It has been one year since Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine. The operation that both experts and people in Moscow thought would be over in weeks has turned out to be one of the deadliest wars in recent times.
Western powers, including the US, imposed stringent sanctions to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon the war, but it did not work out.
Ukraine, on the other hand, against all the odds, held its ground and has now the upper hand in the war thanks to the help from US and European countries.
It is hard to look for hope and positive news when thousands have been killed and millions have had to flee their homes. But, amid all the death, destruction, and suffering, Ukraine fighting back, the anti-war movement in Russia, people opening their homes to refugees, and families reuniting with their loved ones give us hope.
After facing severe casualties and massive destruction in the first 6 months, Ukraine made a stunning comeback in the war by reclaiming many territories in the south and eastern parts of the country. Kyiv didn't give up despite the non-stop attacks from Russian armed forces, giving us hope that democracy can stand its ground and even fight back when needed.
The counterattack which began during the last days of August, first targetted the southern region of Kherson. But just as Moscow redirected attention and troops there, Ukraine launched another offensive in the northeast, near Kharkiv. The counter-offensive from Ukraine led to Russia's worst defeat since it lost control of Kyiv in March.
Ukraine recaptured more than 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 square miles) in just one month from Russian troops and has been chasing the Russian forces in parts of the country since then.
As Russia's attack caused huge destruction in Ukraine, aid agencies and other groups from all around the world came into action. From bringing in essential supplies and providing medical care to providing food and shelter, aid agencies turned out to be great helpers.
Since February 2022, the European Commission has allocated €630 million for humanitarian aid programs to help civilians affected by the war in Ukraine.
The UNHCR has provided more than 4 million people in the country with humanitarian assistance. The UNHCR is leading the coordination of almost 250 partner organisations, including UN agencies and national and international NGOs, as part of the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) in support of governments' responses.
UNHCR together with UNICEF, authorities, and partners have established a network of Blue Dot Safe Space, Protection, and Support Hubs in key refugee-hosting areas. Blue Dots provide a safe space, as well as support and referrals for health care, education, psychosocial assistance, and more.
There is no doubt that Ukraine has been fighting tooth and nail to put Russian forces at bay. But without the US support, this war would not have lasted for this long. Be it financial help, supply of arms and ammunition, sharing of intelligence, or Joe Biden making a surprise visit to Kyiv, the US has shown its unwavering support to Ukraine.
Biden's February 20 visit to Kyiv, while air raid sirens were going on and off was a strong statement from the US and an unprecedented one. According to some reports, the US secret service & Pentagon didn't want Biden to visit Kyiv and there were plans for him to meet Zelensky at the Polish border or in Lviv.
Biden said that when Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong, said the US President.
"We would remain with Ukraine as long as it takes. We reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine's democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," a statement released by the White House read.
The worst part of a war is families losing their loved ones. Over 8 million Ukrainians have been displaced and thousand have lost their loved ones. Those who are fighting on the front have not been able to see their families for months.
But amid all the sadness, some families have returned to their homes or have reunited with their loved ones, giving hope that things would go back to normal in Ukraine someday.
When Russian troops withdrew from the villages in southern Ukraine, people embraced their loved ones in the middle of the road as they choked back tears. Many were seeing one another for the first time in months.
On the last day of the year, many Ukrainians returned to the capital to spend New Year's Eve with their loved ones, despite relentless Russian attacks. A number of children who were deported to Russia were reunited with their families in November.
It is important to understand that even though there are a lot of Russians who support Putin and his war in Ukraine, there has been an anti-war movement going on in Russia much before the 2022 war started.
This movement which first emerged in response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, got stronger after February 24, 2022 'operation'. Taking a huge risk, people came out in the streets against Putin's war and were involved in acts of sabotage and resistance. Without worrying about the consequences, Russians showed their support to the Ukrainians.
As Russia was putting anti-war protesters in jail, the agitators found a different way to protest, through stealth resistance. Stealth resistance refers to a form of resistance or opposition that is not overtly expressed or easily detected. This could include activities such as spreading information or organising protests in a covert manner to avoid detection.