The Ukraine war in 10 iconic pictures
PARIS — The war in Ukraine has become synonymous with horrific suffering and destruction, but also with fierce courage and unprecedented solidarity.
Here are 10 iconic pictures that tell the story of the first 12 months of the conflict:
February 24, 2022: nation in shock
Despite weeks of speculation, Russia’s invasion of its former Soviet neighbor at dawn on February 24, 2022 stuns Ukraine and the world.
The shock etched in the bloodied face of Olena Kurylo, a teacher wounded in the bombardment of the eastern city of Chuguiv, reflects that of a nation. Her defiance too.
“Never, under any conditions will I submit to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. It is better to die,” says Kurylo, 52. Her picture, taken by AFP photographer Aris Messinis, becomes a defining image of the war.
March 7, 2022: mass exodus
No sooner has the war started than refugees begin pouring out of Ukraine by car, bus, train and on foot.
Men of fighting age are ordered to stay behind to defend the country, leading to wrenching goodbyes, like this scene captured by AFP photographer Bulent Kilic in the central train station of the port of Odesa on March 7, where a father sees off his daughter.
April 2, 2022: horror in Bucha
A month into the war, the Russian military announces its withdrawal from northern Ukraine after failing to take Kyiv, leaving behind a litany of horrors in towns it had occupied.
On April 2, AFP is among the first international news organizations to enter the newly liberated Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where our reporters discover the bodies of at least 20 civilians, some with their hands tied behind their backs, scattered on a single residential street.
The pictures by AFP photographer Ronaldo Schemidt spark a global outcry and see Russia accused of war crimes, which it denies.
April 12, 2022: Mariupol in ruins
One city above all comes to symbolize suffering in the first six months of the war: the southern port of Mariupol, which is destroyed during a three-month siege.
This picture, by AFP photographer Alexander Nemenov during a visit organized by the Russian military on April 12, was taken in the ruins of a theatre that was flattened in a Russian strike while hundreds of people were sheltering inside.
June 15, 2022: battle for Donbas
After withdrawing from the north, Russia focuses its firepower on the eastern region of Donbas, partly held by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
The outgunned Ukrainians plead for more powerful weapons to try to repel the invaders.
France sends several self-propelled Caesar howitzers, like this one which AFP photographer Aris Messinis captured in action near the town of Kurakhove in Donetsk region.
October 8, 2022: ‘miracle’ bridge bombed
Russia’s prestige takes a severe battering on October 8 when Putin’s much-vaunted “miracle” bridge linking the Russian mainland to the occupied Crimea peninsula across the Kerch Strait is partly blown up.
Ukrainian social media lights up in rejoicing at the sight of black smoke and flames billowing from a despised symbol of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Kyiv denies being behind the attack.
This picture was taken by an amateur photographer in the Crimean city of Kerch, who asked to remain anonymous.
October 17, 2022: enter the killer drones
Retribution for the Kerch bridge attack comes in the form of a barrage of deadly drone and missile strikes on Kyiv and other cities aimed chiefly at knocking out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
On October 17, Kyiv residents wake to the buzzing of Iranian-made explosive drones swooping down to attack targets.
AFP photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba snapped one of the weapons as it passes overhead. It exploded 100 meters (yards) away from him.
November 13, 2022: Kherson liberated
Russia suffers a major setback on November 9 when it is forced to abandon the southern city of Kherson, which it occupied at the start of the war, in the face of a fierce Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Four days later, AFP photographer Bulent Kilic captures the image of Kherson residents hailing Ukrainian forces as liberators. Their euphoria is tempered by fears that Russia will continue to attack the city, which it does repeatedly.
December 21, 2022: Zelensky goes to Washington
The war offers Ukraine’s actor turned president Volodymyr Zelensky his biggest role yet, as indefatigable commander-in-chief trying to rouse support for his country’s epic fight with the mighty Russian army.
From wartime Kyiv, he embarks on a virtual tour of Western parliaments to plead for more weapons and aid.
The diplomatic blitz culminates in December in Washington, his first overseas visit since the war. “Ukraine… will never surrender,” he tells Congress, which gives him a standing ovation, as captured in this picture by AFP photographer Jim Watson.
February 1, 2023: trench warfare
As the months pass, the fighting descends into World War I-style trench warfare, with soldiers on either side enduring miserable conditions in the depths of winter.
This picture, also by Yasuyoshi Chiba, was taken near the eastern town of Bakhmut, which is at the centre of the longest and bloodiest battle of the war to date.