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Ukraine-Russia Conflict Enters Third Year: Reflecting on Two Years of Warfare

Written by: Vera Calabrese

Edited by: Jake Gasson

Supervised by: Syuzanna Kirakosyan 

The war between Ukraine and Russia has now entered its third year since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a ‘Special Military Operation’ on 24 February 2022. The seeds of this conflict date back to 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in south-eastern Ukraine.

The annexation began with a controversial referendum in Crimea, where voters overwhelmingly chose to reunite with Russia, leading to the Peninsula’s annexation (Grant, 2015). The international community widely condemned this move, especially concerning the presence of unidentified Russian soldiers in the region. This crisis exacerbated ethnic tensions, prompting pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk to hold independence referendums two months later. Despite international efforts, the conflict in Crimea remained unresolved for nearly a decade, characterized by sporadic military skirmishes between Ukrainians and pro-Russian rebels, along with largely fruitless negotiations. Russia persisted in its pursuit of annexation following the referendum results, which remained unacknowledged by the West, citing violations of international law. Against this backdrop, in February 2022, the Russian Federation launched its assault, advancing tens of thousands of troops from the northeast and south into multiple Ukrainian regions, including Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk, as well as the Crimean Peninsula (Ellerbeck, 2023). 

Navigating the deluge of media coverage surrounding this complex conflict presents a considerable challenge for observers seeking a comprehensive and multidimensional understanding. This article maintains a military focus and aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the past two years of the conflict. It will concentrate on the most significant operations as well as offer future projections.