FACT CHECK: Has Ukraine Taken Back 50% Of Territory It Lost Since February 2022?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on July 23 that Ukraine has taken back 50% of the territory it lost since February 2022.

Verdict: True

Ukraine has seized back about 53% of its territory it initially lost when Russia invaded in February 2022, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Fact Check:

Blinken claimed during a July 23 interview on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ that Ukraine had taken back 50% of the territory it had lost since Russia’s invasion started in February 2022.

“Now Ukraine is in a battle to get back more of the land that Russia seized from it. It’s already taken back about 50 percent of what was initially seized. Now they’re in a very hard fight to take back more,” Blinken said.

This appears to be true, though it must be put into context. Russia seized much of southern and eastern Ukraine during its initial invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine took back of the territory in the fall of last year, liberating wide swathes of Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts, according to The Washington Post.

A spokesperson for ISW, a non-partisan think tank, directed Check Your Fact to the organization’s July 23 campaign assessment, which states that Blinken’s claim is “largely consistent with ISW’s current assessment of control of terrain.”

“Analysts can employ several methods to calculate control of terrain with varying results depending on the cartographical projection used and other factors. An estimate using ISW’s control of terrain data and the Mercator projection indicates that Ukrainian forces liberated about 53 percent of the land that Russian forces captured since February 2022,” the assessment reads. “Estimates made using different data sources, measurement methods, or projections will generate different numbers. Factors, such as higher confidence about unconfirmed Russian claimed territorial gains, can impact such estimations as well.”

ISW’s maps show that Ukraine has made some advances in the south around the villages of Pryyutne and Staromayorske and in the east around Bakhmut.  (RELATED: Did 27,000 Russians Surrender In Ukraine?)

Newsweek reported in November 2022 that Russia had occupied 133,137 square kilometers of Ukraine. This number included Crimea, which was occupied in 2014, and the territory controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic — self-proclaimed separatists that had split from Ukraine and were illegally annexed by Russia in September 2022– and that Ukraine had liberated around 37% of the total territory seized by separatists and the Russians.

DefMon3, an open-source intelligence account that also maps the Russian-Ukrainian War, says it depends.

“It really is a matter of what you count as controlled by the Russians in the early invasion. You can do it two ways. You can count only the areas close to the roads, and then it’s much less than 50% liberated. But if you consider the entire area between the roads liberated, then 50% seems correct,” DefMon 3 said to Check Your Fact in an email.

Check Your Fact has reached out to the State Department and other mappers of the Russian-Ukraine war for comment.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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