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Leading politicians in Ukraine have appealed for continued support after the Italian prime minister accidentally disclosed that European leaders were growing weary of the conflict.
Giorgia Meloni has expressed "regret" after falling victim to a prank call from two Russian comedians during which she said "there is a lot of fatigue" and "everybody understands that we need a way out".
The call was made in September by Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, better known as comedians Vovan and Lexus, who pretended to be officials from the African Union. A recording of the prank call was published this week on the online platform Rumble.
Meloni has previously said that Italy will continue to back Ukraine, "even if it affects the approval rating of the government", said Sky News. But the "ongoing conflict is proving difficult to support". A poll in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera showed that 45% of Italians were against sending weapons to Ukraine, with 34% in favour.
Her "talk of war fatigue will please Russia, which is counting on dwindling enthusiasm among Kyiv's western allies", said The Times. But Oleksandr Merezhko, сhairman of the Ukrainian parliamentary committee on foreign policy, told Politico that abandoning Ukraine "would cost Europe and the world very dearly" by "throwing Europe and the world security system back to the 19th century".
Europe "should be tired of Russia, not of Ukraine", added Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a Ukrainian MP and chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the EU.
This is not the first time the Russian comedians have successfully pranked a public figure. In 2018 they held an 18-minute phone call with Boris Johnson after claiming to be the Armenian prime minister. In 2015 they convinced Elton John he was having a conversation with Vladimir Putin.