Russia & Ukraine: How We Got Here

A look back at the origins of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

April-December 2021: Early Rumblings

  • April 9, 2021 – Vladimir Putin starts massing troops on Ukraine’s borders. Some observes believe this is a ploy to bolster domestic support.
  • June 17, 2021 – President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin hold a summit with few breakthroughs as Biden cautions Putin risks “pariah” status if he keeps on his current path.
  • November 25, 2021 – Further Russian military buildups spark fear in the West of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin dismisses these fears as “hysteria.”
  • December 5, 2021 – US intelligence sounds the alarm, warning Russia could invade Ukraine in early 2022.
  • December 7, 2021 – Joe Biden warns Putin Russia will face “harsh economic consequences” if it invades Ukraine.
  • December 22, 2021 – The US considers sanctions on Russia for its military buildup along Ukraine’s border. Vladimir Putin characterizes his buildup as a response to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

January 2022: Preparations

  • January 6 – Russia deploys troops to Kazakhstan to crush anti-government protests while maintaining its military pressure on Ukraine.
  • January 11 – The US and Russia begin bilateral talks. The Russians demand Ukraine not be admitted to NATO and an end to US aid to Ukraine and downplay any Ukraine invasion threats. The Biden Administration pressures Democrats to oppose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
  • January 18 – Vladimir Putin threatens “military-technical actions” against Ukraine and the west and pulls diplomatic personnel out of Kyiv.
  • January 20 – President Joe Biden says a “minor incursion” into Ukraine may be met with a less strident response from the US. His statement is quickly walked back but earns condemnation from the Ukrainian foreign minister.
  • January 23 – The United States releases intelligence on a Russian plot to oust the Ukrainian government and replace it with Russian-backed puppets. The head of the German navy resigns after downplaying the Russian threat as “nonsense,” saying all Putin wanted was “respect.”
  • January 24 – President Joe Biden weighs sending 3,000-5,000 troops to Eastern Europe to defend NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression. The US State Department evacuates the families of diplomatic staff and non-essential personnel from Kyiv.
  • January 28 – Congress considers a bipartisan “mother of all sanctions” bill targeting Russia, possibly including Nord Stream 2 sanctions.

February 2021: The Stage is Set

  • February 2 – Vladimir Putin accuses the US of trying to “goad” Russia into invading Ukraine. He claims the US is just looking for a pretext to impose sanctions on Russia.
  • February 13 – Biden and Putin speak for an hour as Biden tries to defuse tensions. The US evacuates embassy staff.
  • February 20 – Russia conducts nuclear drills. Russian-backed separatists order a military mobilization and begin shelling Ukrainian positions.
  • February 21 – Biden agrees “in principle” to a summit with Vladimir Putin provided Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine.

The Invasion Begins

  • February 22 –Putin recognizes separatist Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics as independent nations and deploys troops to both.
  • February 23 – The West imposes sanctions on Russia after Russian troops invade eastern Ukraine.
  • February 24 – Russia invades Ukraine, bombing cities across the country.
  • February 25 – Biden announces tougher sanctions on Russian banks, oligarchs, and exports but declines to kick Russia out of the SWIFT international financial messaging system.


  • February 27 – Vladimir Putin puts his nuclear forces on “special alert.” Ukraine’s military slows the Russian invasion and Russians fail to take any major city after 4 days of war.
  • March 1 – Russia bombs Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. A Russian convoy advances on Kyiv while President Volodymyr Zelensky appeals to the European Parliament for help.
  • March 2 – Biden says Putin “badly miscalculated” in his State of the Union address. Biden also announces he is closing US airspace to Russian planes, promises more aid for Ukraine and tougher punishments for Putin and his oligarchs.
  • March 4 – Russian forces shell Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. NATO rejects an appeal for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022