The war in Ukraine has changed so radically within its seventh month as to be virtually unrecognisable as the same conflict that was waged during the first six. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv took the Russians completely by surprise. When the Ukrainians, normally totally tight-lipped on all security matters, spent weeks talking about the coming offensive in Kherson, the Russians should have sensed something was wrong.

Instead, they drained other front-line positions of troops to reinforce Kherson, leaving the Kharkiv Oblast so weakly defended that its outnumbered forces broke and fled before the Ukrainian onslaught. But this much applauded ruse was not entirely a deception. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson, though not so heavy as in Kharkiv, is a genuine attack, advancing very slowly to squeeze the Russian army.

There are 20,000 Russian troops in the Kherson Oblast, with a river at their backs and no prospect of adequate supplies as winter draws near, since the bridges have been destroyed. There is still the possibility for soldiers to escape east, but not with their tanks, artillery or equipment, if the situation becomes untenable. Talk of a mini-Stalingrad by mid-winter is not far-fetched.