction of kyiv. The Russian army says to concentrate on “the liberation of Donbass”, in the East, “the main objective”.
A few days earlier, Lviv, a western city so far relatively spared from the fighting, was hit by Russian strikes.
April 3: Boutcha hits world opinion and becomes a symbol
The horror at the gates of kyiv. The bodies of more than 400 civilians, according to a report by the Ukrainian authorities, are found dead in the town of Boutcha. Some are found with their hands tied, shot dead, others with traces of mutilation.
Evidence of war crimes in this region following the departure of Russian forces is mounting and outrages Western countries as Russian forces deny killing civilians. The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen goes to Boutcha a few days later, in particular to the place where dozens of civilians are buried in mass graves.
French gendarmes will then be sent to Ukraine to investigate possible war crimes committed around kyiv.
May 12: More than 6 million Ukrainian refugees abroad
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than six million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on May 12. This is the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War, according to the UN.
Most of them have found refuge in European Union countries, including Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Added to this are the nearly 8 million Ukrainians displaced within the country, according to the International Organization for Migration.
May 23: a first conviction for a war crime
Vadim Chichimarine, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, is at the center of the first war crime trial since the start of the Russian offensive. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison by a Ukrainian court, found guilty of murdering a civilian at the start of the Russian invasion.
This trial could be one of a long series. According to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, thousands of war crimes investigations have been opened and dozens of Russian soldiers arrested.
May 30: the 27 agree on an embargo on Russian oil
After long negotiations, the members of the European Union agree on a sixth package of sanctions against Russia and to stop imports of Russian oil.
The embargo will initially only concern oil transported by boat, ie two thirds of European purchases of Russian oil, and not that transported by pipeline, which made it possible to lift Hungary’s veto. The question of a gas embargo could also be discussed by the Twenty-Seven.