Almost no one saw it coming. If any Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia was expected, the southern area around Kherson was believed to be the likely target. But when considering a Kherson counteroffensive versus the possibility of a surprise move against the Kharkiv region in the northeast, the Ukrainians apparently chose both. And the results have been remarkable.
As Grid’s Joshua Keating reported Monday, “in a lightning offensive, the Ukrainian military has retaken an estimated 3,000 square kilometers of Russian-held territory in just six days, as well as a large number of Russian prisoners. … The rout, and the past week’s images of Russian units fleeing in disarray and civilians celebrating in recaptured towns, have stunned military experts, Kremlin supporters, and perhaps some Ukrainians themselves.”
These photos give a powerful sense of both the Ukrainian advance and the sudden and chaotic Russian retreat. Abandoned Russian munitions; hot meals for Ukrainian soldiers, served by grateful local residents; the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine lifted once more in areas that have been controlled by Russian forces for months; and much more.
As Keating and others have noted, the sudden battlefield changes by no means mean the Russians have lost or are necessarily on the ropes. But in terms of the war itself, which is now more than 200 days old, it is unquestionably a turning point.