Ukraine has retaken huge amounts of land from Russian hands in just five days.

The news has turned the war on its head and made headlines around the world, as Russians have been pushed out of cities and villages in the north-east of Ukraine.

The invaded country claimed on Thursday that it has now seized an area larger than the Devon county in the UK, although the exact size of reclaimed land is yet to be verified by the West.

The Institute for the Study of War said last week that the counterattack has retaken more territory than Russia gained through all its operations since April.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has also admitted to abandoning the Kharkiv region by claiming it is “regrouping” its forces.

Still, Russia is now thought to occupy just a fifth of Ukraine. So how did Ukraine do it?

Element of surprise

Ukraine has been very tight-lipped about its plans throughout the entire counteroffensive, which is to be expected. It means Russia has not been able to anticipate any of its enemy’s next moves.

But Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not even confirm that the attack was going ahead last week in his nightly address, only saying: “If they want to survive, it is time for the Russian military to flee.”

This has also been a theme throughout the whole of Ukraine’s defence strategy.

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