August 29, 2014

Russian poll: Putin faces limited opposition from his public on Ukraine

Levada poll: Putin faces limited opposition from Russian public on Ukraine
A Russian military helicopter prepares to land near a convoy of white trucks with humanitarian aid parked near Ukrainian border in mid-August. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies the Kremlin has had a hand in the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, even as President Obama and other Western officials say they have proof of “deep Russian involvement.” At home, Putin faces far fewer questions from a public that draws a distinction between support for separatist rebels and having a direct role in the continued violence in eastern Ukraine.

A 56%-majority of Russians say their country has yet to get involved in what is happening in Ukraine, compared with roughly a third of Russians (32%) who think Russia has already intervened, according to a survey conducted August 22-25 by the independent, Moscow-based Levada Center.

The nationwide, representative survey of 1,600 adults suggests that many Russians do not consider support to separatist rebels as actually intervening in Ukraine. Half say the Kremlin actively backs pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and 55% think this is the right thing to do.

Only about a quarter of Russians (26%) think their country and Ukraine are currently at war, compared to six-in-ten (59%) who disagree, according to the Levada poll.

The perception among Russians that the country is principally providing support to the separatists and has not entered the war itself is an important one. The public is split on whether they would support the Kremlin in the event of open military conflict with Ukraine: 41% say yes, 43% say no, while 16% are unsure. And, the share of Russians prepared to back the government in the event of war with Ukraine has fallen dramatically from this past spring, when seven-in-ten or more in March and May (74% and 69%, respectively) said they would back such intervention.

Although most Russians do not think their country is directly involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, a nationwide August 1-4 poll of 1,600 adults by Levada indicates that many suspect the West of intervening. Asked the main reason they thought the new Ukrainian government was seeking to distance itself from Russia and draw closer to Europe, the most frequent answer (52%) was that “Ukraine had become a puppet in the hands of the West and U.S.A., who are pursuing an anti-Russian policy.”

Even more emphatically, in the same early August poll, three-quarters of respondents (77%) subscribed to the view that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s “anti-terrorist operation” against separatist rebels was launched with the support and encouragement of the U.S., compared with 7% who thought the campaign was the Ukrainian leader’s own initiative.

Overall, the two Levada polls suggest that the Russian public is likely to remain skeptical of international claims that the Kremlin is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, especially if Russians continue to suspect the U.S. and other Western powers of stacking the deck against their country.


Topics: Eastern Europe, Wars and International Conflicts, Russia

  1. Photo of James Bell

    is Director of International Survey Research at the Pew Research Center.


  1. Wylvien3 years ago

    Porkey is the most corrupt oligarch in Ukraine – according to USA!

    “In 2006, John Herbst, US Ambassador to Ukraine, described Poroshenko as a “disgraced oligarch.”[93] Later that same year Sheila Gwaltney, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Ukraine, said that “Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations.”[93]”
    en wikipedia org/wiki/Petro_Poroshenko

  2. Susan3 years ago

    The new Kiev government tried a massive ethnic cleansing campaign against Ukraine’s large ethnic Russian minority, labeling them “terrorists”, and shelling their cities to force the relocation of millions.

    They unleashed openly fascist volunteer death squads like the Azov battalion to brutalize the eastern populace.

    They moved to ban political parties representing millions.

    They tried to ban the use of Russian on official documents when millions in Ukraine only speak Russian.

    They banned many media outlets for saying things the government doesn’t like.

    Then they play victim when they lose.

    This isn’t a land grab by Russians, this is ethnic Russians outraged by an ethnic cleansing campaign defending themselves and their interests.

    The land in question was part of Russia for more than 100 years before the Soviet Union existed, look up “Novorossiya” if you didn’t know. The Russians have been there for centuries.

  3. Jao3 years ago

    Why don’t people just leave other people alone. Why do russians need to extend their territory? Isn’t current russia big enough for the russians that they need to “reclaim” what they think is theirs. Moreover, why do Israel and Hamas fight over land? Why not just live peacefully across each other? Why does ISIS kill their own people? Just because they worship another God? The world has enough problems as it is and these people just make things worse. I have a 1 year old baby girl. I am so afraid of what the world will be when she grows up. It feels like the world is regressing back to the middle ages. So sad.

  4. Robert3 years ago

    How about a new poll:

    Do you believe that Putin has silenced his critics through repressive measures?

    Do you believe that Russia currently has a completely free press without government interference?

    Do you believe everything you are being told by your government regarding Russia’s actions in Ukraine?

    1. Wylvien3 years ago

      How about this new poll:

      Do you believe that Obomber has silenced his critics through repressive measures?

      Do you believe that USA currently has a completely free press without government interference?

      Do you believe everything you are being told by your government regarding USA’s actions in Ukraine and over the world?

      1. Artem3 years ago

        Typical pro-Russian responce: “Nuh uh, America does it, so why can’t we?”
        This isn’t about them right now, this is about Russia and Ukraine.

      2. Sigh2 years ago

        It is sad that so many Russians seem to believe (or pretend to believe) that anyone criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine also automatically hypocritically supports everything the US does.

        It’s not a simplistic “us versus them” binary polar thing. Criticizing one country’s action does not imply supporting everything another country does.

        Stop being so tribalistic and nationalistic. Stop automatically reflexively defending everything your own country does against any criticism, no matter how valid the criticism. Every country does bad things, and denying it only means that nothing will improve.

        Start criticizing unjust violence regardless of who does it, whether it’s Obama blowing people up with drones in Islamic countries, or Putin killing people in Ukraine with Russian soldiers he claims aren’t there, or whoever doing it.