BY any standards it’s been a tumultuous week here.

It’s not that Ukraine after more than 14 months of war is any stranger to such turbulent episodes, but something about events of the past week seemed to have encapsulated the often surreal juxtaposition that has become the norm for countless people living in this vast troubled country.

Arriving back in Kyiv at the end of last week was to step into a city where the snow and bitter cold of my last visit in January had gone.

Instead, the spring sunshine was warming the bones of those who had shivered through the dark months of electricity cuts brought on by Russian missile and drones strikes on the country’s power grid.

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In the city’s Shevchenko Park, named after the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, I watched as people of all ages danced the salsa in the evening sunlight in public gatherings.

In a nearby bar I watched too as young Ukrainians chanted an improvised chorus of “Russia Goodbye”, while dancing wildly to the 2007 Eurovision song contest entry “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” by Ukrainian singer Verka Serduchka.

With Ukraine having won the contest last year but unable to host it because of the war, young Kyivans had gathered at the venue to watch this year’s competition, their entry fees from the event going straight to support the country’s humanitarian organisations and armed forces.

In short, the streets of Kyiv were bustling, many lined with the white-pink chestnut blossom from the trees that are the symbol of the city and made famous in the song “Kyiv Waltz”, written in 1950 by Andrei Malyshko and Platon Mayboroda which many regard as the anthem of this city.

“Again chestnuts bloom,

Dnieper Wave beats.

Youth dear –

You are my happiness.”

So goes the words of the song, referencing the great Dnieper or Dnipro River as it’s known in Ukrainian. This mighty waterway that flows through Ukraine winding its way south into the Black Sea has in many places become an artery of life and death in this war.

The Dnipro is a natural faultline and frontline, just as it has been in conflicts gone by for centuries. Today, in many key places its banks are a vast network of military positions where both Ukrainian and Russian troops are dug in and surveillance drones patrol the skies.

It was in his 1845 poem Testament, a rallying call to arms against Russia, that Taras Shevchenko wrote that he would not go to God until the Dnipro “delivers to the sea the spilled blood of Ukraine’s enemies”.

With a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive likely to get underway soon, yet more blood will likely be spilled in the weeks and months ahead in an operation some believe could prove a pivotal moment in this war.

I was here last year when Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians out from the west bank of the lower Dnipro including the city of Kherson, but still it lies within range of Russia’s missiles and shells.

As I write, tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are readying for action again. Despite the inevitable churning rumour mill over just when and where exactly the offensive might take place there is a palpable sense of its imminency.

This has only increased these past days as reports of Ukrainian territorial gains around the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut – often dubbed the “meat grinder” – have surfaced.

Some here have cautioned that it may be hard to identify the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive amid skirmishes and probing efforts by Kyiv’s forces to find weak spots in Russian lines. Others however maintain that it is already underway albeit that the main thrust has yet to come.

But whenever the order comes down to launch any all-out push, Ukraine’s forces are likely to face significant obstacles and very real resistance. For each day Ukraine has taken to prepare, Russia has had time to shore up its own depleted forces and fortify its defences and despite its heavy losses, its armed forces still outnumber Kyiv’s.

Already a complex set of obstacles and an intimidating series of defensive rings and potential “kill zones” await in places like Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts (provinces).

With military analysts fond of reminding that holding defensive positions is easier than attacking them the Russians may have an advantage, but questions remain over the willingness of their soldiers to fight amidst growing reports of low morale and rivalry between the Russian army and the Wagner mercenary groups led by the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The length of the frontline, some 960 snaking kilometres does however work to Ukraine’s advantage. Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive last autumn was due at least in part to Russia’s forces being stretched thin.

Knowing that a large scale Ukrainian offensive is in the offing, Moscow has only doubled down on its missile and drone attacks across the country.

In the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, in what was later described as an air aerial assault of “exceptional density” with the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest time possible, Ukraine’s military shot down 18 Russian missiles inbound on the capital.

For everyone here in Kyiv it was something of a sleepless and unnerving night even in a country grown accustomed to such attacks.

But for now, all eyes are focused on the days ahead and what Ukraine’s offensive could mean for the course of this war.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the fate of Ukraine and the shape of the West’s alliances may depend on what happens in the next few weeks.

Russia is on the back foot, Ukraine primed with supplies of new weapons and freshly trained troops.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his military chiefs must know that they may never have a better chance than this to drive Russia from their country and force the Kremlin to the negotiating table.

We can assume that the fight ahead will be a difficult and an even more costly one for both sides. But by the time the chestnut blossom appears on Kyiv’s streets this time next year, this war might just have taken on a very different hue.