When did Russia invade Ukraine? Why Vladimir Putin started war - and key moments of conflict remembered

Six months on from the start of the conflict, on Ukraine Independence Day, NationalWorld looks at some of the key moments from Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Today marks six months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and there’s still no end to the war in sight.

On February 24, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to advance into Ukraine on a “special military operation”, which turned out to become a mass invasion on a scale which Europe has not seen since World War II.

The resulting, devastating conflict has shocked the world, with stories of Ukraine’s war-torn cities dominating headlines and prompting nations across the globe to take action against Vladimir Putin.

It has been six months since Russia first invaded Ukraine. Credit: Getty Images

Amongst the first to impose sanctions on Russia were the UK, the US and Japan, while countries such as Norway, South Korea and Canada promptly followed suit.

This response resulted in various repercussions, with Russia cutting off its gas supply to Europe and plunging the continent into a cost of living crisis.

Meanwhile, millions of refugees have fled Ukraine, unsure of when they will be able to return to their home country - with many forced to leave family members behind to fight in the war.

As Ukraine continues to courageously defend itself against Russia’s advances and attacks, NationalWorld has taken a look at some of the key moments in the conflict so far.

Here’s what you need to know.

The war begins

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour on 24 February with the attack beginning in Ukraine’s eastern territory of Donbas - and expanding into key cities Kharkiv and Mariupol in the next weeks.

President Zelensky called on Ukrainian citizens to defend their country. Credit: Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law in Ukraine and officially broke diplomatic ties with Russia, calling on citizens who are prepared to defend their country to come forward.

Putin gave a chilling speech to his citizens, in which he said the day’s actions were an attempt to ensure the “security of Russia”.

He said this was necessary following Nato’s eastward expansion towards the country’s border - and as a response to the fundamental threats which “irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia consistently, rudely and unceremoniously from year to year”.

Ukraine fights back

The invasion did not quite go as planned for Russia, as Ukraine bravely resisted the attack and fought back on an unexpected scale.

In March, President Zelensky announced the country’s refusal to surrender the besieged city of Mariupol.

Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Days later, Russian troops were forced to retreat after a failed campaign to capture Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv.

Russia tells a different story

The Kremlin started to recast the purpose of the invasion as the ‘liberation of the Donbas’ in eastern Ukraine.

Stories began to emerge of Russian soldiers arriving in Ukraine with no idea of the reality of the conflict, instead believing they would be welcomed with open arms.

The horrors emerge

Once Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, near Kyiv, images of the civilian massacre left behind were released. These included pictures of countless bodies lying in the streets.

Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv was hit by missiles and shellfire in March. Credit: Getty Images

President Zelensky accused Russia of genocide and war crimes, while Russia denied involvement and claimed the killings were ‘staged’ and ‘fake’.

Nato discussions

In April, Finland and Sweden both discussed joining Nato, and Russia reportedly moved military equipment to its border with Finland.

Former Russia President Dmitry Medvedev said there would be “no more talk of a nuclear free Baltic, as the balance must be restored.”

The US is the largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine, having committed $9.8 billion since the start of the war. Credit: Getty Images

He added: “If our hand is forced, well… take note it wasn’t us who proposed this.”

Ukraine wins Eurovision

President Zelensky said the country will host the contest in 2023, with frontman Oleh Psiuk saying it will be held in a “newly rebuilt and happy Ukraine”.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra were named the winners of Eurovision 2023 at the contest in Turin, Italy.

A couple months later, Ukraine announced it would not be able to host the competition - and the UK will be holding the event in its place.

Triumphs and defeats

Just after Eurovision, it is reported that Russia may have lost a third of its troops in Ukraine as the invasion is held back in the face of stiff resistance.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia had “lost momentum” and was “significantly behind schedule”.

Many Ukrainian soldiers had never held a gun before the war began. Credit: Getty Images

But days later soldiers at Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol were forced to surrender, with Russia taking control.

Day 100

The war reached its one hundredth day, and President Zelensky revealed that Russian forces have seized a fifth of Ukraine since the invasion began.

More EU support

The European Council also granted EU candidate status to Ukraine.

Boris Johnson attended a military briefing in Kyiv as a show of support for Ukraine, days before Russia’s invasion began. Credit: Getty Images

Zelensky sacks top officials

He also announced in a video address July 18 that a “personnel audit” of Ukraine’s security service was underway.

Russian troops accused of torture

Soldiers who were taken prisoner after the battle for Mariupol, and recently released as part of a prisoner exchange, have accused Russia of torture during their captivity.

Russia has been accused of war crimes and genocide in the six months since the war began. Credit: Getty Images

Reporters were told of how soldiers were beaten until their bones were broken.

Ukraine blamed for murder of Darya Dugina

One of the most recent developments in the war has been the murder of Darya Dugina, the daughter of an ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue.

Russia’s FSB security service has blamed Ukrainian intelligence agents for the suspected car bomb that killed the journalist, while Ukraine has denied involvement in her death.

Ukraine has been blamed for the murder of journalist Darya Dugina. Credit: Getty Images

There is widespread speculation that the bomb might have been intended for her father - the pro-Kremlin, ultra-nationalist thinker Alexander Dugin.

What is happening with Russia’s war on Ukraine now- current state of play?

After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces have been focusing on southern and eastern Ukraine.

The port city of Mariupol and cities Kherson and Severodonetsk are under Russian control after Ukrainian forces surrendered following several months of fighting.

Thus far, an “unprecedentedpackage of sanctions has been imposed on Russia by the US, EU, UK and other allies around the world, and Nato has moved to strengthen the defence of eastern Europe with the deployment of additional ships, fighter aircraft and troops to the region.

President Zelensky has warned of an attack from Russia on Ukraine’s Independence Day. Credit: Getty Images

Ukraine has said that nearly 9,000 of its soldiers have died in the conflict, while around 6.7 million refugees have been recorded across Europe.

Today - as well as being six months on from the start of the invasion - marks Ukraine’s Independence Day.