Reflections of War: A Year in Ukraine
One year ago, Russia launched Europe’s biggest war since WWII. Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine, sending civilians fleeing for basement bunkers and their country’s borders. Governments around the world imposed stringent sanctions on Russia in an attempt – so far unsuccessful - to pressure President Vladimir Putin to abandon the war. Against the odds, Ukraine’s military has held its ground, reclaiming control of broad swaths of occupied territory and fending off Russian attempts to advance in the east where fierce battles are continuing.
The toll of the human suffering has been staggering – thousands have been killed and more than 8 million Ukrainians fled abroad. The economic consequences also continue to reverberate around the world, from the scramble for new energy sources in Europe to higher grain prices in Africa.
Throughout the war, journalists from The Associated Press have been on the ground in both Ukraine and Russia, delivering the same fact-based, eyewitness coverage that has defined the AP throughout our 177-year history. This is a showcase of their important and award-winning work, which will continue for as long as the war does.
– Julie Pace, AP Executive Editor
LOOKING BACK ON A YEAR
“We are all here. Our soldiers are here, the citizens of our country are all here protecting our independence.” – Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine followed a months-long build up of troops by Moscow along its neighbor’s borders and 11th hour diplomatic efforts led by Western governments to try and avoid conflict. While denying warnings from the United States that an invasion was imminent, Russian officials insisted they would continue to back armed separatists in eastern Ukraine and block efforts by the former Soviet republic to integrate with NATO.
In a televised address, President Vladimir Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russian heritage. He openly questioned the country’s right to exist as a nation, formally declared three decades earlier. The U.S. and allies, wary of Putin’s motives following the 2014 annexation of Crimea and eight years of fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed separatists, boosted their military presence in eastern Europe and vowed to protect NATO members near Ukraine against any potential aggression.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reached the outskirts of Kyiv, the quiet suburbs of Bucha and Irpin near the capital’s airport and a half-hour drive from the city. Before the war, it was where Kyiv residents would take a weekend trip to stop at a steakhouse or visit a shopping mall. Now, the name Bucha is associated with the brutality of Russia’s advance and is the focus of an international war crimes investigation after hundreds of mass graves were uncovered in the wake of Russia’s retreat. Three childhood friends, Oleksii, Yurii, and Vadym grew up and fell in love in Bucha. They all joined up to fight the Russians, as their families scattered across Europe with millions of other refugees. Within a few months, Oleksii and Yurii had both been killed in heavy fighting in the east. Their wife and fiancé, who regularly visit their graves, tell the story of loss and lives cut short by war.
THE UNSEEN GALLERY
From front lines and bomb-damaged cities to families torn apart by war, photographers from The Associated Press have documented the enormous human toll and far-reaching impact of the invasion of Ukraine. But much of their important work has never been seen by the public. Advances in camera technology and faster data connections have given the world a window to events as they happen. But with an overwhelming number of images generated, many are never selected for publication. This curated set of images is part of a larger gallery of previously unpublished photos - considered meaningful, informative, or visually stunning - that have been chosen by the photographers for public viewing to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The global economy continues to face the painful repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with shortages of grain, fertilizer, and energy. European economies are struggling to stay out of recession as the worst energy price shock in decades and supply uncertainty cause hardship globally. The IMF slashed growth expectations for this year and 2022, equivalent to $1 trillion in lost production.
Spiking inflation means households across developed countries have lost income while coping with higher bills and loan payments. Poorer countries already struggling with food prices have been hit even harder, adding to disruption caused by the pandemic, and halting global progress in lifting millions out of poverty.
Global oil prices spiked immediately following the start of the war. In June, fears of a large loss of Russian oil to market drove prices higher. Spikes were followed by declines in August, fueled by fears of global economic slowdown and Russian production falling less than expected.
THE ROAD AHEAD
With no sign of peace in sight, Ukraine and Russia are emerging from a winter stalemate determined to fight for strategic goals that are in lethal contrast. Ukraine wants to push Russia back to its internationally recognized borders, its motivated forces now equipped with more powerful offensive weapons arriving from the West. It faces an enormous challenge in training operators to use the new high-tech hardware ‒ and leveling up its military ‒ in a fraction of the time normally needed. With a vast advantage in resources, Russia wants to keep the former Soviet neighbor in its orbit and prevent it from ever joining NATO. Moscow holds nearly a fifth of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, a large part of the industrial Donbas region in the east and broad areas in the south, including Europe’s largest nuclear power station. But the Russian military has struggled to regroup following a year of heavy casualties and humiliating setbacks, including its retreat from broad swaths of occupied territory under the brunt of Ukrainian counteroffensives. Military analysts argue that the fighting will continue until one side has gained enough leverage to impose terms in negotiations. As the conflict enters its second year, they speculate that Ukraine could push to sever Russian access to the Crimean peninsula or that Moscow may try to overwhelm Kyiv’s defenses by re-opening a second front from Belarus.