Hidden Harm

Ukraine confronts psychological cost of war

Ukraine has so far survived the brutal winter despite continuing Russian missile attacks across the country. However, the sustained and intense Russian aggression is having a deep psychological impact on many in Ukraine.

Human Rights First reported from the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv in November 2023. At the start of the winter, we visited the city, surrounding communities, and the front line of the war to hear how locals intended to survive the bitter cold. In January 2024, in temperatures of minus 0.4° Fahrenheit (-18° Celsius), Human Rights First returned to understand how these communities and human rights defenders (HRDs) are coping.

HRDs working on a range of issues, such as documenting war crimes and working with the most vulnerable communities—including supporting orphans, survivors of domestic abuse and war-related sexual violence, the LGBTQ community, the elderly, and those living at the battlefront—told Human Rights First there is a dire and growing need for psychological support.

HRDs and others in the region also noted with alarm the Biden administration’s recently weakened language around support for Ukraine, and the continued failure of U.S. government officials to visit Kharkiv.



  • Brian Dooley
  • Maya Fernandez-Powell

Published on January 23, 2024


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