It’s the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, the most internet-accessible war in history, and it’s sent shockwaves that are still being felt around the entire globe.
It’s been one year since the world was brought to a standstill as news broke on Feb. 24, 2022 that Russia’s President Putin had invaded Ukraine, and the end of the conflict is nowhere near in sight.
In fact, if anything, the conflict has escalated in recent months after the US, Germany, and the UK pledged to send advanced battle tanks to Kyiv.
A year on, we look at 11 horrifying numbers that help demonstrate the true cost of the war.
1. There are almost 8 million refugees from Ukraine across Europe.
According to the UN's refugee agency, there are currently 7,996,573 refugees from Ukraine across Europe and almost the same number are internally displaced within the country.
Poland and Germany have received the most refugees — over one million in each country. The Czech Republic has recorded the next highest number (438,926), followed by the US, UK, France, Turkey, Italy, and Spain, each of which have received between 100,000 and 300,000 refugees.
"I want to say to everyone who is in a similar situation as me – I want to ask you not to give up," says 15-year-old Jenya who fled the war in Ukraine.— UNICEF (@UNICEF) January 22, 2023
She's now in Georgia where UNICEF is supporting refugee families to settle and gain a sense of normality. pic.twitter.com/auaHaQA1DF
Of the 8 million refugees from Ukraine, over 2 million have been recorded crossing the border into Russia. Some report voluntarily moving through Russia as a means of eventually reaching the EU. However, there are more troubling reports of forced transfers of Ukrainians to Russia.
Some refugees have returned to Ukraine, though for what length of time remains to be seen.
2. At least 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed.
As far as civilians are concerned, these numbers are difficult to assess with accuracy.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN body that tracks civilian casualties, has verified a total of 7,110 civilian deaths during Russia's invasion of Ukraine as of Jan. 30, 2023. Of them, 438 were children. A further 11,547 have been reported to have been injured. However, the OHCHR has noted that the real numbers could be higher, as it only counts a death once a name and other details can be confirmed.
Ukrainian officials put the figure at closer to 40,000 civilians killed.
3. Up to 9 million Ukrainians are living without power.
During his nightly video address on Dec. 25, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that power shortages — the result of Russia’s missile strikes targeting Ukraine’s power grid — were persisting, with nearly 9 million people remaining without electricity.
Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Europe, had previously warned in November that the country was “facing its darkest days in the war so far" after news that half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed by Russian missile attacks.
Not only are the attacks against Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure a blatant violation of international humanitarian law but they are endangering the lives of civilians who are experiencing plummeting winter temperatures, exacerbating the health care crisis, and undermining children’s education by disrupting school.
4. Sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war.
In war, women's bodies often become the battleground on which conflict is fought.
Rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but are often used as a deliberate military strategy, and one that’s being used by the Armed Forces of Russia, according to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.
Since Putin invaded Ukraine, women have been gang-raped, men castrated, children sexually abused, and civilians forced to parade naked in the streets, according to the UN. But it is thought that the true scale of the human rights violations and war crimes enacted upon the Ukrainian population will not come to light until years after the war.
TW: depiction of rape— DW News (@dwnews) May 6, 2022
Evidence is growing that Russian soldiers are using rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine. In areas retaken by Ukrainian forces, civilians are giving horrifying accounts of sexual violence and murder. pic.twitter.com/eo0qAM1FKq
5. About 1,000 health care facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
Ukrainian Minister of Health Viktor Liashko said that as of January 2023, about 1,000 Ukrainian medical facilities had been damaged or destroyed — including children’s hospitals, cancer centers, and maternity wards.
Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s largest cities, has been particularly badly hit, with 80% of health care infrastructure destroyed.
"To attack the most vulnerable — babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives — is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, calling for an end to the attacks on critical infrastructure.
6. Education has been disrupted for more than 5 million children.
The war has disrupted education for more than 5 million children, according to UNICEF.
“Schools and early childhood education settings provide a crucial sense of structure and safety to children, and missing out on learning could have lifelong consequences,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “There is no pause button. It is not an option to simply postpone children’s education and come back to it once other priorities have been addressed, without risking the future of an entire generation.”
The situation outside of Ukraine is also incredibly worrying, with an estimated 2 out of 3 Ukrainian refugee children not currently enrolled in their host country’s education system. Why? Stretched education capacities and the fact that, at the start of the crisis, many refugee families opted for online learning, instead of attending local schools, as they hoped to be able to return home quickly.
7. Military casualties could be in the hundreds of thousands.
Gathering and assessing accurate military casualty data is a notoriously difficult task. For one thing, wartime casualties are a state secret in Russia, and revealing them is punishable by up to seven years in prison. For another, the combatants have an incentive to inflate or deflate the numbers — and given the global scale of the war, it’s hard to find any reliable objective estimates.
The most senior US general, Gen. Mark Milley, put the number at 200,000 with 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers having been killed or injured in the war so far.
8. Tens of thousands of Russians have been arrested for anti-war protests.
In Putin's Russia, holding up a blank piece of paper in public can land you in prison. A handful of such incidents have been documented, in which Russian protestors have been arrested for simply carrying empty posters as they were deemed to be symbols against the invasion of Ukraine.
One woman, who stood alone in Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square, was arrested within three seconds. She is among at least 15,000 Russians to have been arrested in anti-war protests, with over 5,000 people arrested in a single day on March 5, 2022, across 69 cities in Russia, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group.
9. Rebuilding Ukraine could cost $350 billion.
War is expensive, and it’s not just the tanks, weapons, and military arsenals.
Russia's invasion has caused well over $97 billion in direct damages to Ukraine, but it could cost nearly $350 billion to rebuild the country, according to a report by the World Bank, Ukrainian government, and European Commission.
This is about 1.6 times the country's $200 billion gross domestic product in 2021.
What’s more, with each fresh attack, the cost of rebuilding the country goes up.
10. Up to 345 million people are being pushed toward starvation.
Before the war, both Ukraine and Russia were leading agricultural producers and exporters. But since the conflict began, their exports have essentially dried up and the impacts have been felt around the world, with food prices rising and stockpiles diminishing.
In September 2022, the UN food chief warned that the world is facing “a global emergency of unprecedented magnitude,” with up to 345 million people marching toward starvation — and 70 million pushed closer to starvation as a direct result of the war against Ukraine.
“What was a wave of hunger is now a tsunami of hunger,” said David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program.
11. Thousands of African students faced racism fleeing Ukraine.
As they attempted to flee with their fellow citizens, a hashtag started to trend on social media: #AfricansinUkraine.
People of color were using the hashtag to report their experiences of racism as they tried to leave the country.
Dr. Jessica Orakpo walked for 12 hours to catch a bus exiting the country, only to be told that she couldn’t board the bus — meaning she’d have to walk another eight hours to cross the border — just because she was Black and African.