“It was always clear that it could happen, but when it does happen, you still take your breath away”: With these words, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock described the situation star her feelings when her phone rang at 4:59 a.m. on February 24, 2022 and her office manager reported what had just happened: Russian President Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine with his armed forces and unleashed a war in the middle of Europe like it had been there since 1945 had given no more.
The invasion started with air and missile attacks. At 4:51 a.m., the first explosions were reported in Kiev. Putin mockingly and historically distorted the attack as a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine and to protect the Russian-speaking residents there – and he still does to this day.
Thousands of civilians dead, cities bombed
It’s been 500 days since Russia blew up the European peace order with its tanks and rockets. 9177 civilians were after Census by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) killed and 15,993 injured from the start of the Russian invasion through June 30. Of the victims, 8717 were men, 5567 women, 758 boys and 567 girls. The sex of 9256 adults and 305 children is unknown.
However, the Commissariat assumes that the actual numbers are significantly higher because it only counts cases that have been verified by independent experts and many reports of individual civilian casualties in certain locations have not yet been confirmed. According to the information, these places include Mariupol (Donetsk region), as well as Lysychansk, Popasna and Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk region).
OHCHR has also received information on 287 civilian casualties on the territory of the Russian Federation. Accordingly, 58 civilians were killed there and 229 injured. Among those killed were 30 men, 21 women, 2 boys, 1 girl and 4 adults whose sex is not yet known. 86 men, 51 women, 11 boys, 4 girls, 4 children and 73 adults of unknown gender were injured.
According to the OHCHR, the vast majority of the recorded civilian casualties were caused by high-impact explosive weapons in populated areas, including heavy artillery fire, multiple-missile systems, missiles and airstrikes. The use of these weapons also caused devastating damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Nobody knows exactly how many schools and kindergartens have been reduced to rubble since February 24, 2022, how many hospitals and retirement homes, how many factories and companies – and how many dreams. But the suffering that Putin brought to the people of Ukraine with his attack on the neighbor cannot be expressed in numbers anyway. Not even words can truly convey what the everyday presence of death, destruction and fear entails for those who must witness it. But pictures say more than 1000 words, they say. And maybe the pictures in this series of photos can give you a little insight into what a year of war in the Ukraine means for those affected.