Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its third month on Sunday leaving scores of civilians dead and no end in sight to fighting that has led millions to flee to neighbouring countries. As peace talks continue to fail and forces bomb Mariupol, Senior Ukrainian negotiator and presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak urged Russia to agree to a “real Easter truce”.
The war in Ukraine has led to 5.2 million people fleeing from the country since Russia’s invasion two months ago, the UN refugee agency. The total figure of 5,186,744 is an increase of 23,058 over Saturday’s data, the UNHCR said. More than 1,151,000 Ukrainians have left during April so far, compared with 3.4 million in the month of March alone.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk blamed Russian forces for not holding their fire in another failed attempt at the humanitarian corridor in the heavily shelled Mariupol region.
Vereshchuk said that the Ukrainian side would try again on Monday to establish a safe passage out of Mariupol. She called for the UN. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is scheduled to travel to Moscow before visiting Kyiv next week, to demand a ceasefire and open up humanitarian corridors from Mariupol.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said new evidence is emerging that shows Russian troops killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol and then tried to cover it up
Here’s a timeline of key events of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
- Russian forces invade Ukraine from three fronts on February 24 triggering the largest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin terms the invasion as launching a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself.”
- As Ukrainian forces fought Russians from the north, east and south, Moscow pound the capital Kyiv and its suburbs with bombs on February 25. Authorities urge residents to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend the capital.
- India launched “Operation Ganga” on February 26 to evacuate its nationals from Ukraine.
- The first peace talks between Russia and Ukraine is held but no breakthrough is made on February 28.
- The assault turn particularly deadly in March: a Russian rocket hit the regional administration building in Kharkiv, killing 24 on March 1. Eight days later, a Russian airstrike devastated a maternity hospital in the besieged port of Mariupol, killing at least three and injuring 17.
- On March 3, Russia and Ukraine agree to set up humanitarian corridors for fleeing civilians. A cargo ship sinks near a Ukrainian port hours after another is hit by a blast at another port.
- On March 5, Russian forces seize Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest. Meanwhile, NATO rejects Ukraine’s appeal for no-fly zones, saying it would escalate the conflict. Pope Francis condemns the war in Ukraine. “Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,” he tells crowds in St. Peter’s Square. “This is not just a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction, and misery.”
- India winds up Operation Ganga with the last evacuation flight from Bucharest, Romania. India has brought back around 18,000 Indians under the evacuation mission.
- On March 14, Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova made international news after bursting into a state TV studio during a live news bulletin, with a banner reading: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.”
- The bombing of the historic theatre in Mariupol on March 16 is a turning event, killing 300 people. The bloodshed at the theatre fueled allegations of Moscow committing war crimes by killing civilians, whether deliberately or by indiscriminate fire.
- Moscow signals it is scaling back its ambitions and will focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east on March 25, as Ukrainian forces go on the offensive to recapture towns outside Kyiv.
- More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, the UNHCR says on March 30.
- In April, as Ukraine recaptures more territory around Kyiv from Russian soldiers who leave shattered villages and abandoned tanks as they move away from the capital, they discover mass graves, further strengthening with “proofs” of Russian war crimes. The Kremlin denies responsibility and says images of bodies were staged.
- In another setback for Russia, Moscow’s Black Sea fleet, a guided-missile cruiser that became a potent target of Ukrainian defiance, sank on April 15 a day after it was hit by Ukrainian missile strikes. Russia has been tight-lipped regarding the attack despite families of crew members demanding to know where their loved ones are. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday in a terse announcement that one crew member died and 27 were left missing after a fire damaged the flagship Moskva cruiser last week, while 396 others were evacuated.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 21 declares the port of Mariupol as “liberated” after nearly two months of siege, despite leaving hundreds of defenders holding out inside a giant steel works.
- A Russian general says Moscow wants to take full control of southern and eastern Ukraine.
- Russian forces are attempting to storm the Azovstal plant in Mariupol by land, backed up by aerial and artillery bombardment, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.
- Eight people died in Russian attacks in Ukraine’s Luhansk region on Saturday, regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote in a post on social media. An unspecified multiple number of civilians were killed in the region on Sunday, Gaidai said.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were to visit Kyiv on Sunday to discuss Ukraine’s request for more powerful weapons, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced.
(With inputs from agencies)