Editor’s note: The article was originally published in June. It has been updated in light of recent events. Beginning in late August, Ukraine’s armed forces launched a counteroffensive to retake occupied areas in the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the country. Throughout September the counteroffensive successfully retook a large area of the east, and in October Ukraine announced gains in its counteroffensive in the south. In an address on 4 October, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said, “The Ukrainian army is carrying out a pretty fast and powerful advance in the south of our country as part of the current defence operation.”
It has now been more than seven months since Russia‘s escalation of the war in Ukraine. Some political leaders, concerned with instability in Europe, food shortages, rising energy prices, the deepening cost-of-living crisis and the threat of Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons, have called on Ukraine and Russia to agree to a return to the status quo before the invasion, or even a “pause” in the war, essentially leaving Ukraine without full control of its territory.
Russia currently occupies approximately 114,000 sq km of Ukrainian territory, as of 6 October. The New Statesman has built an interactive map to show what an area of that size would look like when compared to other countries or territories.
In May, Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos that negotiations should lead to a return to how things were before the invasion in February, implying that Ukraine should cede Crimea and the Donbas, in the east, to Russia. The editorial board of the New York Times has similarly said that Ukraine might have to make “painful territorial decisions” for the sake of peace.
Perhaps nothing has sparked more confusion and anger in Ukraine than the French president Emmanuel Macron’s comment to a group of French journalists that Russia must not be humiliated. Following Macron’s comment, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, responded on Italian television: “We are not ready to save someone’s face paying with our territories, I don’t think it’s fair.” He called the suggestion “wasted time”.
The Ukrainian land occupied by Russia is equivalent to about a fifth of French territory, including French Guiana. It would be 38 per cent of Italy, and would also make up the equivalent of nearly a third (32 per cent) of Germany or nearly half (48 per cent) of the UK.