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Ukraine war: A successful surprise attack - but danger still looms

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 16, 2022  •  16
Destroyed Russian vehicles in a riverIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,
The Ukrainian military has released these pictures of seemingly-abandoned Russian vehicles in a river

Ukraine says it has made significant gains in pushing back Russian troops, retaking more than 3,000 sq km (1,158 sq miles) of territory in recent days. Jonathan Beale, the BBC's defence correspondent, takes a closer look at why they have been so successful - and what hurdles Ukraine's forces may still face in winning the war.

"Don't underestimate the Ukrainian's ability to surprise," a senior US military officer told me early this summer, just as Russia was continuing to make advances in the Donbas.

Ukraine's ability to surprise has become a hallmark of this war: from the Russian retreat from Kyiv, to recent attacks in Crimea. Now there's another surprise happening in the east of the country.

Until now, it was Russia making most of the advances here - albeit a slow and grinding affair that was proving costly to its army. Now it's Ukraine making the gains, taking back thousands of square miles of territory in just a matter of days.

The biggest gains for Ukraine have been in the east around the city of Kharkiv. The UK's latest defence intelligence report says that Ukraine has now liberated an area twice the size of Greater London - though it's difficult to establish the level of advances and continuing fighting with journalists kept well away from the frontline.