Ukraine timeline: From 2014 Maidan revolution to imminent annexation of four regions by Russia
Russia will bring Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the fold after holding elections that saw armed troops going door-to-door with poll officials to collect ballots. The West has denounced the ballots as rigged and Moscow’s action as ‘illegal’
Russia is set to annex four regions of Ukraine on Friday.
Moscow is doing so by citing ‘referendums’ which it claims saw citizens overwhelmingly vote to join it, while the Ukraine and the West denounced the ballots as rigged and the action as illegal.
The ‘election’ saw armed Russian troops going door-to-door with election officials to collect ballots in five days of voting.
The suspiciously high margins in favour of choosing Moscow are being characterised by the West as a land grab by an increasingly cornered Russian leadership after Russian troops faced some embarrassing military losses in Ukraine.
Russian president Vladimir Putin will attend a ceremony Friday in the Kremlin when four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — will be officially folded into Russia, spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.
Peskov said the pro-Moscow administrators of those regions will sign treaties to join Russia during the ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall. The official annexation was widely expected following the votes that wrapped up on Tuesday in the areas under Russian occupation in Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s announcement was met with swift rejection from European officials.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency. “We reject such one-sided annexation based on a fully falsified process with no legitimacy.”
Lipavsky described the pro-Russia referendums as “theater play” and insisted the regions remain “Ukrainian territory.”
But how did we get here? Let’s take a closer look at the timeline beginning from the 2013 Euromaidan protests to the upcoming annexation of these four regions:
Pro-Moscow Yanukovich govt revives ties with Russia
November 2013: The pro-Russia government of Viktor Yanukovich suspends trade and association talks with the EU and opts to revive economic ties with Moscow, triggering months of mass rallies in Kyiv.
2014: The protests, largely focused around Kyiv’s Maidan square, turn violent.
Dozens of protesters are killed.
European foreign ministers reach a compromise involving a unity government and early elections.
Moscow annexes Crimea
February 2014: The power-sharing agreement collapses and Yanukovich flees and a new government comes to power.
Just days later, armed men thought to be Russian seize parliament in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
The Russian flag is raised.
Moscow then annexes the territory after a 16 March referendum which shows overwhelming support in Crimea for joining the Russian Federation.
April 2014: Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbass declare independence. Fighting breaks out, which has continued sporadically into 2022, despite frequent ceasefires.
Poroshenko wins polls, Ukraine signs agreement with EU
May 2014: Businessman Petro Poroshenko wins a presidential election with a pro-Western agenda.
July 2014: A missile brings down passenger plane MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. Investigators trace back the weapon used to Russia, which denies involvement.
2017: An association agreement between Ukraine and the EU opens markets for free trade of goods and services, and visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians.
2019: A new Ukrainian Orthodox church wins formal recognition, angering the Kremlin
Zelenskyy comes to power
Former comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskyy defeats Poroshenko in an April presidential election on promises to tackle corruption and end the war in eastern Ukraine.
His Servant of the People party wins a July parliamentary election.
Then president Donald Trump asks Zelenskyy in July to investigate Joe Biden, his rival in the US presidential race, and Biden’s son Hunter over possible business dealings in Ukraine. The call leads to a failed attempt to impeach Trump.
March 2020: Ukraine goes into its first lockdown to curb COVID-19.
June 2020: The IMF approves a $5 billion lifeline to help Ukraine stave off default during a pandemic-induced recession.
Jan 2021: Zelenskyy appeals to Biden, now US president, to let Ukraine join NATO.
Feb 2021: Zelenskyy government imposes sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, an Opposition leader and the Kremlin’s most prominent ally in Ukraine.
Tensions ramp up
Spring 2021: Russia masses troops near Ukraine’s borders in what it says are training exercises.
Oct 2021: Ukraine uses a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone for the first time in eastern Ukraine, angering Russia.
Autumn 2021: Russia again begins massing troops near Ukraine.
7 Dec: Biden warns Russia of sweeping Western economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine.
17 Dec: Russia presents detailed security demands including a legally binding guarantee that NATO will give up any military activity in eastern Europe and Ukraine.
14 Jan: A cyberattack warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” hits Ukrainian government websites.
17 Jan: Russian forces start arriving in Belarus, to the north of Ukraine, for joint drills.
24 Jan: NATO puts forces on standby and reinforces eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets.
26 Jan: Washington presents a written response to Russia’s security demands, repeating a commitment to NATO’s “open-door” policy while offering “pragmatic” discussions of Moscow’s concerns.
28 Jan : President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s main security demands have not been addressed.
2 Feb: The United States says it will send 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania to help shield NATO allies in eastern Europe from any spill-over from the crisis.
4 Feb : Putin, at the Beijing Winter Olympics, wins Chinese support for his demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO.
7 Feb: French president Emmanuel Macron sees some hope for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis after meeting Putin in the Kremlin. Macron then visits Kyiv and praises the “sang-froid” of Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people.
War looms large
9 Feb: Biden says “things could go crazy quickly” as the state department advises Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately. Other countries also urge their nationals to leave.
14 Feb : Zelenskyy urges Ukrainians to fly flags and sing the national anthem in unison on 16 February, a date some Western media say Russia could invade.
15 Feb: Russia says some of its troops are returning to base after exercises near Ukraine and mocks Western warnings about a looming invasion. Russia’s parliament asks Putin to recognise as independent two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
18 Feb: US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Michael Carpenter says Russia has probably massed between 169,000-190,000 personnel in and near Ukraine.
19 Feb: Russia’s strategic nuclear forces hold exercises overseen by Putin.
21 Feb: Macron says Biden and Putin have agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine.
Putin makes televised address.
He says Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history, has never had a history of genuine statehood, is managed by foreign powers and has a puppet regime.
Putin signs agreements to recognise breakaway regions – Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – the regions of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of Russian-backed separatist forces, and deployed “peacekeeping” forces to the region.
22 Feb: US, UK and their allies enact sanctions on Russian parliament members, banks and other assets. Germany halts final certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was still waiting for approval.
Putin, in a television address, demands Ukraine demilitarise and says the Minsk peace agreement over breakaway republics no longer exists, blaming Kyiv for killing the deal.
23 Feb: Russian-backed separatist leaders ask Russia for help in repelling aggression from the Ukrainian army.
24 Feb: President Putin authorises “special military operations” in eastern Ukraine and asks Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms in a televised address. Russian forces begin missile and artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces and air bases, striking areas in major cities.
He says he wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and demands a guarantee it will never join NATO.
A full-scale invasion starts with air and missile strikes on several cities. Zelenskyy pledges to stay in Kyiv to lead the resistance.
The West imposes unprecedented sanctions on Russia, which are toughened over time. The EU and US send arms to Ukraine, with the amount of aid pledged by Washington rising into the billions.
Advances in south, but Kyiv holds
March: Russian troops attack Ukraine’s south coast, seizing most of the strategic region of Kherson, crucial for agriculture, and close to the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.
Russian troops seek to surround the capital Kyiv and to take Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv in the northeast but face fierce resistance.
A month into the fighting, Russia withdraws from the Kyiv area and northern Ukraine to focus on conquering the eastern industrial Donbas region, partly held by separatists, along with the south.
War crimes revealed
April: The corpses of dozens of civilians are found scattered on the street or buried in shallow graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which Russian forces had occupied, sparking an international outcry.
Similar grisly discoveries follow in other northern towns and Kyiv suburbs.
In May, Russia besieges and relentlessly bombards the strategic southeastern port city of Mariupol from the start of its invasion.
The city becomes a symbol of the suffering caused by the war with bodies piling up in the cellars where residents hide out for weeks.
On 21 May, Russia announces that it is in full control of the city, after the troops that held out for weeks at a steelworks surrender.
Also in May, Sweden and Finland apply to become members of NATO, fearing they could be future targets of Russian aggression.
Donbas battle rages
June: In June, all eyes are on the Donbas, where Russia harnesses its superior firepower to conquer the city of Severodonetsk after one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Shortly after they take the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, as Ukraine pleads for more heavy weapons from the West.
Grain unblocked, gas supplies cut
22 July: Kyiv and Moscow sign a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey to resume stalled grain exports from Ukraine, Europe’s so-called breadbasket, in a bid to relieve a global food crisis caused by Russia’s blockade of the country’s ports.
The first official shipment of grain since the invasion leaves Odessa with 26,000 tonnes of maize 10 days later.
The breakthrough on grain is overshadowed however by the escalating gas dispute between Russia and Europe.
Russian energy giant Gazprom slashes its supply to Europe through the Nord Stream pipeline before turning off the tap altogether, prompting fears of gas shortages this winter.
Nuclear fears rise
In August, concerns mount over the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, with constant shelling of the area raising the spectre of a nuclear disaster.
UN inspectors visit the plant in early September and call for a security zone to be set up around it.
As the US and EU step up their supplies of heavy weapons, Kyiv launches a major offensive to retake the city of Kherson in the south.
Russia in retreat
In September, Ukraine announces that its troops have retaken more than 3,000 square kilometres of terrain in a second, lightning counter-offensive around Kharkiv in the north-east.
Russia appears to have been caught off guard.
Kyiv says the area recaptured includes part of Izyum district, which sits on a vital supply route for Russian troops.
In late September, Russia holds referendums in four regions of Ukraine.
With inputs from agencies
Hospital employees suspected the Russians of confiscating orphans and shipping them to Russia, so staff at the children's regional hospital in the city of Kherson in eastern Ukraine began falsifying the orphans' medical records to make it appear as if they were too sick to move
Ukraine denies shelling the facility, which has been under the control of Russian forces since the first days of the war and has accused Russia of firing on it
Ukraine in recent days has faced a blistering onslaught of Russian artillery fire and drone attacks, with the shelling especially intense in Kherson