Ukraine had said it was planning to target Russian-held Kherson in the country’s south, Hickman noted. Russia repositioned equipment and reinforcements there, where they were expecting a counteroffensive. “What they actually did was lure Russians from places in the north,” Hickman said. “That created vulnerabilities that they were able to exploit.”

The seizures of two big cities dealt a blow to Russian supply lines in the region. Kupyansk’s railway was used to resupply Moscow’s forces in Russian-held Donetsk. Izyum also proved a vital link to Donbas.  Analysts are not persuaded that these improvements signal a seismic shift, even though the momentum may have changed.

Territorial conquest is one thing, but maintaining control over it is another, particularly for a military-like Ukraine that hasn’t conducted many counteroffensive operations since the invasion began in February.