February 24, 2023 - It's now one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 3:32 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023
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6:59 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

"2023 will be the year of our victory," Zelensky says on first anniversary of Russia's invasion

From CNN’s Sarita Harilela

Zelensky attends a news briefing in Kyiv on February 15.
Zelensky attends a news briefing in Kyiv on February 15. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters/FILE)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that despite all the hardships suffered by Ukrainians during the past 12 months of war, 2023 will be the year of the country's victory over Russia. 

“On February 24, millions of us made a choice. Not a white flag, but the blue and yellow one. Not fleeing, but facing. Resisting & fighting,” Zelensky said in a tweet marking the first anniversary of Russia's invasion. “It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith, and unity. And this year, we remained invincible. We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory.”

Ukrainian authorities are bolstering security measures across the country on Friday as they brace for potential Russian attacks to mark the anniversary.

1:16 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

6 takeaways from CNN's town hall a year after Russia invaded Ukraine

From CNN's Jeremy Herb


The United States is prepared to support Ukraine for the long haul in the war against Russia and is confident Kyiv will prevail, senior Biden administration officials told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria at a CNN town hall marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Here are the top takeaways:

  1. "Russia has already lost": US officials have signaled that the war is likely to drag on for months, with no real end in sight. But National Security adviser Jake Sullivan argued that one year into the conflict, Ukraine has already stopped Russia from accomplishing its main objective of taking over the capital of Kyiv.
  2. Ukrainians want to know about weapons: Sullivan was asked by a Ukrainian soldier whether the US would be able to increase production of ammunition and other weapons to Ukraine. Sullivan answered the US will do "everything in our power to get you the equipment and the ammunition" that Ukraine needs.
  3. Limits to US help: Sullivan told Zakaria the US has provided Ukraine with the assistance it needs for each phase of the war. But he acknowledged that Kyiv has often asked for more than the US is willing to give — though in many cases the Biden administration has eventually transferred weapons it had initially resisted sending. F-16 fighter jets requested by Ukraine "are not the key capability" for the country's current needs to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces, Sullivan said.
  4. US closely watching China: Sullivan said US officials have not ruled out a move by Beijing to provide lethal military aid to Moscow. Still, he argued that the idea Russia and China are becoming “unbreakable allies” is disproven because Beijing has taken a careful stance toward the war, noting it abstained instead of voting with Moscow on a recent UN resolution.
  5. US will not abandon Ukraine: Both Sullivan and Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, brushed aside criticism from some of Biden’s Republican critics that the billions of dollars the US is spending in Ukraine would be better spent at home. Power assured that US assistance is properly being used to support Ukraine in the war.
  6. Ukraine reconstruction will be a "mammoth undertaking:" Power acknowledged the long road ahead for Ukraine to rebuild when the war ends. Some estimates have totaled the damage to date at $130 billion, she noted.

Read more here.

7:13 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Timeline: Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, one year later

From CNN staff

People crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee by crossing the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 5, 2022.
People crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee by crossing the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 5, 2022. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

It has now been a year since the world witnessed Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the destruction of many cities, and forced millions of Ukrainians to become refugees.

Here is a timeline of the key moments that unfolded during the invasion:

  • February 2022: In the early hours of Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine. Kyiv’s Western allies had been warning of looming Russian aggression for months. Still, Putin’s decision came as a shock to many in Ukraine and across the world. Speaking on Russian state television, he announced the launch of what he called a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazifiy” Ukraine. Moments later, the first explosions were heard across Ukraine. A series of missile attacks and the use of long-range artillery quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides.
  • March: On March 2, Russia claimed its forces fully held Kherson, a city of about 300,000. Ukrainian authorities disputed the claims at the time. Putin claimed the war was “going according to plan” as his troops were laying siege to the key Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 3. A maternity hospital in the southeastern city was hit by a Russian missile. The attack came despite Russia agreeing to a 12-hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate. On March 16, The bombing of Mariupol’s Drama Theater was among the most brazen of Russia’s attacks on civilians. Ukrainian officials estimated 1,300 people were sheltering in the theater. Around 300 died that day, authorities said at the time, but subsequent reports suggested the death toll could be higher. Russia denied its forces were responsible.
  • April: When Russian troops withdrew from Bucha in early April, they left behind a trail of destruction — and evidence of summary executions, brutality and indiscriminate shelling. Images showing dozens of bodies of civilians scattered around a single street in Bucha prompted calls for Russia to be investigated for war crimes. Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank on Apr. 14. The cause remains disputed. Ukraine said it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles, sparking a fire that detonated stored ammunition. Russia blamed a fire of unknown origin. Whatever the reason, the loss of the guided-missile cruiser was a major military embarrassment for Russia and its biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years.
  • May: The sprawling Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol became another symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the face of a much larger enemy. Defenders of the plant withstood weeks of relentless Russian bombardment before finally surrendering in May.
  • September: A blistering Ukrainian counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine in September recaptured large swaths of territory and forced Russian troops to flee the Kharkiv region. Moscow tried to spin the hasty withdrawal as “regrouping.” But in a sign of just how badly things were going for Russia, the military was publicly criticized by a number of high-profile Kremlin loyalists including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who supplied thousands of fighters to the offensive. Following a string of embarrassing defeats in Ukraine, Putin announced Russia’s first mobilization since World War II on Sept. 21. The controversial draft sparked protests — a rare sight in Russia — and an exodus of men of fighting age from the country.
  • October: In another major blow to Moscow, the only bridge connecting Russia with the Crimean Peninsula was severely damaged by an explosion on Oct. 8. The Kerch Strait road-and-rail bridge is both strategically important and hugely symbolic. It was opened by Putin in 2018, four years after Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. On Oct. 10, a new phase of the war began when Russia launched the first of several waves of missile strikes on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure. Using missiles, artillery shells and Iranian-made drones, Moscow began targeting Ukrainian power facilities, leaving large areas of the country without power and water.
  • November: After eight months of brutal Russian occupation, the southern city of Kherson was liberated on Nov. 12, prompting scenes of celebration by residents. Russia’s hasty withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River was another bleak moment for Moscow, since Kherson was the only Ukrainian regional capital that Russian forces had captured. Putin himself had formally declared Kherson to be Russian territory just weeks before his troops’ retreat.
  • December: On Dec. 21, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Washington, DC to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House and to address the US Congress. It was a historic and consequential visit, the first foreign trip Zelensky had made since Russia launched its invasion. Ahead of Zelensky’s arrival, the Biden administration announced it was sending nearly $2 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine — including a sophisticated new Patriot air defense system.
  • January 2023: After weeks of geopolitical squabbling, a major moment arrived on Jan. 25 when Germany announced it would provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and allow other European countries to export the German-made battle tank. At the same time, Biden said the US would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
  • February: Biden made a highly symbolic surprise visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20, his first since Russia’s full-scale invasion. Standing alongside Zelensky, the US president recalled how the pair spoke by phone as Russian forces rolled in. “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden declared. “The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.” Zelensky said Biden’s visit brought Ukraine “closer to victory.”
11:57 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

How you can help the people of Ukraine

From CNN's Ryan Bergeron

As the war in Ukraine hits the one-year mark, civilians inside the country and those who’ve fled desperately need humanitarian aid.

In recent months, Russian attacks dramatically degraded Ukraine’s power and heating infrastructure, leaving many to struggle for electricity and gas supplies.

The UNHCR estimates more than 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced and over 7.8 million refugees have left the country.

“The war in Ukraine is a humanitarian disaster for all people. The onset of winter dramatically increases life threatening risks faced both by refugees who have been forced to flee the country and especially for the millions of people who have been uprooted inside Ukraine itself and are trying to survive in their damaged homes, often without heat and electricity or water,” UNHCR spokesperson Christopher Boian told CNN.

CNN audiences have donated more than $8 million to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine, but as the war continues more support is needed.

Find out how to help here.

11:54 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

An invasion that shook Ukraine and changed the world enters its second year

From CNN's Rob Picheta

It began in the dead of night. 

At 4 a.m., at border crossings and sea ports in north, east and south Ukraine, rolling convoys of Russian tanks pierced through the pitch-black calm, launching an all-out invasion that brought to a crashing end an era of relative peace in Europe.

Few Ukrainians will forget the morning of Feb. 24, 2022 when millions were pulled from their beds by the wail of air raid sirens and the explosions of Russian missiles in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia and dozens more cities and towns.

The invasion upended the global order and sent economies into freefall. But its most terrible weight was felt by those caught in its crosshairs, that morning and in the year since. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have died during the largest ground war in Europe since 1945; millions have fled west, seeking safety; many stayed to fight. 

For 12 months, Ukraine’s armed forces have mounted a resilient defense, defying expectations in Moscow that the invasion would be completed in days. Russian tanks never reached Kyiv’s city center; instead, they were pushed out of northern Ukraine, and stifled in grinding battles in the east and south. 

But episodes of bloodshed and savagery at the hands of Russian forces have struck at the heart of Ukrainians and appalled onlookers around the world. 

Europe and the United States have rallied against Russian President Vladimir Putin, forging the widest geopolitical divide between East and West since the depths of the Cold War. 

And fears of nuclear attacks have shaken observers thousands of miles from the frontlines.

On Friday, as the war thunders on, Ukrainians and millions around the world will stop to reflect on the horrors of the past year and the uncertain future that lies ahead.

Watch the moment that CNN's Matthew Chance first heard explosions in Kyiv:

12:08 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

China calls for ceasefire in Ukraine as claims to neutrality questioned

From CNN's Nectar Gan and Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

China has reiterated its calls for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, as Beijing comes under increasing pressure from the United States and its allies over its growing partnership with Moscow.

In a newly released position paper Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.

“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control,” the paper said.

The 12-point document is part of Beijing’s latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker, as it struggles to balance its “no-limits” friendship with Moscow and fraying relations with the West as the war drags on.

But Beijing’s claim to neutrality is severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict —  it has avoided calling it an “invasion” — and its diplomatic and economic support to Moscow.

Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.

The position paper is mostly a reiteration of China’s existing position, which includes urging both sides to resume peace talks. “Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis,” it said, adding that China will play a “constructive role,” without offering details.

Read more here.

7:55 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Military aid to Ukraine will "change the dynamics" of war with Russia, US defense secretary says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

The US believes the training and equipment it is providing Ukraine will “change the dynamics on the battlefield” in the war against Russia and allow Kyiv’s forces to “breach Russian defenses,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins for “CNN This Morning” on Thursday.

“We’re training and equipping several brigades of mechanized infantry — that’s a pretty substantial capability,” Austin said. “In addition to that, additional artillery, and so they’ll have the ability to breach Russian defenses and maneuver, and I think that will create a different dynamic.”

Austin’s comments come as the war in Ukraine reaches the one-year mark, with seemingly no end in sight. It also comes on the heels of a highly secretive and surprise visit to Kyiv by President Joe Biden, which aimed to send a stark message about the strength of the two nations’ alliance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, Austin echoed a common sentiment among other American officials, including Biden, to CNN, reiterating that the US will stick with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

“As long as Ukraine continues to conduct operations and continues to work to take back its sovereign territory, we’ll be there with them,” he said, adding that “the international community will be with Ukraine once the fighting stops.”

The US and its allies have provided billions of dollars’ worth of ammunition, weapons systems, and training to the Ukrainians since the war began one year ago — $29.8 billion of that coming from the US alone since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. Recently that has included significant items like the Patriot missile system and M1 Abrams tanks, though both require substantial training and maintenance capabilities.

Read more here.

10:09 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

This Ukrainian couple got married the day Russia invaded. A year later, Ukraine is still at war

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

Yaryna Arieva and Sviatoslav Fursin are not going to celebrate their first wedding anniversary this Friday.

The Ukrainian couple got married on the day Russia launched a full-scale attack on their country. A year later, Ukraine is still at war. Russian missiles are still falling from the sky and people are still dying.

There isn’t much to celebrate, they say. “A year has passed and all the memories, they start coming back,” Arieva told CNN at her and Fursin’s home in Kyiv.

She said that, for months, she avoided wearing a suit she got just days before the invasion began because it was bringing back memories of the darkest moments of her life.

“It’s not the memories you want to have in your head all the time,” she said.

Arieva, 22, and Fursin, 25, rushed to tie the knot in St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on Feb. 24, 2022 months before their planned wedding in May. They wanted to be together, whatever came next. The place has since become a favorite spot for visiting foreign dignitaries on their show-of-support trips to Kyiv. Most recently, US President Joe Biden was photographed there with Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky during his surprise visit on Monday.

“I remember my wedding ceremony and that feeling of not knowing anything. That unpredictable and really scary future,” Arieva said.

The same day, they collected their weapons and signed up as volunteers with their local unit of territorial defense force, the volunteer branch of Ukraine’s armed forces, determined to defend their city. Arieva serves as an elected Kyiv City councilor, a part-time unpaid government position that meant she was given a weapon.

Read more here.

7:51 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Analysis: Russian warlord's feud with Putin's generals explodes into the open with gruesome PR campaign

Analysis by CNN's Nathan Hodge

It has to count as one of the strangest PR campaigns in memory: using a pile of corpses to make your case to the powers that be.

That’s what Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, appears to have done this week in an unusual public appeal for ammunition for his fighters in Ukraine. And in the process, he has cast a harsh light on his open feud with Russia’s military leadership around the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Prigozhin posted a picture on Telegram showing the bodies of several dozen slain Wagner fighters, piled unceremoniously in a courtyard. Alongside that shocking photo, he posted the image of a formal request from Wagner for more ammunition, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the Russian Ministry of Defense for squandering one of those lives.

“This is one of the gathering places of the dead,” Prigozhin said. “These are the guys who died yesterday due to the so-called ‘shell starvation’ [by the Russian MOD]. There should have been five times fewer of them. So mothers, wives and children will get their bodies.”

Apparently, the message got through to someone. In a message and voice note Thursday, Prigozhin said a shipment of ammunition was now on its way to his forces.

“Today at 6 a.m. (local) it was reported that shipment of ammunition begins,” he said. “Most likely, the train has started moving … we are told that the main papers have already been signed.”

What was the rationale behind this ghoulish spectacle? Prigozhin already has a reputation for callousness and cruelty: Late last year, around the New Year’s holiday, he visited a morgue stacked with the body bags of dead Wagner soldiers, many of whom had been recruited from prisons with a promise of amnesty.

“Their contracts are over,” he deadpanned. “They’re going home.”

Read the full analysis here.