War in Ukraine: how the first week went

After Russia called Ukraine with tens of thousands of troops, Russia invaded its neighbor in the early hours of February 24, sparking the worst conflict in Europe in decades.

As Ukraine fights for its existence, we look back on seven days that shocked the world.

– Russia invades –

Last Thursday at dawn, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and de-nazify” Ukraine and support Moscow-backed separatists in the east.

He threatens countries that interfere with “consequences you’ve never known before”.

A large-scale invasion immediately begins with air and artillery attacks on several cities. Russian forces also briefly take control of an airport on the outskirts of Kiev.

Ukraine declares martial law and severs ties with Russia.

– Refugees flee

Refugees are flowing from Ukraine to Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Slovakia. More than a million flee abroad within a week.

On February 25, European countries will begin to close their airspace to Russian airlines and EU members will begin to impose sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

– Ukraine resists –

Ukrainian forces offered stronger-than-expected resistance and frustrated Russian plans for a lightning-quick takeover.

In a series of selfie videos, President Volodymyr Zelensky promises to stay put and lead the resistance. “I need ammunition, not a lift,” he tells the Americans, who offer to evacuate him.

In the face of fears that Kiev will fall soon, videos have surfaced of Ukrainians trying to block Russian tanks with their bare hands or berating Russian soldiers in the street.

On Saturday, Russia orders its troops to advance “from all sides”.

– Nuclear threat –

On Sunday, Putin further heightened tensions by escalating Russia’s nuclear forces.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world take part in solidarity marches in Ukraine.

The EU says it will spend nearly half a billion euros on arming Ukraine as member states pledge their own military aid. Unprecedented sanctions remove a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payment system.

The invasion also leads to a radical rethink of German defense policy, with Berlin massively increasing military spending.

– Kharkiv criticized during talks –

A first round of talks between Kiev and Moscow, held on the Ukrainian border with Belarus on Monday, failed.

While talks are underway, civilian districts of Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, are being shelled and hit by missiles. Zelensky makes a passionate appeal to his country to gain “immediate” EU membership.

In Kiev, the army says it has repelled several attempts by Russian troops to storm the suburbs.

The ruble is collapsing as Russia’s central bank doubles its key interest rate to try to keep it afloat.

– Russian gain in the south –

On Tuesday, satellite images show a huge column of Russian vehicles cutting off Kiev.

Russia will be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup as its forces surround the southern city of Kherson, as well as the strategic Black Sea port of Mariupol, which is without power.

A rocket attack destroys the city hall of Kharkov.

During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden labels Putin a “dictator.”

– Russian media silenced –

On Wednesday, Russian paratroopers landed in Kharkov, which is still being shelled by shelling and rockets, including university buildings.

Russia on Wednesday will block an independent television channel and a liberal radio station, with a virtual blackout on war news.

For the first time, Moscow reports a death toll for its troops and says 498 have been killed.

– New conversations –

A week after the offensive began, the Russians take Kherson, the first major city to fall.

Ukrainian and Russian officials travel to the Belarus-Poland border for a second round of talks, where they agree to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

Putin says Moscow’s advance into Ukraine is “going according to plan” as he opens a meeting with his security council.

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