Ukraine Faces Fatigue Due to Protracted War

As the war approaches two years, Ukraine is pleading with its allies to give them more funds so they can fight Russia, following last year’s failed counteroffensive.

The calls compete for attention in headlines related to Israel’s war on Gaza, which Kyiv fears could benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has long relied on Western countries’ compassion for its neighbors, officials noted.

“According to our forecasts, fatigue from this conflict, fatigue from the absolutely unreasonable sponsorship of the Kyiv regime will increase in various countries, including the United States,” predicted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in October. “And this exhaustion will lead to the fragmentation of political institutions and the growth of contradictions.”

Along with political developments abroad, Ukrainians at home continue to bear the impacts of the war, including war crimes.

Residents clean up rubble outside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile attack the day before, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 3, 2024.Residents clean up rubble outside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile attack the day before, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 3, 2024.

Kirill Chubotin/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Reduced support for Kyiv in the EU and US

EU plans to provide 50 billion euros (nearly £42.7 billion) in new aid to Ukraine until 2027 were blocked last month by an EU leader, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn, a Putin ally. But leaders vowed to find a way to channel the funds to Ukraine.

The EU is also drafting a new sanctions package it hopes to pass before the war’s second anniversary on February 24, which will target Russia’s ability to evade current sanctions.

In the US, Republican lawmakers have made the Ukraine aid deal conditional on imposing tighter restrictions on the US border.

While US President Joe Biden has been trying to get Congress to agree to provide support for Kyiv, former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the Republican primaries in 2024, has asked House Speaker Mike Johnson not to support any funding package unless the White House granted all Republican demands regarding immigration policy.

Despite the apparent roadblocks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed hope that US lawmakers would make a decision.

“I think it’s only a matter of weeks,” he said through a translator during a special speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. “I have positive signals that Europe supports us, the EU countries, and I am sure we will also be able to resolve the question of aid in Congress.”

In his speech, Zelensky also sought to remind his country’s allies why their support is so important, and once again explain what is at stake in this war.

“If anyone thinks this is just about Ukraine, they are fundamentally wrong,” he said, noting that Russia could be incentivized to attack more countries if it succeeds there.

Documenting war crimes

Against the backdrop of the war, many human rights organizations in Ukraine have documented and investigated Russia’s behavior.

Catriona Murdoch, who leads the Starvation Mobile Justice Team at Global Rights Compliance, a law firm and international human rights foundation, said her team is working to find out whether starvation was used as a method of warfare in Ukraine, by looking at how. which hostilities are being carried out.

He said his team had looked at three approaches: Starting with a siege of an area, followed by attacks on critical infrastructure in an effort to demoralize civilians. The latest step is an attack on agriculture, aimed at destroying the livelihoods of Ukrainians – but could also impact other food-insecure countries.

Russia and its affiliates are continuously and deliberately involved in grain extraction in Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia provinces, according to a GRC report published in November. Russian-backed actors have “confiscated grain storage and export facilities in Ukraine to such an extent that they essentially control grain trade in their areas of operation,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Moscow in July withdrew from the UN-brokered Black Sea initiative, a deal struck with Turkey and Ukraine that allowed Ukrainian wheat to leave the country, in an effort to address fears of global food insecurity sparked by the war.

“In seizing grain and profiting from its exports, one of Russia’s goals appears to have been to fund its own war effort, even in part, by deliberately denying food to the civilian population,” the report found.

Murdoch said recording such actions was one way to keep the world’s attention on the war.

“I think the importance of documenting and highlighting the severity and routine nature of these attacks on a daily basis is really important, and (shows) how vulnerable Ukraine is without support,” Murdoch told Talk News.

People move past a collapsed wall as they try to get inside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile strike a day earlier in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 3, 2024.People move past a collapsed wall as they try to get inside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile strike a day earlier in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 3, 2024.

Kirill Chubotin/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The counterattack stopped

Although Ukraine had raised expectations about what they could achieve in a counteroffensive, their efforts appear to have failed, due in part to a delay in the attack that allowed Russian forces to better prepare their defenses.

Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s main intelligence unit, acknowledged that while not everything was in Ukraine’s favor during the counteroffensive, his country’s forces had shown that Russia was not as powerful as feared. He admitted that he was optimistic that they would succeed in containing Putin in the new year.

“To say that everything is fine is not true,” Budanov told The Financial Times. “Saying there was a disaster is also not true.”

Realizing that the front lines are unlikely to move, Ukraine is also increasingly targeting Russian oil plants, to damage the country’s military supplies and disrupt Moscow’s sources of revenue, according to The New York Times.

However, Ukraine is unlikely to make major territorial gains this year, as its forces will be exhausted by ongoing fighting and the United States. funding is becoming harder to come by, Hal Brands, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, wrote for Bloomberg.

“Ukraine cannot achieve a decisive victory in 2024,” Brands wrote. “But Kyiv and its backers in the West can – and must – find creative ways to increase pressure on Russia while building strength for 2025.”

The outcome of the American presidential election in November could also determine Moscow’s future strategy.

“Once (the Kremlin) knows whether they are going to have Donald Trump or Joe Biden or someone else in the White House, then they will be able to make long-term decisions about the next steps in this war,” Ben Noble, a Chatham House fellow, previously told Talk News.

A Russian missile attack on January 2, 2023 caused extensive damage to cars and apartment buildings in Vyshneve, Ukraine.A Russian missile attack on January 2, 2023 caused extensive damage to cars and apartment buildings in Vyshneve, Ukraine.

Vitaly Krasnyi via the Civic Voice Museum

Living in war

The uncertainty resulting from the war also had a devastating impact on Ukrainian civilians, who lived in fear of further Russian attacks, even during the holiday period.

Russian forces launched missile attacks on the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions on January 2, which, according to local officials, killed five people and injured 130.

The Museum of Civilian Voices, which compiles a collection of online stories from civilians who lived through the war, connected Talk News with three Ukrainian civilians who witnessed the attack.

Vitaly Krasnyi, a 52-year-old builder who was at his home in Vyshneve when the missiles were fired, said through a translator that Ukrainians had experienced so much bad since the war began, accepting it as routine had not become easier with time. .

“On the one hand, life seems normal. “Everything was normal, then the air raid sirens went off,” said Krasnyi. “And you understand how bad the situation is.”

Kateryna Zapolska documents the destruction inside her apartment in Vyshneve, Ukraine, days after the missile attack on January 2.  Her mother (center) had to stay in an apartment due to difficulty moving around, while Zapolska and her son sought shelter at a nearby school.Kateryna Zapolska documents the destruction inside her apartment in Vyshneve, Ukraine, days after the missile attack on January 2. Her mother (center) had to stay in an apartment due to difficulty moving around, while Zapolska and her son sought shelter at a nearby school.

Kateryna Zapolska via the Civic Voice Museum

Kateryna Zapolska left her home country in March 2022 for the Czech Republic to ensure a better future for her young son. However, they decided to return to Ukraine in August, after Zapolska’s 74-year-old mother fell ill and needed their help.

Zapolska told Talk News that, despite being abroad, her sons always hoped they could return home.

“I mean, he had some kind of hope then, and he has that hope now that the war is ending,” he said through a translator.

But it appears the conflict is far from over, and the attacks on January 2 were a painful reminder of that.

When Zapolska and her son left the apartment to seek shelter at a nearby school, they had to leave their mother behind, given her difficulty moving around.

Zapolska said she and her son left at the urging of their mother.

“Save your son, do everything to save him,” he recalled his mother telling him.

Zapolska put pillows and blankets on her mother’s bed to ensure she was safe from the missile’s impact. Meanwhile, Zapolska called police to ensure medics contacted her as soon as they were able to enter the building.

The cruel and heart-wrenching decisions that Ukrainians had to make for themselves and their loved ones as the uncertainty caused by the war weighed heavily on them.

Oleksandr Shikhov captures the destruction caused by a missile attack on his apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 2, 2023.Oleksandr Shikhov captures the destruction caused by a missile attack on his apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 2, 2023.

Oleksandr Shikhov via the Civic Voice Museum

Oleksandr Shikhov is another Ukrainian civilian who was in his apartment in Kyiv during the missile attack. He told Talk News that although he had never left the capital – even in the early days of the war when the city was under siege, a situation he described as “dangerous and scary” – he had recently considered moving his parents abroad . to ensure their safety. Even so, he said, his parents preferred to stay.

“I understand this is war and I understand that I can also be conscripted,” Shikhov said through a translator. “This is life, this is our reality and I live in this reality.”

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