A year of war
On the morning of 24 February 2022, the Russian army invaded Ukraine from the south, east and north. The invasion marked the beginning of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine.
We have tracked the ebb and flow of the Russian occupation, the weapons used by the enemy to lay waste to Ukraine's cities and energy system, the intensity of the strikes and their effect on the illumination of the capital of Ukraine in 2022.
Credits: Nadia Kelm, Yulia Dukach, Yevheniia Drozdova, Mykhailo Tymoshenko, Margarita Hohun, Denys Gubashov, Inna Gadzynska.
As you can see from the visualization above, the Russian army scored the largest land gains in March 2022. However, starting April 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been steadily restoring control over the captured territories. Although the front line has hardly moved since З November following the liberation of Kherson, the Russian army is suffering heavy losses every day. At the end of 2022 and at the beginning of 2023, the average body count of Russian invaders eliminated by the AFU ranged from 500 to 1,000.
Ukraine has grown considerably darker since the beginning of the full-scale invasion: first as a result of controlled blackouts and then due to frequent large-scale missile attacks on the energy system which have continued since October 2022. However, in the last few weeks power engineers have managed to restore normal electricity supply to most communities. Now that one of the hardest winters in the history of the independent Ukraine is almost over, it is safe to say that Russia’s plan to sink Ukraine into darkness has failed.
During the first days of war, the enemy launched numerous missile, artillery, and air strikes. The air raids on Ukrainian cities were effectively denied by the Ukrainian air defense forces using their legacy systems and the MANPADs supplied by the Western partners. Since the liberation of the north of Ukraine, most of the Russian air strikes have been launched from occupied territories with only rare and brief incursions into the territory controlled by the AFU.
At the end of September, the Russian army started using loitering munitions commonly known as kamikaze drones.
While the artillery and aerial strikes are mostly limited to the occupied areas, Russian missiles and drones are able to strike targets deep inside the regions far away from the front lines — in fact, almost all the regions of Ukraine have been targeted.
According to the data provided by “Air Raid Map” initiative, approximately 14,870 air raid alerts were announced in Ukraine in 2022 or 47 air raid alerts on average a day. The frequency varied widely from 4 to 189 air raid alerts each day.
The highest number (1,558 alerts) was registered in Kharkiv oblast. It is closely followed by Donetsk oblast (1,294 alerts), Zaporizhzhia oblast (1,235 alerts) and Dnipropetrovsk oblast (1,190 alerts). Luhansk oblast would have ranked the safest with only 2 air raid alerts if not for the fact of omnipresent air raid danger.
Last year, Russia staged its most capable and battle-ready assets to attack Ukraine with well-equipped contract servicemen at the core. The assault regiments, battalions, brigades and divisions were reinforced by paratroopers and marines. The brisk pace of the Russian invasion of the first weeks was enabled by upgraded Soviet legacy armor — tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored fighting vehicles The Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed almost all the vehicles that crossed Ukraine's borders in February 2022 by the hundreds and thousands.
Such heavy losses forced Russia to dig into the stockpiles of 1960s weapons such as T-62 tanks, and D-1, D-10 and D-20 howitzers in the summer of 2022.
During the autumn and winter 2022-2023, the Russian army swarmed Ukrainian positions with infantry while its artillery units suffered from barrel wear aggravated by the overall lack of ammunition and armored vehicles. However, the Russian army is still numerous and remains a dangerous adversary.
Each phase of the war unlocked game-changing Western weapons. The Bayraktar TB2 attack drones, the NLAW and Javelin anti-tank weapons, and Stinger man-portable air defense systems were instrumental during the battle of Kyiv.
The M142 HIMARS was the star asset of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. The Soviet-made S-300 as well as the state-of -the-art IRIS-T and NASAMS soon to be complemented with the MIM-104 Patriot have been defending Ukraine's energy infrastructure. Drone swarms have effectively been countered by mobile units armed with high-caliber machine guns and Soviet anti-aircraft cannons.
Now that the both sides are regrouping for an assault, Ukraine's main focus is on armor — first and foremost NATO tanks such as the Leopard, the Abrams, and the Challenger as well as the Bradley, the Marder, and the M113 AFVs. Ukraine also needs large numbers of heavy MRAPs and lightly-armored Humvees. And last, but not least, Ukraine is in a dire need of Western aircraft and long-range missiles.
As you can see from our visuals, the Ukrainian information space “got used” to the subject of weapons over the course of 2022: what used to be a complicated subject due to many unfamiliar terms is the focus of intense public interest today. Each subsequent “wave” of discussion generates more interest and memes than ever before.