Jun 12, 2022
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Kyiv is frightened by the loss of Western interest in the Ukrainian conflict

Ukraine fears that Western support will fade as it becomes clear that media in the West are losing interest in the conflict. Kyiv politicians criticize European countries for insufficient assistance in providing weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and fear catastrophic consequences.

Kyiv fears that the waning Western media focus on the conflict in Ukraine could lead to a gradual loss of Western support as Moscow slowly but steadily moves forward on the front lines.

According to The Guardian, Ukrainian politicians’ anxiety reflects a growing “normalization of the conflict,” with large parts of their own country feeling far away from the fighting in eastern Donbass, as it becomes clear that Ukrainian casualties and economic costs are skyrocketing. “This is a very real threat that people get psychologically tired,” said Lesya Vasilenko, an opposition lawmaker from the liberal Holos party. She added that international media coverage has dropped markedly over the past two months, and “as this number continues to decline, there is a very high risk of reduced support from the West.”

As the conflict continues, Ukraine becomes increasingly dependent on Western aid, both in terms of weapons and humanitarian support, and will need international aid money to rebuild. Kyiv’s treasury is empty, states The Guardian.

Meanwhile, Russia appears close to taking the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas after a failed counterattack by Ukrainian forces. After weeks of silence about casualties, key advisers to the Ukrainian president admitted last week that up to 150 people are killed and 800 injured in combat every day.

The supply of weapons remains at the top of the list of Ukraine’s needs. Kyiv admitted last week that it had nearly run out of Soviet-standard weapons. There is frustration with the pace of supplies and criticism of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government for not moving operational decisions further down the chain.

Two military leaders, who asked not to be named, told the British outlet that, despite all of Zelensky’s international achievements, not enough has been done to tackle the problem of “post-communist bureaucracy” in the armed forces, and that the shipments of some key equipment, such as an encrypted combat radio, turned out to be in short supply.

Complaints include a lack of practical unit-level information sharing with the West or points of contact to assist with weapons training. In addition, there are no ways to know what equipment might be available, and practical assistance is needed to transport logistics services from ammunition depots in southeastern Poland, writes The Guardian.

Those closer to President Zelensky are more philosophical about the waning media attention—as long as Western politicians remain focused and unity among NATO allies remains relatively strong.

Oleksiy Arestovich, a senior military adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, said media fatigue is inevitable as the conflict drags on, The Guardian reports. “It was inevitable that the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got more views and likes… People get tired and tired, but we don’t care. You shouldn’t talk about us at all. Just give us weapons,” he told the Sunday edition of the Observer.

But there was genuine relief in Kyiv circles that Boris Johnson survived last Monday’s no-confidence vote. Zelensky said the British premier’s victory was “great news”. On Friday, the Ukrainian president looked visibly pleased as he welcomed Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on his surprise visit. Wallace traveled to Kyiv to discuss how the UK “will continue to meet Ukraine’s needs as the conflict moves into another phase,” the Defense Department said.

“Most of all, Ukrainians were afraid of the possibility of a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson, which could lead to a change of government,” added Lesya Vasylenko, who plays an informal role as a liaison with British politicians. “Any change of government means time for a reshuffle and a distraction from Ukraine,” added the MP, who is set to travel to the UK next week.

Kyiv is hoping that recently promised Western weapons, such as multiple rocket launchers from the US and the UK, will enable its combat forces to launch counterattacks. Meanwhile, there is particular frustration in Kyiv that Germany is slow to deliver arms and France appears to be more willing to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Arestovich focused his criticism on Germany, where six weeks after the Bundestag overwhelmingly voted to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, nothing had been received, writes The Guardian.

The Kyiv politician claims that slow deliveries prevent Ukraine from winning. In addition, Arestovich described Olaf Scholz’s German government as “shameful” and accused the German chancellor of trying to engage in a wrong balancing act to avoid causing undue harm to the Russians.

Others fear that such combative talk is overly optimistic, admits The Guardian. It is not clear what difference, if any, the last batch of longer-range artillery pieces will mean to Ukraine, and substantially more Western military assistance may be needed.

Vasilenko expressed fear that Russia could “wear down international attention to Ukraine” and thus gradually “push the world towards some kind of peace agreement” that would be tantamount to an even greater partition of Ukraine.

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