Not too long ago, the Russia-Ukraine conflict was at the center of a media frenzy. You couldn't go on social media, or watch the news without being bombarded with the latest updates of the invasion, or the political drama that was ensuing behind the scenes.
Nearly four months later, conversation on this topic has almost, if not, completely dissipated, and most media outlets have abandoned the story in favor of more "important" concepts. At its height, videos on the war and invasion would gain millions of views. Now they've dropped to maybe a couple thousand views at most. So what happened? Has the rest of the world forgotten about Ukraine? What caused the decline in relevancy for such a crucial topic, and how can we keep the conversation alive? In order to pinpoint where the support ended, we must return to where it began.
Late February: The Rise
On February 24, 2022, Russian forces illegally invaded Ukraine at the command of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin sent military soldiers into eastern Ukraine, and had earlier claimed that there were no plans to invade Ukrainian territory. He made this statement in a televised speech three days before the invasion:
President Vladimir Putin, photographed. "Vladimir Putin - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009" by World Economic Forum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
“All responsibility for possible bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the regime ruling on the territory of Ukraine.” -Vladimir Putin
Shortly after this statement, there were explosions reported all over Ukraine; in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and the Donbas. Officials in Ukraine reported that Russia had landed troops in Mariupol and Odessa & launched missiles at government buildings.
At the time of writing, there have been 4,452 civilian deaths and 5,531 injured (according to statistica.com) -although the actual number could be higher. According to an article from BBC.com, more than 13 million Ukrainian citizens have had to flee their homes as a result of the war. Over 5 million Ukrainian citizens have had to seek refuge in neighboring countries, and 8 million citizens are stranded within Ukraine.
Ukrainian citizens fleeing to Israel. "UH teams assist Ukrainian Refugees on flight to Israel" by Raphael Poch is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
International Response to the Invasion
As a response to the invasion, there have also been sanctions (a consequence/punishment for disobeying a law or rule) imposed on Russia by multiple countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and France. Some of the sanctions enacted in Europe against Russia and its leaders according to the Council of the European Union include:
- Ban on exports to Russia of common goods and devices for military use
- Ban on Russian-imported coal and energy resources
- Ban on financial proceedings involving the Russian Central Bank
- Suspension in Russian propaganda media outlets
- Ban on deposits to crypto wallets
- Ban on exports to Russia of luxury goods
Overall, the war has been internationally condemned. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been in office since 2019, and is Ukraine's sixth president. In a late-night press address the night of the invasion, Zelenskyy made this statement as a reply to Putin’s public address: “If they [Russia] attack, if they try to take our country - our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children - we will be defending ourselves. As you attack, it will be our faces you see, not our backs." The invasion sparked global anti-war protests in support of Ukraine. The protests being led created a strong sense of unity amongst protesters and the residents.
A pro-Ukraine protest in Europe. "Ukraine Protests" by Schezar is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Ukrainian protesters in Toronto, Canada. "Ukrainian protesters in Toronto" by id4ro is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Early March-Present: The Decline
So much has changed in the past few months when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The inner workings of the war aren't a hot topic for discussion. We are no longer seeing infuriated citizens in the U.S protesting in the streets of urban cities, demanding change. This topic isn't trending on social media platforms anymore, and most drastically, what has changed the most is the amount of press coverage and attention (or lack thereof).
What this displays to me is how little a lot of people actually care about the invasion/war overseas when it is no longer relevant to them, which isn't fair. People posted links for donations in their Instagram bios, people changed their profile picture to the Ukraine flag, yet have deserted the topic completely. If they actually cared, then this would still be a relevant talking point.
The phenomenon that I’ve described to you actually has a name: performative activism. Performative activism is defined by the Boston Medical Center as:
"Defined as activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause. A person who is taking part in performative activism would rather let it be known that they are not racist (sexist, homophobic, etc.) rather than actually seeking to change the racist structures within our country. Can also be applied to allyship."
-Boston Medical Center
Performative activism is harmful because it defeats the purpose of true activism in the first place. Activism is long-term support, a continuing fight to help an important cause. Activism should be used as a tool to assist underrepresented groups & help them achieve equality, and not as a way to make oneself appear moral.
What a lot of people still fail to realize, so many months later, is that the war is still ongoing. Ukraine is still fighting for its freedom, while innocent people die and suffer in the process. The most frustrating part for me personally is that pointless and incessant celeb drama and gossip have dominated headlines, instead of talking about more important and urgent things that can have a lasting impact on the future of global politics.
For instance, the infamous Will Smith/Chris Rock 2022 Oscars slap stayed in the news cycle for *weeks* after it happened, and we got updates on every miniscule detail. This is in contrast to the Buffalo, New York supermarket shooting that took place on May 14, 2022 (the shooting was a hate crime targeting Black Americans) that stayed in the mainstream news cycle for about a week before people stopped talking about it and most news outlets dropped the story.
As I've clearly outlined to you, even most adults aren't paying attention to the instrumental topics that we URGENTLY need to discuss, and media outlets aren't giving the Russia-Ukraine conflict the attention it deserves. Consider this article your call to action - it is up to us, the next generation, to keep the discussion alive. The problem is...how do we go about doing so?
"What Can I Do to Help?"
If you're a concerned teen/young adult that wants to help Ukrainian citizens that have been affected by the war, here are three small things you can do that make a big impact. (Remember: just because we are young, doesn't mean that we can't make change).
- Spread the word! Post on social media. I know what I said about social media and performative activism earlier in the article may make me sound a bit hypocritical, but it can be extremely effective when used to spread a genuine, long-lasting, and impactful message. The key to making this method work is to keep posting, even after others have stopped. Who knows? Maybe you can spark another conversation.
- Donate to reputable organizations (UNICEF, Red Cross - Ukraine, Disasters Emergency Committee, etc.) If you don't have money, then that's fine! You can donate non-perishable food, clothing, and other living essentials.
- Sign or create an online petition and promote it. (Change.com would be a good option)
To return to our central question of the article, “Has the world abandoned Ukraine?” Yes. The world has abandoned Ukraine, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are people still dying, there are buildings still being destroyed, and there are still families being separated by refuge. Now is the time to restart the conversation, because if not now, then when?