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Putin’s blitzkrieg stalled, Ukraine fights back: first days of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine

Ukrainian soldier defending Vasylkiv Aerfield in Kyiv Oblast. Photo: RFE/RL
Putin’s blitzkrieg stalled, Ukraine fights back: first days of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine
Russia’s initial plan for a blitzkrieg in Ukraine failed: Ukraine is fighting back and regaining captured land. Here is an overview of the first days of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The US warned that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent long before Russia’s actual declaration of war and first missile strikes on the cities across Ukraine. However, expert predictions varied based on calculating risks for Russia ranging from blackmail without an actual invasion to a local military campaign. Many viewed a full-scale invasion as unlikely as Russia didn’t have enough force to conquer and control all of Ukraine while the benefits of such an adventure would be overshadowed by its costs. Any calculations were based on the predicament of rational thinking.

However, Putin’s insanity showed itself full-scale overnight into 24 February 2022, when in his TV address to his nation he announced a “special operation” in Ukraine aimed at “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine.

At dawn, Russian cruise missiles hit multiple cities all over Ukraine, and the Russian troops entered mainland Ukraine’s south from Russian-occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian northeast from Russia, its north from Lukashenka-ruled Belarus, as well as artillery shelling escalated all across the front-line in the Russian-occupied Donbas.

It was a full-blown invasion, not a local operation. And Russia expected Ukraine’s quick defeat in a short blitz campaign.

Day one

On 24 February 2022, Russia unleashed a new war in Europe at a scale unseen since early WWII. Russian missiles struck Ukrainian cities, the Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border – aviation, tanks, artillery, saboteurs came into action. Ukraine was simultaneously attacked from three sides. Additionally, the Ukrainian government and media websites came under a massive cyberattack.

The first attempt since WWII to redraw European borders back in 2014, when Putin invaded and annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula, went largely unpunished – the international sanctions didn’t make Russia restore the status quo. Now, eight years later Putin dared to attempt conquering the entire sovereign nation without any real reason but his hatred towards Ukrainians and the very existence of Ukraine as an independent democratic nation.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that by 22:30 Feb. 24, Russia launched a total of 393 attacks across Ukraine with 32 of them on civilian facilities. The invaders destroyed six border control posts, attacked Ukraine’s Zmiyinyi (Serpent) Island in the Black Sea, captured the decommissioned Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the southern part of southern Kherson Oblast. Some attacks destroyed residential houses, inflicting civilian casualties.

Ukraine’s Healthcare Ministry reported 57 deaths including two children caused by Russian attacks on the first day of the invasion. At least 169 people were wounded.

Assessment of Russia’s first-day gains by BILD journalist Julian Röpcke based on OSINT data and the Ukrainian Army’s reports.
The shock and awe missile attack failed to demoralize Ukrainians. Ukraine took the first blow and immediately started fighting back as the country’s Supreme Commander-in-Chief ordered to inflict maximum losses to the aggressor. The first day showed that the Ukrainian army can and will fight for its land : photo and video evidence of destroyed Russian aircraft, tanks, trucks, and troops started emerging online.

Putin underestimated Ukraine’s determination to fight for its freedom, and the capabilities of the Ukrainian army. The first days of the campaign showed that the operation was really prepared on the premise that the oppressed Ukrainians would welcome the Russian army as liberators from a nazi regime.

Ukraine imposed martial law, finally severed all diplomatic ties with Russia, and called on international partners to help Ukraine with weapons, gear, fuel, and cripple Russia with sanctions.

Ukrainian marine sacrifices own life to delay Russian offensive from Crimea


  • The UK sanctioned Russian elites, companies, financial institutions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • G7 leaders agreed to bring forward “severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions” against Russia.
  • The US announced new sanctions against Putin’s entourage and several Russian banks.

Day two

25 February 2022, the second day of the Russian full-scale aggression at the very heart of Europe, saw moderate advancements of the Russian troops on all axis of the attack. The advancing troops often omitted large cities for the sake of gaining control deeper into the non-urban areas.

The resistance of the Ukrainian forces slowed down the Russian advancement towards several large cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv. The Kyiv mayor said that the situation was threatening for Kyiv with Russian troops close to the capital and sabotage groups within the city. The fiercest battles as of the evening were on Kharkiv and Sumy axis. The Ukrainian military hit a key Russian airfield near Ukraine’s eastern border with a missile.

Multiple reports emerged on poor Russian logistics of the operation as many pieces of Russian equipment stalled due to the lack of fuel.

  • Poland, Lithuania, and other allies of Ukraine sent more weapons to the country.
  • Russia continued targeting residential areas:


  • The European Union adopted the second package of sanctions, which freezes the assets of Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
  • Council of Europe suspends Russia’s rights membership in two of its bodies, the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly.
  • The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to issue military bonds, enhance port security.

Day three

On the third day of the Russian full-scale war against Ukraine, 26 February, Russia continued offensive operations on the most axis of the invasion. However, the Ukrainian resistance significantly slowed down the advancement of the troops. Russian convoys started becoming an early target for the Ukrainian army equipped with a wide range of portable anti-tank systems. Ukrainian manned and unmanned aviation and artillery also contributed to the destruction of equipment.

Russia started targeting Ukrainian logistics infrastructure, targeting bridges and possibly dams with cruise missiles. According to the Ukrainian military, among the targets were bridges in and around Kyiv, and Ukrainian air defenses shot down a Russian missile targeting the dam of the Kyiv Reservoir north of Kyiv. The damage of the dam could have caused the destruction of bridges in Kaniv, Kremenchuk, and further downstream.

For the second night in a row, civilians in the capital were under fire. In the morning, a high-rise apartment building was hit by a missile.

  • Fighting against Russian sabotage groups took place on Kyiv’s streets.
  • Kharkiv remained under shellfire, which damaged many homes.
  • Russia massively used multiple rocket-launch systems, including the ones with cluster munitions.
  • The town of Schastya near Luhansk was destroyed by 80%, according to the town’s mayor.
  • Due to the active Russian movement through the Chornobyl exclusion zone, the radiation level increased rapidly in the area, which was detected by an automated monitoring system.
  • In violation of maritime laws, the Russian Black Sea Fleet, blocking the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, deliberately attacked two civilian vessels under the Panama and Moldovan flags which were heading to Ukrainian ports.
  • Paramedics came under Russian fire in Zaporizhzhia and Kyiv.
  • Russia destroyed an oil depot in Vasylkiv near Kyiv with missiles.

According to the Ukrainian statistics, as of the third day of the invasion, 198 people were killed by Russian forces, including 3 children, other 1,115 were wounded, including 33 children.

Russian troops continued suffering losses in equipment, and, according to the Ukrainian military, suffered 3,500 fatalities. Some 200 Russians were captured.

Ukraine claimed to destroy 16 airplanes, 18 helicopters, 102 tanks, 540 light armored vehicles, one Buk-1 missile system.

Late on Feb. 26, a Russian missile strike destroyed an oil terminal in the city of Vasylkiv south of Kyiv. Amid fierce hostilities in the area, the destroyed facility started releasing extremely hazardous chemical emissions. The local authorities called for mass evacuation of civilians, which ended up being not possible due to grueling warfare in the area.

Ukrainian losses as of late evening February 26: over 210 people were killed, incl. six children: more than 1,100 people injured, incl. 100 children. In Kyiv, 6 civilians (including 1 child), and 14 military and territorial defense soldiers have been killed since the attack on the city; 71 people were injured, 25 of them civilians (including 3 children).


The EU and the US announced new sanctions against Russia:

  • removing of a “certain number of Russian banks” from SWIFT;
  • paralyzing the assets of Russia’s central bank

Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that demanded that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

Day four

On 27 February 2022, Russia continued slow advancement on its major axis threatening to approach closer to Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, and encircle Mariupol. The Ministry of Defense said that Kyiv remained the main target.

The offensive from the Belarusian territory on Kyiv continued, but the Russian troops failed to reach their objective of encircling Kyiv.

Over the course of the day. the number of photos and videos on social media showing the destroyed and abandoned Russian equipment spiked dramatically as compared to the first three days of the war. Multiple media showed several vehicles or the entire convoys obliterated.

The break-through attempt of the Russian special operations forces on the light armored vehicles into Kharkiv failed dramatically, as the small force with unclear final goals lost several vehicles along the way, lost in the city, and was captured or terminated by Kharkiv defenders by the afternoon.

  • There were more reports on detained saboteurs in various Ukrainian cities.
  • Allies continued arming Ukraine.
  • A section of a residential building in Kharkiv was destroyed by the Russian shelling, killing a local woman.
  • Ukraine lost and recaptured the Donbas town of Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, a major point between Donetsk and Mariupol.
  • In two days, Ukraine mobilized about 100,000 citizens, according to the Ukrainian Army’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.


  • The EU announced shutting down the EU airspace for Russian planes
  • The EU said that it would ban the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine launched a website and a hotline where Russian relatives can identify dead or captured Russian servicemen.
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