WHILE we are frantically rushing around this weekend getting ready for Christmas, we should spare a thought for Ukraine.

It has been overtaken by the Middle East as the war of the moment, and it would have been largely overlooked this week had not the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sensed the West’s growing fatigue and ploughed into a four-hour end-of-year press conference.

The conference was choreographed it to show how he was still very much in charge, how he was still pursuing his war aims, how he was defiantly not backing down.

This was in contrast to the way Ukraine has been slipping out of the minds – and out of the budget meetings – of the EU and the US.

It was a boost to Ukraine for the EU to begin membership negotiations with it, but those negotiations will take years and it is hard to see how a country at war will be admitted to the bloc.

But more than anything, Ukraine needs money – yet 50bn euros are blocked in the EU and $61bn are held up in the US as politicians argue over how much support can be given to Ukraine, and for how long.

Hungary is blocking the EU’s money and here its prime minister, Viktor Orban, is playing a dirty game. The EU is with-holding 30bn euros from his country until it tackles corruption, so he is preventing money going to Ukraine. In a classic EU fudge, it will be resolved next year when Hungary gets all of its money.

The breakdown of unanimity in the US is more serious because here the parties are positioning themselves ahead of the elections, with tough talking on Ukraine being seen as a vote winner by Republicans.

And all the time, Ukrainian civilians, just like Gazan civilians, are being bombed. They are seeing their homes destroyed, their towns wiped out, and their life chances – if they are still alive – going backwards. We must not turn our backs on them in their fight for freedom and against the lavish charades that Putin employed in his stage-managed press conference.