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Russia’s war in Ukraine: complete guide in maps, video and pictures | Ukraine

What’s the latest?

Rescue workers are continuing to search for survivors in the ruins of a theatre that was being used as a shelter when it was blown apart by a Russian airstrike in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.

Missiles have struck an aircraft repair facility in Lviv in the west, and civilian targets continue to be bombarded in cities around Ukraine.

Ukraine map 18 March

Hundreds of civilians were said to have taken shelter in the theatre in Mariupol when it was hit on Wednesday. On Friday, their fate was still uncertain.

Before and after of Mariupol theatre.

Local officials said Russian airstrikes also hit a municipal swimming pool complex in the city.

Mariupol video 17 March

Mariupol map

A satellite photograph from Monday showed the word “children” in large Russian script painted on the ground outside the red-roofed theatre building.

Satellite image of Mariupol  theatre.
Photograph: EyePress News/Rex/Shutterstock

On Friday footage emerged showing a shopping mall in the city that had been reduced to ruins.

In Lviv, a facility for repairing military aircraft was hit by two cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea on Friday morning.

Lviv footage 18 March

Ukrainian officials said they had shot down a further four missiles launched in the attack. At least 35 people were killed on Sunday when more than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the nearby training base in Yavoriv.

Map

Elsewhere, early-morning barrages hit residential buildings in the Podil neighbourhood of Kyiv and in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. In Kharkiv, a massive fire raged through a local market after shelling on Thursday.

What has happened since Russia invaded?

How did we get here?

In the months before its invasion Russia had deployed hundreds of tanks, self-propelled artillery and short-range ballistic missiles from as far away as Siberia to within striking range of Ukraine.

Map showing Russian troop deployments

Moscow’s rhetoric grew more belligerent. Putin demanded legal guarantees that Ukraine would never join Nato or host its missile strike systems, concessions he was unlikely to receive. A flurry of diplomatic activity did little to ease tensions.

The second half of February was long seen as the most likely period for a potential offensive. Russian soldiers stayed on in Belarus beyond the end of planned military exercises, and the Winter Olympics, hosted by Russia’s ally China, concluded.

The invasion was preceded on 22 February by Putin saying Russia would recognise the territorial claims of self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk. He had already ordered his forces into Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

Donbas map

What do we know about Russia’s deployments?

Scores of battalion tactical groups – the smallest operational unit in Russia’s army, consisting of about 800-1,000 troops – were put in place near the borders of Ukraine in Russia and latterly Belarus prior to the invasion. As of 18 February, the US estimated that Russia had between 169,000 and 190,000 personnel in and around Ukraine.

An estimated 32,000 separatist forces were already operating in the breakaway areas in Donetsk and Luhansk – some of whom were likely to be unacknowledged Russian forces – before the invasion.

Many of the heavy weapons stationed near Ukraine arrived as far back as spring 2021. Over the new year Russia also began to move tanks, artillery, air-defence systems and fighter jets to Belarus for joint exercises in February. That deployment then grew.

Deployments at Zyabrovka (AKA Pribytki) airfield in Gomel, Belarus, 25km from the border with Ukraine, on 10 February.
Deployments at Zyabrovka (AKA Pribytki) airfield in Gomel, Belarus, 25km from the border with Ukraine, on 10 February. Photograph: Maxar Technologies/Reuters

These satellite image composites show the buildup of troops in Yelnya and Pogonovo over the new year.

Satellite before and after

Satellite before and after

Satellite before and after

Satellite photographs also showed increased deployments in Novoozernoye, in western Crimea.

Satellite before and after

The US estimates that 10,000 troops moved into Crimea in late January and early February.

Satellite images taken on 20 February showed troops and equipment being moved from holding areas to potential launch locations.

Map and satellite images showing deployment of Russian troops

How do the militaries compare?

Russia’s invasion pits the Kremlin’s large, recently modernised military against an adversary largely using older versions of the same or similar equipment, dating back to the Soviet era. Russia has significant numerical advantages on land and in particular in the air and at sea, although Ukrainians are defending their homeland.

Armies compared

What is the historical context?

In 2014 Putin sent troops to annex Crimea, a mainly Russian-speaking region of Ukraine. Russia also incited a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s south-east, clandestinely sending soldiers and weapons to provoke a conflict that grew into a full-blown war.

A 2015 peace deal established a line of demarcation and called on both sides to make concessions. After that, low-level fighting continued along the front, and each side accused the other of violating the agreement.

Historical map

Going back further, Russia has long opposed any attempts by Ukraine to move towards the EU and Nato. One of Putin’s often repeated demands was a guarantee that Ukraine never joins Nato, the alliance of 30 countries that has expanded eastwards since the end of the cold war.

Nato map

What was the role of Nord Stream 2?

On 22 February, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, stopped the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia’s recognition of the two self-proclaimed republics.

First announced in 2015, the $11bn (£8.3bn) pipeline owned by Russia’s state-backed energy firm Gazprom was built to carry gas from western Siberia to Lubmin in Germany’s north-east, doubling the existing capacity of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and keeping 26m German homes warm at an affordable price.

Nord Stream 2 map

Nord Stream 2, Europe’s most divisive energy project, bypassed the traditional gas transit nation of Ukraine by running along the bed of the Baltic Sea. It faced resistance within the EU, and from the US as well as Ukraine, on the grounds that it increased Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, denied Ukraine transit fees and made it more vulnerable to Russian invasion.

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