500 days of war: How the Russia-Ukraine conflict has unfolded
It began in February 2022 and has resulted in the deaths of over 9,000 civilians and injuries to more than 15,700 people, according to the latest UN figures.
Additionally, more than 6.3 million Ukrainians have become refugees, forced to flee their country.
Over the past 16 months, significant events have occurred on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, leading to major shifts in the conflict and impacts on the global stage.
Here are the key moments of the war over the past 500 days:
‘Special military operation’
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, three days after saying that Moscow would recognize Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states.
Push for Kyiv
Control of Zaporizhzhia
On March 4, Russian forces gained control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and one of the biggest in the world.
On April 15, Russia said the Moskva, the flagship vessel of its Black Sea fleet, sank while being towed during a storm.
Ukraine claimed it struck the strategically valuable vessel in a missile attack.
Grain deal in Istanbul
Under the deal, a coordination center was established to conduct joint inspections at entrances and exits of harbors and ensure the safety of routes.
The deal, which was initially set for a period of 120 days, has been renewed several times over the course of the past year.
Partial mobilization in Russia
On Sept. 21, Putin gave his nod for partial mobilization in the country for the first time since World War II, under which 300,000 Russians between ages 18 to 50 would be called up for military service.
Unilateral annexation of Ukrainian regions
The international community, including Türkiye, the US and several European nations, condemned the “sham referendums” and refused to recognize their validity.
In response, Zelenskyy signed a decree declaring Russia’s annexation of the four regions, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, null and void.
Kerch Bridge blast
On Oct. 8, a massive explosion damaged the Kerch Bridge, a key passage linking Russia and Crimea.
Targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure
Putin said the strikes were in response to the Kerch Bridge explosion and other “terrorist attacks” that he blamed on Ukrainian intelligence agencies.
Russia’s Kherson withdrawal
Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said the decision was taken to save the lives of Russian soldiers.
Zelenskyy heads to the US
On Dec. 21, Zelenskyy visited the White House, his first overseas trip since the start of the war, for crucial talks with US President Joe Biden and senior American officials.
Ukraine corruption scandal and government reshuffle
Zelenskyy announced on Jan. 23 plans to reshuffle officials at different levels in ministries, administrative bodies, and law enforcement agencies.
The move aimed to strengthen the state and address allegations of widespread corruption. In the following days, several Ukrainian officials either resigned or were dismissed from their positions.
Germany’s Leopard boost
On Jan. 25, Germany yielded to international pressure and gave the green light for its allies to supply Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
Drones above the Kremlin
Zelenskyy flatly denied any involvement, emphasizing that Ukraine's focus was on reclaiming its own territories rather than attacking foreign nations.
Battle for Bakhmut
On May 21, Russia declared full control over the city of Bakhmut, an important transport and logistics hub in the Donetsk region, which is situated within the predominantly Russian-speaking industrialized Donbas region.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials were quick to deny Russia’s claims of capturing Bakhmut.
‘Ukrainian sabotage group’ in Belgorod
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region claimed on May 22 that a “Ukrainian sabotage group” had entered the area, saying Russian forces and other government services were taking measures to “eliminate” the threat.
Russia-Belarus nuclear pact
The agreement specifies the conditions for storing these weapons in a dedicated facility. Moscow said the decision was taken in response to what it described as an “extremely sharp escalation and the activity of NATO's joint nuclear missions.”
Kakhovka dam explosion
‘Counteroffensive and defensive actions’
Ukrainian officials have since then said their forces have regained control of several areas, claims that Russia has denied and cannot be independently verified.
The very next day, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fighters were 200 kilometers (125 miles) away from Moscow when they decided to retreat to avoid violence.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko acted as a mediator, saying he engaged with Prigozhin to help the two sides reach a quick solution.