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The world’s attention is on Gaza, and Ukrainians worry war fatigue will hurt them

Updated November 19, 2023 - 2:13 pm

KYIV, Ukraine— When Tymofii Postoiuk and his friends set up an online fundraising effort for Ukraine, donations poured in from around the globe, helping to purchase essential equipment for Ukrainian armed forces.

As the fighting with Russia wore on and war fatigue set in, the donations slowed down, but money continued to come in steadily. Then the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

With the start of another major conflict, social media networks including X, formerly known as Twitter, were flooded with news from the Middle East. “Our fundraising posts and updates simply get lost in between those tweets,” Postoiuk said.

The result has been a broad shift in the world’s attention away from Ukraine to the fighting in Gaza — a trend that worries many Ukrainians. They fear that a combination of global fatigue, competing political agendas and limited resources will result in less aid for their military, hurting the country’s ability to sustain its confrontation with Russia.

“The longer we talk about our war, the less interest it holds for people,” said 21-year-old Ivan Mahuriak, who lives in Lviv in western Ukraine. Like many other Ukrainians, he feels as if the world stopped paying attention to the war in Ukraine even before the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

The fatigue, he said, arises from the fact that dynamics on the ground are significantly less than in 2022, when Ukrainian armed forces managed to completely or partially push Russians out of several regions.

This year’s much-touted counteroffensive, which took off in June, has progressed at a much slower pace, with Ukrainian troops struggling to dislodge Russians who are entrenched in captured territory. Additional U.S. funding for Ukraine is jeopardized by political fights in Washington, where the new war consumes attention at the highest levels.

Divisions over Ukraine have also emerged in the European Union, which says it cannot provide all the munitions it promised. EU summits and other high-level global meetings now tend to focus on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

President Joe Biden has made a point of linking U.S. support for Israel and Ukraine, saying both are vital for national security. Biden’s secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, paid an official visit to Ukraine on Nov. 8 to show that the U.S. commitment has not wavered.

But many Ukrainians are worried.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the fatigue earlier in November. “Yes. A lot of people, of course, in the world are tired,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The war in the Middle East also presents an opportunity to Russian President Vladimir Putin by taking the spotlight off Ukraine.

“Of course, Russia is very happy with this war,” Zelenskyy added.

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