Pictures of the Year: How Ukraine withstood Russia's assault

Pictures of the Year: How Ukraine withstood Russia's assault

Pictures of the Year: How Ukraine withstood Russia's assault


Filed: December 06, 2022, 12.00 p.m. GMT

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Vadym Khlupianets, a 26-year-old ballet dancer at Kyiv’s National Operetta Theatre, joined the army. Nine months later, he was killed by a sniper on the eastern front.

At his funeral, the theatre's creative director Bohdan Strutnyskii said the young ballet dancer deserved a very different honour: "Applause at the end of a performance, with people asking for an encore."

Olga Kucher, director of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Children’s Shelter, also found herself in an unexpected role. In March she led 215 orphaned children in woolly hats and puffer coats on a 24-hour train ride, fleeing for their lives.

“My heart is being torn apart,” she said. “And I feel so sorry for these children. They’re so young.”

Colleagues and friends attend the funeral ceremony for Vadym Khlupianets at the National Operetta Theatre in Kyiv, Ukraine, November 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukrainians astonished the world - and themselves - in 2022, withstanding an all-out military assault by a superpower meant to crush them within days.

Millions fled to safety. Millions endured bombardment in basements and bomb shelters. Tens of thousands perished in cities laid to waste by the invaders.

And millions rallied to the cause of a nation, taking up arms, volunteering in ambulances, ferrying food to villages at the front, caring for one another’s children.

Why It Matters

Russia says it launched its “special military operation” to protect its security from Western encroachment. Ukrainians, who heard President Vladimir Putin proclaim their national identity a fraud and their land as wrongly stripped from Russia, view the war as an existential struggle - both national and personal.

On the battlefield, David dealt blow after blow to Goliath. In the war’s first hours, Ukrainian defenders obliterated Russia’s elite paratroopers attempting to seize an airfield on Kyiv’s outskirts.

Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine,  February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

In April, they sank Russia’s flagship cruiser. Last month, they were mobbed by joyous residents as they rode into Kherson, a city Putin had proclaimed Russia’s forever.

Now, with the war’s first winter setting in, it is Russia that is on the defensive, drafting in hundreds of thousands of reservists to protect remaining occupied territory - about a fifth of Ukraine.

Military experts who once debated whether Kyiv could stand for more than a few days, are now discussing whether it can win the war outright. Kyiv says it won’t stop until it drives all Russian forces out, including from lands occupied since 2014.

What Does It Mean For 2023?

Both sides face new challenges. Russia’s retreats, including beyond the wide Dnipro River, have left the front line far shorter and better fortified, making it harder for Ukraine to find new weak spots to repeat the breakthroughs that shifted the war’s momentum in the autumn.

But the brutal winter also brings advantages to Ukrainians defending their own country against conscripted reservists that Russia must feed and supply thousands of kilometres from home.

Ukraine “has been masterful thus far in attacking and defeating Russian forces,” tweeted Mark Hertling, a former commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe. But its next objectives - to breach fortified Russian defences in the east and cross the Dnipro River in the south - are among the toughest any military could face, he said. “They’ll succeed, but not fast.”

Key moments of  the Ukraine war

Meanwhile, there are no talks to end - or even pause - the war. Kyiv says even a temporary truce would give Russia a chance to regroup and solidify its grip on occupied land.

As 2022 winds down, Russia has been hurling missiles at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging millions of Ukrainians into darkness and cold. Moscow claims a military justification; Ukraine says this serves no purpose but to harm civilians.

“Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst aren’t as scary and deadly for us as your ‘friendship and brotherhood’,” Zelenskiy said, addressing Russians in a speech in September.

“Without gas or without you? Without you. Without light or without you? Without you. Without water or without you? Without you. Without food or without you? Without you.”

A veteran of the Ukrainian National Guard Azov battalion conducts military exercises for civilians amid the threat of Russian invasion, in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 30, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

People wait in a traffic jam as they flee Kharkiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

The body of a soldier, without insignia, who the Ukrainian military claim is a Russian army serviceman killed in fighting, lies on a road outside the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

A civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

People with their newborn children take shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as an air raid siren sounds in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Local residents run for cover as they escape from the town of Irpin, after heavy shelling on the only escape route used by locals, while Russian troops advance towards the capital of Kyiv, in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Several men carry a woman as people flee from advancing Russian troops in the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Olga hugs her boyfriend Vlodomyr as they say goodbye prior to Vlodomyr’s deployment closer to the front line, at the train station in Lviv, Ukraine, March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

A monument of city founder Duke de Richelieu is seen covered with sandbags for protection in Odessa, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

A Ukrainian soldier hides from a helicopter air strike near Demydiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

 A resident carries his cat that was rescued from his home after it was hit by a shell in the Obolon district, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 14, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

People and medics help a wounded resident off a house destroyed by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 14, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A teardrop rolls down a young woman’s cheek aboard a bus after fleeing from Ukraine to Romania, at the border crossing in Siret, Romania, March 16, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

People receive food from volunteers in a metro station used as a shelter in northern Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A man walks past a fire after a shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Oleg Pereverzev

A view shows an armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops on a road leading to the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Sergiy, who received injuries to his head and lost fingers during a rocket attack on his village, lies in a hospital bed in Chuhuiv outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 1, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Oleg Smolin reacts as a nurse treats his wounds after he was injured during a rocket attack, at a hospital in Chuhuiv outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 1, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The hand of Iryna Filkina, a woman who according to residents was killed by Russian army soldiers, is pictured as her body lies on the street in Bucha, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A Ukrainian service member walks in front of an Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo plane, the world’s biggest aircraft, destroyed by Russian troops, at an airfield in the settlement of Hostomel, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A body with hands bound by white cloth, who according to residents was shot by Russian soldiers, lies on the street in Bucha, Ukraine April 3, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. REUTERS/Pavel Klimov

A woman carries her cat as she walks past buildings that were destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, in the Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 5, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Serhii Lahovskyi, 26, mourns next to the grave of his friend Ihor Lytvynenko, who according to residents was killed by Russian soldiers, after they found him beside a building’s basement in Bucha, Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

A body of a woman is seen lying on the floor inside her house in Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Oleg Pereverzev

A bird is seen next to an installation representing a missile stuck in the ground, which was set up before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in front of the damaged Regional State Administration building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

New graves get prepared for those killed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at a cemetery in the town of Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 18, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A view shows residential buildings destroyed in the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, April 29, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, sit in a bus upon their arrival under escort of the pro-Russian military in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

A Ukrainian serviceman looks on from inside a tank at a position in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 11, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

A woman reacts during the funeral of Volodymyr Kochetov, 46, who was recently killed in a battle against Russian troops, in the village of Babyntsi, Ukraine, June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Sergii Veselyi, 51, speaks to his wife Svetlana as he lies in an emergency vehicle after he was injured during shelling in Sloviansk, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 5, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Ukrainian service members fire a shell from a M777 Howitzer at a front line in Kharkiv Region, Ukraine, July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A Ukrainian serviceman takes cover as an air-raid siren sounds during a Russian drone strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-136, in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 17, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A general view shows the city centre without electricity after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Local resident Nataliia Porkhun holds flowers to present them to Ukrainian service members in the recently retaken village of Kyselivka, outside of Kherson, Ukraine, November 12, 2022.  REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The Wider Image

Photography: Reuters

Writing: Peter Graff

Photo editing: Adrees Latif, Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson and Lucy Nicholson

Text editing: Philippa Fletcher

Design: Marta Montana Gomez