CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia conducted deadly airstrikes as its ground forces retook battlefield initiative, which could shift war’s centre of gravity north; Ukraine stepped up diplomatic efforts. 

Russia escalated strikes on Ukrainian cities as Kyiv scaled up air defence. Russia 29 Dec-8 Jan launched massive airstrikes targeting civilian and military infrastructure; U.S. and allies 10 Jan alleged attacks featured first use of North Korean ballistic missiles (see Russia). UN humanitarian agency 16 Jan claimed hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded; energy infrastructure remained operational. President Zelenskyy 30 Jan said Russia had launched nearly 1,000 missiles and drones at Ukraine since beginning of 2024. In effort to counter attacks, Ukraine 17 Jan claimed first successful use of hybrid ‘FrankenSAM’ air defence system against Russian drone, 20 Jan claimed scaled-up electronic warfare capabilities enabled interception of twenty missiles on 13 Jan. Sides, meanwhile, traded blame for downed plane in Russia’s Belgorod region 24 Jan that left 74 dead, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

Moscow regained battlefield initiative and could shift war’s epicentre north. Russia’s ground forces continued attacking Avdiivka town in eastern Donetsk region, with reports late Jan indicating they had entered town’s southern periphery. In northern Kharkiv region, stepped-up Russian attacks near Kupiansk city 16 Jan prompted governor to order nearby villages to evacuate; Russian military 21 Jan claimed capture of Krokhmalne village, south east of Kupiansk; 29 Jan reported capture of Tabaivka village, which Ukraine denied. With Moscow increasingly able to dictate battlegrounds, fighting’s epicentre could shift north in coming weeks. 

Kyiv sustained high-intensity diplomatic activity. Ukraine 12 Jan signed ten-year security cooperation agreement with UK. Govt delegation 14 Jan attended meeting on Ukraine’s peace plan at World Economic Forum in Davos, along with 82 other countries; China remained absent. Polish PM Donald Tusk 22 Jan met President Zelenskyy in capital Kyiv, announced military assistance and commitment to dialogue over trade issues. 

In other important domestic developments. Govt 30 Jan filed revised version of mobilisation reform bill to parliament following criticism over potential constitutional violations and corruption risks. Meanwhile, Zelenskyy 29 Jan asked top commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi to step down amid rising tensions between the two; Zaluzhnyi refused.

December 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia pounded Ukrainian cities in largest wave of airstrikes since full-scale invasion, govt sought to reform mobilisation system, and U.S. approved military aid to Ukraine amid uncertainty about future assistance.

Russia launched wave of deadly airstrikes on Ukrainian cities. Russia 8 Dec launched nineteen cruise missiles in attack on capital Kyiv and Dnipro city, killing one; 28-29 Dec conducted largest wave of air attacks since full-scale invasion, striking cities across Ukraine using cruise and ballistic missiles, killing at least 40 and wounding over 160. Three-month pause in cruise missile use prior to strikes had raised fears that Moscow was stockpiling for massive attack that could overwhelm air defences. In Donetsk region, Russian forces advanced in pincer movement around Avdiivka town, which remained under Ukrainian control; Moscow 25 Dec claimed capture of Marinka town. Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops retained hold of bridgehead on Russian-occupied left bank of Dnipro River in southern Kherson region, but were unable to advance under heavy Russian fire. Kyiv 26 Dec destroyed Russian warship during air raid in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Tensions emerged over conscription system and plans for demobilisation. President Zelenskyy 1 Dec announced plans to reform conscription system amid increasing recruitment difficulty. Zelenskyy 19 Dec said military proposal to mobilise up to 500,000 additional troops required revision, citing lack of information on funding or plan for demobilisation and rotation of long-serving soldiers; announcement came amid several protests in Dec calling for demobilisation of troops fighting since beginning of war. Govt 25 Dec submitted conscription reform bill to parliament; Defence Minister Umerov previous day said document would give clarity about rotation but would not lead to demobilisation of long-serving soldiers.

U.S. approved military assistance to Kyiv while EU faced setback. EU member states 14 Dec voted to initiate accession talks with Ukraine, but Hungary next day vetoed €50bn military support package. U.S. 27 Dec approved more military aid to Ukraine, but future assistance will require Congressional approval and prospects for deal are uncertain. Senior army commander 18 Dec announced his troops had begun rationing artillery shells and scaling back operations due to uncertainty about Western assistance.

November 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia intensified attacks in Donetsk region as Ukraine targeted occupied left-bank of Dnipro river, key allies promised more military aid, and European Commission recommended accession talks.

Russian forces made small gains in east and escalated airstrikes. In Donetsk region, Russia stepped up attacks around Bakhmut city and Avdiivka town, making modest gains at high cost. In Odesa region, Russian missile 9 Nov hit freight ship in Odesa port, killing one in first strike on civilian vessel since withdrawal from Black Sea grain deal. Authorities 26 Nov said Russia had conducted one of largest drone attacks since war began, notably targeting capital Kyiv, with over 75 Iranian-made drones injuring five and damaging infrastructure.

Ukraine stepped up attacks across Dnipro river and continued targeting Crimea. Russian military bloggers 6 Nov reported Ukraine had transferred armoured vehicles across Dnipro River into bridgeheads on Russian-held left bank in southern Kherson region. In following days, troops managed to expand bridgeheads and Kyiv 15 Nov claimed foothold; Russia-installed Kherson governor same day admitted Ukrainian gains but promised reversal. In Russian-annexed Crimea, Ukrainian missile 4 Nov damaged under-construction missile carrier in port city of Kerch; Russian officials 26 Nov claimed its air defence averted several Ukrainian drone attacks on occupied Crimea and Moscow.

U.S. and Germany pledged more military assistance. U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin 20 Nov visited Kyiv, announcing new military aid package and promising continued support, even as worries grew over approval of further spending in U.S. Congress and supply capacity amid Israel-Hamas war (see Israel/Palestine). German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius 21 Nov announced €1.3bn military aid package during Kyiv visit; France 29 Nov announced intention to sign bilateral defence accord with Kyiv in early 2024.

European Commission recommended accession talks, tensions with EU neighbours rose. European Commission 8 Nov recommended accession negotiations with Ukraine; Hungarian PM Orbán 18 Nov said Ukraine was “light-years away” from membership, signalling intent to block proceedings. Meanwhile, Polish lorry drivers 6 Nov began blockade of border crossings, alleging EU suspension of entry permits for Ukrainian truckers had created unfair competition; after traffic diverted to Slovakia, Slovak border guards 15 Nov increased checks.

October 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia launched new offensive in east and ramped up strikes on civilian targets, while Kyiv targeted Russian-held territory with new U.S. ATACM missiles.

Russia launched offensive in east and intensified attacks on civilian targets. Russian forces 10 Oct launched offensive in east, coalescing around Avdiivka city (Donetsk region); fierce fighting ensued but Russia struggled to breach heavily fortified Ukrainian positions and incurred significant losses. Ukraine 14 Oct reported heavy Russian attacks on well-fortified positions around cities of Lyman (Donetsk) and Kupiansk (Kharkiv), 31 Oct warned Russia had bolstered its forces around Bakhmut (Donetsk). Meanwhile, aid agency International Rescue Committee 6 Oct warned of stepped-up Russian strikes on civilians and civilian infrastructure. Notably, Russian missile 5 Oct killed over 50 people in Groza village (Kharkiv); drones 12 Oct hit Danube port infrastructure; and President Zelenskyy 25 Oct warned of intensifying strikes on energy infrastructure.

Kyiv struck Russian-occupied territory with U.S. surface-to-surface missiles. Arrival of U.S. ATACM missiles bolstered Ukraine’s ability to strike deep into Russian-held territory, with Kyiv 17 Oct striking airfields in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk regions that destroyed equipment and likely killed scores of Russian soldiers. In southern Kherson region, Ukrainian forces stepped up operations across Dnipro River, forcing Russia to divert troops from main prong of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia. Meanwhile, satellite images 1 Oct showed Moscow had largely withdrawn its Black Sea fleet from Russian-annexed Crimea base after series of Ukrainian strikes in Sept.

Israel-Gaza war raised concerns about Western backing. Amid dramatic escalation in Israel-Palestine (see Israel/Palestine), concerns rose in Kyiv about implications for Western support to Ukraine. Western leaders promised continued assistance, with U.S. President Joe Biden 19 Oct announcing plans to combine aid for Israel and Ukraine in single legislative package. Malta 28-29 Oct hosted Ukraine peace talks with representatives from over 60 countries, but not Russia. Meanwhile, Slovakia’s newly elected PM Robert Fico 26 Oct announced halt to military aid.

In other important developments. According to Razumkov Center survey published 11 Oct, 64 percent of respondents are against holding elections before war’s end. New Defence Minister Rustem Umerov 18 Oct unveiled Defence Ministry reforms.

September 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces stepped up attacks in Russian-annexed Crimea amid slow-paced counteroffensive, several vessels arrived in Odesa ports to export grain, and tensions with Poland sharpened.

Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive made modest gains. Counteroffensive continued at slow pace along southern front, which stretches across Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. General Oleksandr Taranavsky 22 Sept announced his forces had broken through defensive lines near Verbove settlement (Zaporizhzhia) and said next goal is Tokmak city. Ukrainian forces 16, 18 Sept recaptured Andriivka and Klishchiivka villages (Donetsk) near Bakhmut city after number of Russian forces redeployed south. Also near Bakhmut, missile 6 Sept struck market in Kostiantynivka town, killing 16; news outlet The New York Times 18 Sept suggested Ukrainian air defence missile malfunctioning may have caused strike. Ukraine escalated attacks on Russian-annexed Crimea having weakened Russia’s air defence. Notably, cruise missile 13 Sept struck naval infrastructure in port city of Sevastopol; pair of cruise missiles 22 Sept struck Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters. Meanwhile, senior official 27 Sept claimed remnants from Russian paramilitary Wagner Group had returned to frontline.

Several ships reached Odesa ports to load grain. Following Russia’s withdrawal from Black Sea grain deal and subsequent attacks on ports and grain facilities, Ukraine mid Aug established temporary shipping corridor from Odesa ports to evacuate civilian ships stuck in Ukraine. Yet infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov 22 Sept announced arrival of two ships in Odesa ports using corridor to load grain bound for ports in Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, Romania bolstered air defence systems along Danube amid heightened security concerns.

Kyiv-Warsaw tensions rose over ban on agricultural imports. After temporary EU ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports into Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 15 Sept lapsed, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia same day announced unilateral restrictions to protect farmers from cheaper Ukrainian competition. Kyiv 18 Sept filed World Trade Organization lawsuit, claiming bans violate international trade rules. Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki 20 Sept said Poland would cease military aid to Ukraine.

Govt signaled tougher stance on corruption. Parliament 6 Sept appointed Rustem Umerov as defence minister following series of recent corruption scandals. Umerov 18 Sept fired seven top officials from Defence Ministry.

August 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

South remained epicentre of fighting as Russia intensified attacks on Odesa region and Ukraine’s counteroffensive continued at slow pace; Kyiv sought to drum up support for peace plan during well-attended summit in Saudi Arabia.

Russian withdrawal from grain deal brought more fighting to Odesa region. After scuppering Black Sea grain deal, Moscow intensified air raids on port infrastructure and grain facilities along Black Sea coast and Danube River in Odesa region. Notably, Russian drone 2 Aug destroyed port administration building in Izmail city; military 23 Aug said drones targeted “grain storage facilities and production complex in Danube region”. Russia continued to strike cities elsewhere; notably, missile hit theatre in Chernihiv city 19 Aug, killing at least seven. Kyiv, meanwhile, stepped up drone attacks on Russia (see Russia) and Russian-controlled territory, including massive attack 25 Aug on Russian-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian counteroffensive ground on slowly. Ukraine’s counteroffensive along southern front, which stretches across Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, continued to make incremental progress at high cost. Forces 16 Aug liberated Urozhaine village (Donetsk) and 28 Aug freed Robotyne village (Zaporizhzhia), pushing frontline closer toward road and rail hub of Tokmak city; neither advance broke through Russia’s main defensive lines. Senior NATO commanders mid-Aug reportedly urged Ukrainian Commander in Chief Gen. Zaluzhniy to concentrate forces on southern front rather than Donetsk, request which Ukrainians appeared to heed. Ukrainian forces 24 Aug raided Russian-annexed Crimea, briefly clashing with Russian forces and planting Ukrainian flag to mark country’s Independence Day. Meanwhile, Russian forces conducted operations near Kupiansk town (Kharkiv region), forcing authorities 10 Aug to issue evacuation order.

Saudi Arabia hosted dozens of nations for Ukraine talks. Kyiv gathered delegations from around 40 countries, including China and India but not Russia, in Saudi city of Jeddah 5-6 Aug to drum up support for peace plan; 7 Aug announced more extensive talks would follow in Autumn 2023.

In important domestic developments. President Zelenskyy 10 Aug announced govt is working on comprehensive framework document, which would lay foundation for “transformation of our state” in order to “win the war [without] losing the country”. Govt 18 Aug prolonged martial law and mobilisation for another 90 days.

July 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

In major blow to Ukrainian economy and global food security, Moscow withdrew from Black Sea Grain Initiative before launching flurry of attacks on ports and grain facilities; Kyiv’s counteroffensive advanced slowly.

Russia scuttled Black Sea grain deal. Moscow, which had long threatened to quit Black Sea Grain Initiative ensuring safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports, 17 July accused West of failing to fulfil its obligations under deal (see Russia) and announced its withdrawal. Ukrainian aquatic drones earlier that day struck Kerch bridge connecting Moscow-annexed Crimea with Russia, but Kremlin stated there was no link between this attack and its decision to quit deal. Wheat prices subsequently spiked as Russia 18 July began targeting ports and grain facilities on Odesa region’s Black Sea coast and along Danube river in bid to throttle agricultural exports, which are pillar of Ukrainian economy. Speaking to UN Security Council, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths 21 July said high grain prices threaten to push millions into hunger.

Ukrainian counteroffensive moved slowly as Russia mounted offensive in Kharkiv. Counteroffensive made incremental progress as Ukrainian forces struggled to break through complex Russian fortifications and large minefields. Troops focused their probing attacks on four sections of southern front that stretches across Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, making progress in Donetsk around Bakhmut city and 27 July recapturing Staromaiorske village on southern front. Meanwhile, Russian forces mid-July mounted ground offensive in north east of Kharkiv region, making small advances as Moscow sought to regain lost positions and divert Ukrainian forces from south and east.

Delivery of U.S. cluster munitions sparked controversy. First batch of cluster bombs 13 July arrived in Ukraine after Washington 7 July greenlighted delivery. Decision triggered fierce debate as cluster bombs’ indiscriminate nature and lingering danger from unexploded bomblets pose serious risk to civilians. Ukraine and U.S. defended decision, saying controversial weapon would compensate for lack of more precise ammunition.

NATO summit produced mixed results for Ukraine. During NATO summit in Lithuanian capital Vilnius 11-12 July, alliance pledged continued military aid to Ukraine but deferred membership prospects with carefully worded statement promising Kyiv an invitation “when allies agree and conditions are met”.

June 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Collapse of Kakhovka dam killed dozens, displaced thousands and raised fears of lasting ecological damage; Kyiv launched long-awaited counteroffensive, achieving modest gains as hostilities escalated.

Dam in Kherson collapsed, causing humanitarian and ecological crisis. Nova Kakhovka dam in Kherson region 6 June collapsed, causing catastrophic flooding on lower reaches of Dnipro River, whose right bank Ukraine controls and whose left bank Russia controls. Reservoir upstream from dam largely emptied. Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for incident, with Ukraine’s envoy to UN 6 June claiming it was “impossible to blow [dam] up from the outside by shelling”; media outlet The New York Times 16 June suggested large detonation from within Russian-controlled dam caused collapse. Flood killed at least 52 people, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed homes and farmland. Dam’s destruction will likely have lasting ecological consequences, including water contamination and destruction of irrigation systems, and will affect safety of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ukrainian counteroffensive advanced slowly but steadily. Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive began early June without announcement as its forces shifted from deep strikes into Russian rear to probing attacks on Russian fortifications in east and south. President Zelenskyy 10 June confirmed offensive had begun, while military same day published footage of its soldiers in two liberated settlements on boundary between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, where Ukrainian forces subsequently liberated six more villages. Ukrainian forces 19 June confirmed liberation of Piatykhatky village (Zaporizhzhia), 26 June captured Rivnopil village and gained ground around Bakhmut city (Donetsk). Fighting likely to intensify in coming weeks, with risk of high casualties, as Ukrainian forces advance toward Russia’s main defence lines. Russian airstrikes continued, notably killing 12 at restaurant in Kramatorsk city 27 June.

Kyiv and Moscow showed little interest in African peace plan. Delegation of leaders from seven African countries led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa 16 June visited Ukraine, presenting ten-point peace plan. Zelenskyy later said launching talks “while the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war [and to] freeze pain and suffering”. Delegation 17 June travelled to Russia, where President Putin portrayed their propositions as misguided.

May 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Moscow pummelled Ukrainian cities with drones and missiles as attacks and subversive activities on Russian soil escalated; Zelenskyy secured further military assistance and stepped up diplomatic efforts toward non-Western leaders.

Russia intensified airstrikes but faced sharp escalation of attacks on its territory. Moscow scaled up airstrikes on Ukrainian cities, firing Iranian-made drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles simultaneously from different directions in increasingly complex attacks. Dense air defence prevented mass casualties, though falling debris caused several fatalities, injuries and damages to infrastructure, including to Kyiv-based Patriot air defence system. Head of military intelligence 29 May promised to respond; multiple drones, presumably Ukrainian, next day struck Russian capital amid rise in subversive activities and attacks on Russian soil, particularly affecting its border regions (see Russia). Meanwhile, Russian President Putin 20 May claimed victory in Bakhmut city after nearly eight-month battle; Ukraine 21 May insisted its forces retained small foothold inside city and were advancing along city’s flanks. Paramilitary Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin 22 May vowed to withdraw Wagner units from Bakhmut by 1 June, 23 May said 20,000 fighters killed in fighting. Meanwhile, top Ukrainian commander 29 May said counteroffensive due to start soon.

Zelenskyy secured more military aid, sought support of non-Western states. President Zelenskyy mid-May toured number of Western capitals, securing military assistance from Germany, France and UK. U.S. 19 May said it would allow other countries to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including U.S.-made F-16s, said U.S. air force would help train pilots; Russian FM 27 May warned fighter jets represented “unacceptable escalation”. Zelenskyy stepped up diplomatic activity toward non-Western leaders to win support for goal of expelling all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, 19 May attending Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah city, 20 May meeting with Indian PM Modi. Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdoğan 17 May announced 60-day Black Sea Grain deal extension.

In other important developments. Authorities 16 May arrested high court judge on suspicion of accepting bribes from exiled oligarch awaiting extradition. Govt 9 May introduced bill that would lower age by which men must have registered with conscription offices from 27 to 25, widening recruitment pool for army.

April 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

As expectations for long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive grew, fresh Russian shelling killed and injured dozens; Moscow may deploy long-range weapons in the coming weeks, causing more civilian suffering.

Russia shelled Ukrainian cities, further high-casuality attacks possible. Russian army and air force ramped up efforts to capture Bakhmut city alongside paramilitary Wagner Group fighters, gaining ground from Ukrainian forces. Wagner’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin 29 April threatened to withdraw his troops from city unless Moscow sends more ammunition. Meanwhile, expectations for Ukrainian counteroffensive grew, though leaked classified U.S. documents revealed scepticism among U.S. officials about offensive’s chances of success. Reports 22 April emerged that Ukraine was establishing forward positions on Russian-held left bank of Dnipro River near Kherson (south).Fresh Russian shelling across Ukrainian cities late April killed and injured dozens. Russia may use more long-range weapons in coming weeks to undermine Ukrainian morale.

President Zelenskyy requested air defence assistance. Ahead of 21 April Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, President Zelenskyy called for air defence assistance amid fears depleted air defence munitions could facilitate Russian sorties into Ukrainian-held territory and intensified use of bombers over Ukrainian cities; meeting yielded no major announcements. Netherlands and Denmark 20 April announced they would send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

More evidence of Wagner atrocities in Ukraine emerged. Russian human rights group Gulagu 12 April interviewed escaped Wagner mercenary Andrei Medvedev, who attributed brutal video purportedly showing beheading of Ukrainian prisoner of war to Wagner. Two former Russian convicts who fought with Wagner 17 April admitted to killing civilians near Bakhmut; Wagner’s head Evgeniy Prigozhin denied claims.

In other important developments. During China visit, Brazilian President Lula 14 April proposed peace model in which Russia returns all Ukrainian territory aside from Crimea, a non-starter for Kyiv; Lula criticised Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, though his remarks suggesting both countries bore responsibility for conflict drew criticism from West. Chinese President Xi 26 April spoke to Zelenskyy for first time since invasion. Meanwhile, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 15-17 April introduced grain bans from Ukraine, saying cheaper Ukrainian agricultural imports had lowered prices for local farmers.

March 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Poland and Slovakia pledged fighter jets as battle for Bakhmut wore on, new revelations about Nord Stream pipeline blasts emerged, and UN presented evidence of war crimes.

Russian advance into Bakhmut ground on, missile barrage killed scores. Russian forces and paramilitary Wagner Group fighters continued to slowly encroach on embattled town of Bakhmut; Ukraine still controls around one third of town, which President Zelenskyy 6 March vowed to keep defending. Russia 9 March carried out its biggest air raid in months, killing at least nine and disrupting power supplies. In occupied Melitopol city (Zaporizhzhia region), car bomb 14 March killed Russian-installed official amid ongoing partisan attacks; Ukrainian forces 29 March reportedly shelled city, damaging electricity supply. Defence Ministry 21 March said explosion in Russian-annexed Crimea destroyed Russian missiles, but did not claim responsibility; Russia claimed attack targeted civilians. Meanwhile, media outlet The New York Times 7 March revealed pro-Ukrainian nationals may have blown up Nord Stream pipelines in Sept 2022; German news site t-online 26 March presented evidence pointing to Russian culpability.

Kyiv secured more Western military support. News website Axios 15 March reported that Israel approved export of its drone jamming system to Ukraine; Poland and Slovakia 16, 17 March respectively became first NATO countries to pledge fighter jets; European Union 20 March approved €2bn plan to boost ammunition deliveries; Japan’s PM Kishida 21 March visited Kyiv and pledged $30mn in non-lethal military aid. 18 Leopard 2 tanks 29 March arrived in Ukraine from Germany.

Independent commission found evidence of war crimes. UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine 16 March presented evidence of Russian war crimes, and said that attacks on critical infrastructure and use of torture may amount to crimes against humanity; it documented two incidents by Ukrainian army that qualify as war crimes. International Criminal Court 17 March issued arrest warrant for Russian President Putin for “unlawful deportation” of children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia (see Russia).

Zelenskyy ordered priests and monks to clear pilgrimage site. Authorities 10 March ordered monks and priests of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to vacate Kyiv Cave Monastery by end of March, citing church’s ties to Moscow.

February 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

One year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, signs of new Russian offensive in embattled east began to emerge, Biden visited Kyiv, and Zelenskyy called on Western states to send fighter jets.

Stepped-up Russian activity along front line signalled new offensive. 24 Feb marked one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, amid indications of new Russian offensive to fully occupy eastern Donbas region, including increased Russian activity along front line, arrival of electronic warfare equipment, more reconnaissance activities and spike in losses of Russian soldiers. There were no major breakthroughs, however. In Donetsk region, Russian forces attempted to capture Vuhledar hilltop mining town, control of which would give them strategic advantage for operations to occupy remainder of Donetsk, but reportedly suffered major losses of troops and equipment in assault. Their troops made more progress around Bakhmut town, but suffered unsustainably high rate of attrition, while Ukrainian units retained control of main road out of town. With Russia’s land force so far unable to punch through Ukrainian defence lines, Western partners 14 Feb warned Russia could intensify airstrikes, making efforts to bolster Ukraine’s air defences a priority. Strikes on critical infrastructure continued, albeit at lower frequency.

Zelenskyy appealed for fighter jets, U.S. President Biden visited Kyiv. During 8 Feb visit to UK, President Zelenskyy urged British lawmakers to send fighter jets; UK PM Rishi Sunak responded that “nothing is off the table”. Zelenskyy’s plea came hours after UK announced it would train Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard fighter jets, suggesting Western countries may be working on plan to send military aircraft. Zelenskyy 8-9 Feb also visited Paris and Brussels. Israeli FM Eli Cohen 16 Feb visited Ukraine, promising more support but refusing to condemn Russia. In strong show of support ahead of anniversary, President Biden 20 Feb made unannounced visit to Kyiv, promising more military aid and tighter sanctions on Russia before heading to Poland.

Defence minister announced new deputies. Following Jan corruption scandal that rattled defence ministry, Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov 14 Feb announced three new deputies as part of anti-graft efforts.

January 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Heavy fighting persisted in Donetsk as Russian forces captured Soledar, Western allies ramped up military support, and Zelenskyy dismissed senior officials in anti-corruption sweep. 

Fighting continued in eastern Donetsk region as Ukraine withdrew from Soledar. Ukrainian artillery 1 Jan attacked Russian military base in occupied Makiyivka city. Russian defence ministry 4 Jan admitted that 89 soldiers had been killed, highest number of deaths it has acknowledged since full-scale invasion; Russian military bloggers criticised Russian planning and logistics. Russian paramilitary Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin 11 Jan claimed his troops had fully captured Soledar town just north of embattled Bakhmut town. Claim appeared premature and fighting continued, but Kyiv 25 Jan admitted its troops had pulled out, marking Russia’s first major battlefield advance since July 2022; loss of Soledar further complicates Ukraine’s defence of Bakhmut. Heavy fighting continued elsewhere in Donetsk, with British intelligence 31 Jan warning of “concerted” Russian assault on Vuhledar coal-mining town. Meanwhile, Russia continued targeting critical infrastructure, notably killing 11 people on 26 Jan.

Ukraine secured major breakthroughs in Western military support. France 4 Jan announced plans to equip Ukraine with armoured AMX-10 RC combat vehicles. Germany next day said it would provide around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles while U.S. said it would deliver 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. UK became first western nation to pledge supply of main battle tanks, 19 Jan announcing “Tallinn Pledge”, military aid package coordinated with Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. Germany 25 Jan announced it would send Leopard 2 tanks amid mounting international pressure; hours later, U.S. declared it would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks. Russia same day said decision takes conflict “to a new level of confrontation”.

Zelenskyy cracked down on corruption. President Zelenskyy 22 Jan dismissed senior official Vasyl Lozynskiy following his arrest on embezzlement charges. Days later, Zelenskyy 24 Jan dismissed over a dozen senior officials, saying state “will be cleaned up”. Meanwhile, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych 17 Jan resigned after wrongly claiming Ukrainian air defence had shot down Russian missile that killed 45 civilians in Dnipro city on 14 Jan.

December 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Fighting raged in east as parts of front line descended into trench warfare, Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure continued, and authorities investigated role of Russian-affiliated churches.

Hostilities intensified in east as Bakhmut became war’s new epicentre. Following Ukraine’s liberation of southern Kherson city in Nov, Russian troops redeployed further east where fierce fighting continued throughout month. Notably, clashes around Bakhmut town in Donetsk region descended into trench warfare, with hundreds of dead and injured reported daily. Kremlin-linked private military company Wagner Group assumed high-profile role in attempted conquest of city, which President Zelenskyy 20 Dec visited. Meanwhile, senior officials gave media interviews throughout Dec, warning of new Russian offensive in early 2023 with stepped-up support from Belarus.

Russian attacks on energy infrastructure persisted, Ukraine hit Russian airbases. Russia launched strikes on critical infrastructure throughout month, often using Iranian loitering munition, severely hindering energy supplies throughout Ukraine; power outages can now last over one day, leaving homes cold and water supplies compromised. Russian authorities 5 Dec also accused Ukraine of attacking air bases in Russia’s Saratov and Ryazan regions hundreds of miles from border (see Russia); Kyiv acknowledged attacks but did not publicly claim responsibility. Strikes reveal Ukraine’s long-range capabilities, which Russia’s air defence appeared unprepared for. Media outlet The Times 9 Dec reported that U.S. has tacitly endorsed Ukrainian air strikes not only in occupied Ukrainian territory but inside Russia as well, representing major shift in its risk assessment.

Authorities searched churches affiliated with Moscow Patriarchate. Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) during month conducted searches at over a dozen churches and monasteries aligned with Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate across country; SBU says measures seek to prevent church from being used to extend Russian influence inside Ukraine. Zelenskyy 2 Dec signed decree giving govt two months to present parliament with draft law restricting activities of religious groups with links to Russia. Meanwhile, parliament 13 Dec approved law granting state authority to shut down media outlets without court hearing; law drew criticism from activists, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and journalists.

November 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces sustained counteroffensive in east and south, recapturing Kherson city; Russian airstrikes on energy infrastructure left millions without electricity.

Russian forces retreated from Kherson city amid Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukrainian forces’ counteroffensive advanced further in southern Kherson region as they closed in on Kherson city and surrounding area on right bank of Dnipro River. Russian authorities 9 Nov announced retreat from Kherson city to more defensible positions along river’s left bank; Ukrainian troops 11 Nov took back control, marking strategic and symbolic victory as Kherson constituted only regional capital Russian troops occupied since Feb invasion. In east, Ukraine’s counteroffensive ground on slowly amid reports of heavy losses on both sides; fierce fighting notably reported around Kreminna and Rubizhne cities in Luhansk region, and around Bakhmut city in Donetsk region. President Zelenskyy 20 Nov accused Russian forces of launching “almost 400 artillery strikes in the east” in one day. In Zaporizhzhia region, Moscow and Kyiv 21 Nov traded blame for shelling at nuclear power plant.

Russian strikes on energy infrastructure aggravated humanitarian crisis. Zelenskyy 1 Nov announce that Russian air strikes had damaged around 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, as strikes on energy systems continued unabated throughout month. Notably, Russia 15 Nov fired over 90 missiles and drones into country; during raid, missile struck village in NATO member Poland, killing two and fuelling fears of escalation; however, Polish officials and NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg next day said Ukrainian missile had likely fallen in Poland accidentally while intercepting Russian missiles. Attacks during month left millions without electricity, water or heating as temperatures fell below zero, bringing country to brink of winter crisis and prompting Kyiv 21 Nov to advise civilians from Kherson and Mykolaiv regions to evacuate.

In other important developments. Following Russia’s withdrawal late Oct from UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Deal, Russia and Ukraine 17 Nov agreed to extend deal for 120 days. UN General Assembly 14 Nov adopted resolution calling for Russian war reparations to Ukraine; 94 countries voted for resolution, 14 voted against and 73 abstained.

October 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia stepped up offensive by launching series of strikes on cities, including capital Kyiv, and civilian infrastructure, likely aimed at worsening living conditions as winter approaches.

Wave of Russian strikes targeted cities and civilian infrastructure. Russia throughout Oct launched strikes on Kyiv and other cities, often using Shahed-136 drones supplied by Iran, in move likely aimed at worsening living conditions across country as winter nears. Most notably, Russian forces 10 Oct launched around 80 missiles across country, about half of which were intercepted, killing 23 civilians and targeting power stations, electricity grid and symbolic targets in Kyiv such as pedestrian bridge. Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi 12 Oct said shelling at Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia power plant in Enerhodar city had caused plant to lose connection to grid several times and called for security protection zone. Both sides have traded blame for shelling.

Ukrainian counteroffensives in north east and south continued. In north east, Ukraine’s forces 1 Oct entered strategically important Lyman city in Donetsk region day after Moscow proclaimed annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. In south, as Ukrainian forces advanced along Dnipro river toward Kherson city in bid to close in on occupied city, Russian-installed head of Kherson region 19 Oct said Russian military would evacuate up to 60,000 civilians; forcibly deporting civilians from occupied territories into occupiers’ territory can constitute war crime under Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, Russia reportedly began sending reinforcements to defend Kherson city, 24 Oct accused Ukraine of plans to use “dirty bomb”. In Russian-annexed Crimea, explosion 8 Oct at symbolical Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea destroyed parts of road and railway tracks; Russia 8 Oct blamed Kyiv who neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Russia 29 Oct accused Ukraine of “massive” drone attack on port city of Sevastopol, same day announced exit from UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Deal.

In other important developments. At UN General Assembly, 143 countries 12 Oct voted to condemn Russia’s proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions, five members voted against and 35 abstained. FM Dmytro Kuleba 3 Oct embarked on tour of Africa to advocate for Ukrainian perspective in conflict but returned to Ukraine after missile strikes 10 Oct.

September 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russian President Putin pledged to annex four partly occupied territories and ordered partial military mobilisation after successful Ukrainian counteroffensive; fighting likely to intensify in coming weeks.

Ukrainian forces made significant battlefield gains in south and north east. Ukrainian forces conducted two parallel counteroffensives against Russian forces. First counteroffensive, announced late Aug, moved slowly through Kherson region (south); second counteroffensive, aided by increased intelligence-sharing with U.S., began 6 Sept and moved quickly through Kharkiv region (north east), taking Russian forces by surprise. Kherson offensive reportedly aimed to divert Russian forces south, weakening defensive lines in north east and enabling Ukrainian army to strike forcefully. Ukrainian forces 6-14 Sept regained 8,500 sq km of Kharkiv, including strategically important Kupiansk and Izium cities. Elsewhere in east, Russian-backed authorities 30 Sept said Ukrainian forces had “partially surrounded” Russian troops in Lyman city, Donetsk region. Kherson offensive in south stalled, although Ukrainian forces 16 Sept partly destroyed administrative building in Kherson city with western-delivered HIMARS rocket.

Moscow launched retaliatory strikes, announced partial mobilisation and proclaimed annexation of new territory. Responding to Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Russian missiles 11 Sept struck Kharkiv city, interrupting electricity and water supply; 14 Sept struck hydroelectric dam in Dnipropetrovsk region’s Kriviy Rih city; 30 Sept struck humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhzhia city (south east), killing at least 30. In further escalation, Putin 21 Sept announced partial military mobilisation and brandished nuclear threats (see Russia), while de facto proxy officials in four partly occupied territories – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – 20 Sept announced referenda to join Russia would be held 23-27 Sept; authorities 27 Sept declared victories in polls. In ceremony held at Kremlin, Putin 30 Sept proclaimed annexation of all four territories, biggest annexation in Europe since World War II, saying “we will defend our land with all our strength and all our means”. President Zelenskyy same day said Ukraine had formally requested “accelerated accession” to join NATO.

In other important developments. Following discovery of mass grave near recently liberated Izium, authorities 23 Sept said that of 436 bodies discovered, 30 bore traces of torture. U.S. 8, 15 Sept announced military aid packages worth $675mn and $600mn respectively.

August 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russian campaign in Donbas remained largely static, Ukrainian army announced counteroffensive in south as it stepped up attacks in Russian-occupied areas, and fears mounted over shelling at Zaporizhzhia power plant. Russian forces made few advances in Donbas region during month. In Dnipropetrovsk region (east), Russian forces 24 Aug struck train station in Chaplyne town, killing 25; in Kharkiv city (east), Russian shelling 17, 18 Aug left 17 dead. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces 29 Aug announced offensive around southern city of Kherson. In weeks prior, strikes in Russian-occupied areas increased as Ukrainian forces attempted to weaken Russian rear. In Russian-annexed Crimea, explosions 9 Aug rocked Saki airbase near Novofedorivka village over 200km from nearest Ukrainian positions. U.S. media outlet The New York Times 11 Aug quoted senior Ukrainian official hinting attack had been executed with help of partisans. Second explosions 16 Aug occurred, notably at railway hub in Dzhankoi town and Hvardeiskoe airbase near regional capital Simferopol. In Kherson region, several assassinations of Russian-appointed officials occurred during month; unidentified assailants 6 Aug shot dead deputy head of administration in Nova Kakhovka city; 28 Aug killed deputy head of regional administration. Ukrainian forces repeatedly struck remaining bridges across Dnipro river near Kherson city and Nova Kakhovka city. In south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region, repeated shelling occurred throughout month at Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar city following reports that Russian troops were using plant as military base; Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for attacks. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 6, 19 Aug expressed concern for safety of workers and facility, requested inspection on which IAEA team embarked 29 Aug. President Zelenskyy 26 Aug said Russian shelling day before temporarily cut power plant’s electricity supply, raising fears of nuclear disaster; Russian official 26 Aug blamed Ukrainian forces. In Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces 14 Aug reportedly destroyed headquarters of Kremlin-linked private military company Wagner Group in Popasna city. In Donetsk city, Russian-backed authorities 23 Aug said shelling struck apartment building, killing three. UN Humanitarian Agency 8 Aug said at least 17.7mn people in need of assistance since February. 27 ships carrying 670,000 tonnes of agricultural products left ports 1-20 Aug.

July 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russia continued operations to fully occupy Donbas, Ukrainian forces announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast, and Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN struck grain deal. Ukrainian forces 2 July retreated from Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city in east. Russian army 3 July declared it had taken full control of Luhansk region and throughout month continued operations to bring remainder of Donetsk region under its control. Notably, Russian forces 5 July struck market in Sloviansk, killing at least two; missile 9 July hit apartment building in Chasiv Yar city, killing over 40. Missile 29 July struck prison in separatist-held Olenivka town, killing around 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war; Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for attack. In south, attack 2 July on building near Black Sea port of Odesa killed at least 21. Month saw some attacks in centre and west; missile 14 July struck Vinnytsia city centre, killing 23; Russian forces 28 July struck Kyiv, Chernihiv regions for first time in weeks. Ukrainian forces used their new Western-manufactured artillery with longer range to destroy dozens of Russian ammunition depots. Notably, 3 July they targeted military base outside occupied Melitopol city, which mayor claimed killed 200 Russian troops; 11 July struck warehouse in Nova Kakhovka city. Ukraine’s defence minister 11 July announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast; Ukrainian forces 19, 20, 27 July shelled Antonivskyi bridge across Dnipro river in bid to blockade Russian-occupied Kherson city. Meanwhile, govt continued lobbying for long-range ammunition to target Russian-occupied Crimea; U.S. under-secretary of defense cautioned of their escalatory potential; Russian official 17 July said attack on Crimea would trigger “judgment day scenario”. Drone 31 July exploded in Crimea's Sevastopol city, which Russian officials said they would investigate as terrorist attack. Elsewhere in occupied territories, low-intensity insurgency continued. On humanitarian front, UN 19 July estimated 5.9mn refugees and around 6.3mn displaced by war. On international front, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to Ukraine 1 July ceased activities after Russia vetoed its renewal. Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN 22 July signed deal in Istanbul opening Black Sea ports to grain exports; Russia next day struck Odesa port, sparking outcry from Ukraine’s allies.

June 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russian forces captured eastern Severodonetsk city, Ukrainian partisans stepped-up insurgency in Russian-controlled areas, and European leaders granted Ukraine EU candidate status. After weeks of bombardments and street fighting, President Zelenskky 25 June confirmed that Russian forces had fully occupied Severodonetsk city, giving Russia control of almost all of Luhansk region in east. Severodonetsk’s twin city Lysychansk suffered heavy shelling as Russian forces attempted to encircle it, but city remained in Ukrainian control by late June. Elsewhere in east, Russian forces stepped up attacks on Kharkiv city; shelling began 21 June, killing at least 15. Ukrainian strikes in Russian-controlled Donbas cities increased. Notably, Russian-backed separatists 13 June claimed Ukrainian shelling killed at least five in Donetsk city. Ukrainian partisans in Russian-controlled areas accelerated insurgency. Notably, explosion 12 June occurred in Melitopol city in south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region and 18 June in southern port city of Kherson; car bomb 24 June killed Ukrainian official who joined Russian occupation administration in Kherson. In south, Ukrainian forces crossed Ingulets river as part of counteroffensive to retake Kherson and forced Russian troops to withdraw 8-10km by 8 June. In important victory, Russian forces 30 June withdrew from Snake Island in Black Sea following days of Ukrainian strikes. In north, Russian forces 5, 26 June fired missiles in Kyiv, first strikes on capital in over one month. In centre, missile strike 27 June on shopping centre in Kremenchuk city killed at least 20. International Organization for Migration 16 June reported over 5.1mn refugees and 7.1mn internally displaced. Russia and Türkiye 8 June concluded talks on grain exports from Ukrainian ports without Kyiv’s participation; Russian-appointed official 30 June said ship carrying grain left Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk in Zaporizhzhia region, first such shipment since Feb invasion. Leaders from Germany, France, Italy and Romania 16 June visited Kyiv; European Commission next day backed Ukraine for EU candidate status, which European leaders 23 June approved. U.S., UK and others 15, 17, 23 June announced further military assistance. Amid concerns of widespread sexual violence in conflict with Russia, parliament 20 June ratified Istanbul Convention on violence against women. Ukraine and Russia 29 June separately announced biggest prisoner swap since Feb invasion.

May 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Russian forces made gains in east and captured last pocket of resistance in Mariupol in south, as Ukrainian forces advanced in north; hostilities could intensify, escalate or spread in coming weeks. Russian forces 23 May began advancing on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk cities from three directions to encircle Ukrainian troops and seize last territories in Luhansk region under Ukrainian control; 31 May took control of large proportion of Severodonetsk city, although Ukrainian forces still retained some areas. Elsewhere in east, Russian forces 7 May bombed school in front line village of Bilohorivka, killing around 60. Governor of Luhansk 8 May said Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from Popasna city, marking biggest Russian breakout across old contact line that had divided warring parties since 2014 conflict; Severskiy Donets River, which Russian forces 11 May failed to cross, formed much of northern front line. In south, Russian forces 3 May began attacking Azovstal steel plant in Donbas port city of Mariupol; by 19 May, nearly 1,730 Ukrainian troops had surrendered before being sent to camps in Russian-held territories where de facto authorities announced they would face “international tribunal.” Defeat gives Russia control of land corridor between Mariupol and major port city of Kherson; reports indicated deadly insurgent attacks however continued in Melitopol city, midway between Mariupol and Kherson. In north, Ukrainian forces launched successful counter-offensives. Notably, forces 2 May took control of Stariy Saltiv town; 15 May reached Russian border north of Kharkiv, winning city temporary reprieve from Russian artillery that continued sporadically. On humanitarian front, UN 10 May said there were credible reports that Ukrainian forces mistreated, tortured or abducted Russian soldiers; 20 May estimated total 6.7mn refugees and over 8mn internally displaced from war; U.S. senate 19 May passed $40 billion aid package. Ukrainian court 23 May handed life sentence to Russian soldier for killing civilian in first war crimes trial; sentenced two others 31 May. On diplomatic front, Russia and Ukraine 17 May signalled that peace talks reached standstill. EU leaders 30 May agreed to block over two-thirds of Russian oil imports.

April 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Month saw relative calm in Kyiv region as Russian forces withdrew to launch new offensive in east, where fighting could worsen as it edges closer to urban areas. Russian troops by 2 April had vacated stretch of land between Kyiv’s north-western suburbs and Belarusian border, as well as Chernihiv and Sumy regions, north east of Kyiv. Following Russian troops’ departure, authorities said they had recovered over 1,000 bodies of murdered civilians, most notably in Bucha, and alleged war crimes. Russian forces continued attacks in east. Notably, Russia 1 April captured Izium city south east of Kharkiv city; Russian missile 8 April struck train station in Donetsk city of Kramatorsk, killing at least 50. Marking new phase of war, Kremlin 10 April appointed General Alexander Dvornikov to oversee invasion. Russia late-April launched new offensive in Donbas. Notably, Russia 20 April seized eastern town of Kreminna in Luhansk. Ukrainian forces 29 April claimed they regained Ruska Lozova north of Kharkiv; fighting could worsen in east, as it comes closer to urban areas in Severodonetsk and Sloviansk/Kramatorsk area. In south, besieged Donbas port city of Mariupol remained worst affected hotspot with 100,000 people encircled. President Putin 21 April claimed Russian forces took city, although Ukrainian forces remained holed up in Azovstal steel plant; after talks between UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres and Putin in Moscow on 26 April, UN 30 April reportedly began limited evacuations of civilians from steel plant. Governor of Odessa 13 April announced Ukrainian forces attacked flagship Russian missile cruiser Moskva, which caught fire and sank; large number of 500-member crew remained unaccounted for. On humanitarian front, UN 17 April estimated 7.7mn people internally displaced, 5.3 mn refugees, although exodus reportedly slower than March due to greater security in Kyiv region. On diplomatic front, UN Human Rights Council 7 April suspended Russia. Zelenskyy hosted EU, UK, U.S. officials in capital Kyiv, who promised more sanctions and weapons. Talks between Kyiv and Moscow were limited to humanitarian corridors and exchanges of prisoners, as sides focus on battlefield outcomes in Donbas. Guterres 28 April visited Kyiv and sites of suspected war crimes; Russian airstrikes hit city during visit.

March 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

In Europe’s biggest conflict in decades, Russian forces faced stiff resistance despite destructive tactics; risk of further escalation loomed. Russian forces 2 March claimed control of Kherson, major port city on Dnipro estuary, but suffered Ukrainian counter-attacks on city’s airport since 15 March. After Russian forces 28 Feb encircled Donbas port city of Mariupol, it became focal point of fighting, sparking devastating destruction and major humanitarian crisis; some 170,000 people remained besieged in city as of late March. Russia’s southern advance started to stall from late Feb north of Dnipro River around Mykolaiv city, gateway to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest coastal city; fall of Odessa would cut off Ukraine from Black Sea. In north, Russian army during month maintained control of thinly populated stretch of land between capital Kyiv’s north-western suburbs and Belarusian border. Russian attempts to enter Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Kyiv cities met forceful resistance; Russia resorted to heavy artillery in densely populated areas, causing hundreds of casualties. Danger of encirclement of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy as well as Mykolaiv and Odessa in south remains; encirclement could cut off millions from basic needs. UN estimated fighting had left over 1,104 killed or injured, with over 10mn displaced by late March, including 6.4mn internally; as displaced reached country’s west, strains on infrastructure and tension with local population rose as newcomers compete for work and housing. President Zelenskyy during month addressed legislative branches of several Western states, including UK, Germany and France, with calls for more military aid and no-fly zone; U.S. 15 March ruled out latter, citing risk of direct engagement between Russia and NATO. In move underscoring such risk, Moscow 12 March declared shipments of western military aid to Ukraine as legitimate military targets. Meanwhile, Moscow and Kyiv engaged in talks. Notably, sides 29 March met in Turkish city Istanbul where Kyiv re-emphasised neutrality requires security guarantees from UN Security Council member states and offered to delay decision about Crimea’s status by 15 years following complete ceasefire; Moscow after talks announced reduced operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv in north, which Kyiv called either act of deception or sign of Russia’s inability to maintain operations.

February 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Moscow launched multi-pronged invasion, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee as hostilities with Ukrainian forces killed hundreds of civilians and possibly thousands of military personnel; with no end in sight, conflict escalation looms. Russia 24 Feb launched full-scale military assault, involving significant portion of some 200,000 military personnel amassed in recent months on Ukraine’s borders and deploying wide range of land, sea and air military assets; offensive began with Russian missile strikes across country before Russian troops invaded from annexed Crimea region, Belarus and Russian territory, as well as Donbas. Russian forces approached and besieged number of key regional centres such as Kherson, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and capital Kyiv; numerous reports indicated fierce military and local resistance as well as logistical and other challenges that have hampered Russian progress. Notably, Russian troops attempted to encircle and seize Kyiv, leading to fierce battle for Hostomel airfield north east of city 24-27 Feb; govt claimed it repelled attack and inflicted heavy Russian causalities. Russian forces 28 Feb began indiscriminately bombarding Karkhiv city in east and continued to advance. As of 28 Feb, hostilities killed 352 civilians, including 14 children, and injured 1,684, according to interior ministry. Kyiv claimed Russian forces suffered 5,710 casualties, and that it held 200 Russian soldiers prisoner; Ukrainian forces reported 137 service personnel killed with over 300 injured as of first day of invasion. Over 660,000 people sought refuge in EU countries and Moldova, according to UN refugee agency. On diplomatic front, Russia 26 Feb blocked UN Security Council resolution demanding end to attack; UN General Assembly 28 Feb began Emergency Special Session on war. Ukrainian leadership 28 Feb signed request to join EU under simplified procedure; European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen previous day expressed support for accession. EU and member states, UK and U.S. imposed crippling economic sanctions, while also blocking Russian planes from accessing European airspace; U.S., Canada and numerous European countries, notably UK, France, Germany and Sweden, continued to provide arms and military equipment to Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian delegations 28 Feb held negotiations in Homel city, Belarus; while talks did not stop hostilities, sides agreed to continue dialogue.

January 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

U.S. rejected Russian demands for legal guarantees prohibiting NATO expansion, while tensions over Russian military build-up continued ahead of planned military exercises in Feb. After Moscow 15 Dec proposed to U.S. draft agreement on security guarantees that included provision not to expand NATO eastward, U.S. 26 Jan provided written response rejecting demand after coordinating with Ukraine and European allies; U.S. urged Russia to dismantle its military build-up near Ukraine and continue diplomatic path; rejection followed 21 Jan meeting between U.S. Sec State Blinken and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov that ended without breakthrough (see Russia-U.S.). Meanwhile, Russia continued military build-up. Significant number of Russian personnel and equipment, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, during month arrived in Belarus ahead of “Allied Resolve” joint military exercises that will last until 20 Feb; Blinken 19 Jan said Russia may attack Ukraine at “very short notice”, while President Zelenskyy same day said risks of invasion have not increased. Zelenskyy 20 Jan suggested, however, Russia may attempt to occupy Kharkiv city under pretext of protection of Russian-speaking population. Amid tensions, Ukraine has been receiving significant military assistance from U.S., UK and other European countries. Situation in Donbas conflict zone remained relatively calm as shelling decreased compared to Dec; no civilian casualties from live-fire reported while govt sources reported one serviceman killed by live fire, two killed by explosive device detonations, seven injured in Jan; two Russian-backed armed group members were killed during month, one from live fire, and one fighter was injured. Despite tensions, Kyiv continued seeking new Normandy summit with leaders of four countries (Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine). Political advisers of leaders 26 Jan met in French capital Paris; Dmitry Kozak, deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Executive Office, said sides agreed that July 2020 ceasefire agreement in Donbas should be adhered to unconditionally; advisers agreed to meet in German capital Berlin in two weeks to discuss discrepancies over political part of the Minsk agreements. Govt 25 Jan decided to withdraw from parliament its transition policy law that defined Russia as aggressor state and described Kyiv’s vision of how to reintegrate territories seized by Russia’s proxies.

December 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Amid growing concerns over potential Russian offensive, hostilities continued in Donbas conflict zone despite restoration of July 2020 ceasefire. Fighting and shelling continued along Donbas contact line. Ukrainian military said three of its servicemen were killed in combat during month, while Russian-backed forces reported four fighters killed. Explosion in govt-controlled Krasnohorivka town located at contact line in Donetsk region 1 Dec injured civilian. Civilian 23 Dec sustained shrapnel injuries in non-govt-controlled Oleksandrivka locality near Donetsk. Ukraine and Russia 22 Dec negotiated restoration of July 2020 ceasefire agreement; fighting subsequently persisted, while sides did not agree on opening of civilian crossings. Head of Office of Ukraine’s President Andriy Yermak 21 Dec said Kyiv had shared ten-step plan with Normandy Four countries and U.S. to unblock peace process; Russian media outlet Kommersant 24 Dec published plan, which provided for ceasefire, opening of checkpoints, prisoners’ swap, negotiation of draft laws on special status, amnesty, decentralisation and setting special economic zone. According to 17 Dec U.S. media reports citing U.S. intelligence officials, Russia continued to amass troops near Ukraine. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov 22 Dec said over 120,000 Russian troops are within 200km of Ukrainian border. Russian foreign ministry 17 Dec published proposals to legally guarantee against NATO’s eastward expansion, including ruling out Ukraine’s membership; proposals suggest banning any NATO military deployments on territory of states that were not NATO members in May 1997. Russian President Putin 21 Dec said Russia’s proposals are no ultimatum, but stressed that Russia has nowhere to retreat over Ukraine; while talking about possible invasion, Putin said Moscow’s actions will depend “on unconditional guarantees for Russia’s security”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov 31 Dec warned West over “aggressive line” in Ukraine crisis, said Moscow may be forced to “eliminate unacceptable threats to our security” (see Russia -U.S.). Russia 25 Dec announced more than 10,000 troops finished month-long drills near Ukraine. President Zelensky 21 Dec said govt seeks clear timeline in 2022 for eventual NATO membership, describing years of waiting as “unacceptable”. State Investigation Bureau 20 Dec charged former President Petro Poroshenko with state treason and financing of terrorism.

November 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine

Tensions ran high as Russian military build-up along Ukrainian border sparked concerns of potential invasion and renewed armed conflict in east. Media 12 Nov reported that U.S. had warned EU countries that Moscow was preparing for possible invasion of Ukraine; head of Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency Kyrylo Budanov 21 Nov warned that Moscow was preparing attack “by the end of January or beginning of February”, while Ukrainian Ambassador in Germany Andriy Melnyk 17 Nov said Russia had amassed 146,000 troops near border, in Crimea and in Donbas. Russia’s deputy UN Ambassador Dmitriy Polianskyi 11 Nov said Moscow never planned invasion and will not unless provoked by Ukraine. Meanwhile President Zelenskyy 26 Nov claimed intelligence showed group of Russians and Ukrainians planning coup in Ukraine on 1-2 Dec. Meanwhile in Donbas conflict zone, ceasefire violations reached 4,403 explosions between 1-26 Nov 2021 compared with 3,750 in July 2020 according to data from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Ukrainian army reported six servicemen killed and 13 injured during month; Russia-backed armed groups reported six fighters killed and seven injured; shelling injured civilian in Luhansk region. On diplomatic front, Russia 11 Nov refused to hold ministerial meeting of Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) after France and Germany rejected Moscow’s text of joint conclusions it sent on 29 Oct; Russia called armed conflict “internal issue” of Ukraine, urging Kyiv to negotiate “with Donetsk and Luhansk”, halt the language and indigenous people laws, and withdraw draft law outlining the return and reintegration of non-govt controlled territories in Donbas. Paris and Berlin 4 Nov objected to Russian interpretation, citing omission of unfettered access of OSCE in Donbas, and urged Moscow to discuss stopping violence in Donbas and implementation of Paris Summit Conclusions. Turkish President Erdoğan 29 Nov expressed readiness to mediate tensions between Kyiv and Moscow, stressing his country maintains good relations with both sides. Govt and U.S. 10 Nov signed new Charter on Strategic Partnership that expands defence and security cooperation, supports Ukraine’s right to decide its own future “including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO”.

October 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine