On February 24th, 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, igniting a violent escalation of the crisis that has plagued the region since 2014.
After weeks of deploying their army along the borders, the Russians entered Ukraine militarily, launching brutal attacks on major cities and attempting to encircle the capital, the political and economic hub of the country. Within a few days, tens of thousands of people fled Kyiv and other cities, and after four weeks of conflict, more than ten million people have been displaced from their homes and over three million have left the country.
The sudden invasion turned the lives of the Ukrainian people upside down. Kyiv, a symbol of resistance, became militarized, as hundreds of barricades and improvised checkpoints were set up to stop people, both by car and on foot. Fear of Russian spies and saboteurs grew, and documenting events on the ground became increasingly challenging. According to those interviewed, the biggest nightmare was the fear of not being able to live in peace again.
Putin’s plan to introduce a new pro-Russian government was thwarted thanks to the strong Ukrainian Resistance, supported by Western powers who openly criticized the invasion. The siege of the capital became the most violent front of the conflict, as remaining citizens took refuge in underground shelters, tried to help the Resistance, or enlisted in civilian militias to defend the territory. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, the Russian army advanced steadily to capture cities in the East and South.
In March in Kyiv, sirens sounded multiple times a day to announce bombings and missiles and artillery struck the neighborhoods, leaving death and destruction in their wake. As the clashes intensified, remaining citizens abandoned their destroyed homes with only a few recovered possessions. The northern suburbs of Kyiv, including Irpin and Bucha, witnessed massacres that will long be remembered, and the city’s bridge and the mortars that killed fleeing civilians have become the icons of a conflict that shows no sign of abating. President Zelensky fought with the support of the US, UK, and Europe to avoid succumbing to Putin’s army, but the situation remains tense and unpredictable.