A year ago, on February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin made public recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
The breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine have been at the heart of the conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea.
Putin’s recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) is a turning point in the escalation that lasted months before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russian forces invade Ukraine
Just before 6 a.m. Moscow time (03:00 GMT), in a televised address, President Putin announced that his country is launching a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine to protect the people of the DPR and LPR.
“I decided to conduct a special military operation. Its goal is to protect those who, over the course of eight years, have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime. To achieve this goal, we will seek to demilitarize and denuclearize Ukraine, as well as bring to justice those who have committed many bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation,” he said.
Europe would then awaken to the largest, longest-lasting military assault on the continent since World War II.
Russian ground forces invaded from four main fronts in the north, northeast, east and south, while artillery and rockets targeted multiple locations.
from the north – Russian forces advance towards Kyiv from Belarus.
From the northeast – Russian forces move west to Kyiv from Russia.
From the east – Russian forces advance towards Kharkiv from the Donbas region.
From the South – Russian forces moved from Crimea towards Odesa in the west, Zaporizhzhia in the north and Mariupol in the east.
Over the past year, Russia has captured important cities and strategic ports, and Ukraine has launched many counter-attacks to regain lost territory.
In the following infographic series, Al Jazeera maps these major battles across the country.