A tattered Ukrainian national flag flutters in the wind at a position held by the Ukrainian armed forces near the town of Maryinka, eastern Ukraine, June 5, 2015. Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine and troops loyal to Kiev have observed an uneasy ceasefire since early 2015. Reuters


  • Ukraine has liberated about 3,282 square miles of land in its Kharkiv region since Sept. 6
  • There is still active combat along an 808-mile front line
  • Ukrainian forces are now conducting a defensive operation

Ukraine has liberated 388 settlements in its Kharkiv region following the launch of a counteroffensive in Russian-occupied areas of the region at the start of the month, Ukrainian officials announced Wednesday.

About 8,500 square kilometers (3,282 square miles) of land and 150,000 people have been freed since the start of the campaign on Sept. 6, Hanna Maliar, Ukraine's deputy minister of defense, revealed in a statement posted on Facebook.

"The figures are constantly updated because the process is dynamic," Maliar said, according to a machine translation of her statement.

"The liberated areas still need additional security and stabilization measures to make them safe to live in. Therefore, official notifications with numbers of liberated settlements are provided with a deliberate delay and may or may not take into account the implemented stabilization measures, and therefore differ," she added.

Around 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) of Ukraine's 2,500-kilometer (1,553-mile) front line is in active combat, according to Maliar.

Ukrainian forces "are conducting a defensive operation within which offensive actions can also be implemented," the official said.

Russia announced the retreat of its forces from nearly all of Kharkiv on Sunday.

Among the forces to retreat were elements of Russia's 1st Guards Tank Army, one of its most prestigious formations, according to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv likely took Russia by surprise, according to the ministry.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, also said the Ukrainian operation surprised Russia, but it was not a shock for Ukraine's allies and partners.

"Certainly, since the beginning of Russia's invasion into Ukraine, we've seen the Ukrainians demonstrate a remarkable adaptability and their ability to use their warfighting capabilities to great effect. So, it's not surprising to us that they have pushed as quickly as they have," Ryder was quoted as saying in a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense Tuesday.

Western weapons and supplies played a part in the success of Ukraine's counteroffensive, according to the general.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his counterparts in nearly 50 other nations have pledged to keep the supply chain moving and increase aid that can be applied to mid-term and long-term Ukrainian defenses, Ryder said.

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy awards a Ukrainian service member near a frontline in Kharkiv region