Ukrainians name Donbass deaths ‘event of the year,’ ignore EU deal – poll

Ukrainians name Donbass deaths ‘event of the year,’ ignore EU deal – poll
Nearly half of the Ukrainians who took part in a media poll listed thousands of deaths in the country’s east as the “event of the year.” The signing of the Association Agreement with the EU was deemed important by less than 10 percent of respondents.

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Only 8.3 percent of Ukrainians named the ratification of the free trade deal with the European Union on September 16 the most significant event of the year, reveals a countrywide opinion poll carried out by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology and organized by ZN.UA media outlet.

Thousands of casualties in the conflict in southeastern Ukraine were highlighted by 46.6 percent of respondents, who considered it the “most important” among the list of 18 events suggested by the poll.

The results of the comprehensive survey are said to be based on more than 3,000 interviews taken in 179 Ukrainian cities and villages. Although the project’s organizers say their survey represents the views of Ukrainian people in all regions, it also mentions that in the east of the country - “for obvious reasons” - the poll was conducted only on Kiev-controlled territories in the Lugansk region, and “primarily” on such territories in the Donetsk region.

While setting aside the deal that is seen as one of the main causes of the ongoing crisis, 40 percent of respondents also said they “fully agree” that Ukraine should enter the EU, with 15 percent “completely disagreeing.”

A Pro-EU protester holds a European Union flag during a rally on Independence square in Kiev on January 16, 2014 (AFP Photo)

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader and the downed Malaysia Airlines plane (which the poll directly blames on “terrorists”) turned out to be among the least important events for the country, according to the poll.

“The occupation of Crimea by Russia” scored third place on the list, with the option being most popular in central Ukraine (43.7 percent) and least popular in Donbass (19.7 percent).

Unlike the rest of the country, the Donbass region considers the creation of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to be the second most important issue, with 30.5 percent of respondents listing it most important.

When asked to describe the conflict in eastern Ukraine, 39.6 percent of people said they consider it to be a war between Russia and Ukraine. Meanwhile, 29.2 percent named it a civil war, while 12.1 percent branded it a geopolitical clash between Russia and the United States.

Only 16.8 percent of the respondents think the conflict should be solved by peaceful talks. Over half of people who took part in the survey – 54 percent – have denied help to refugees, considering it to be their country's responsibility.

A woman walks next to an exploded shell in Krasnyi Pakhar village near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine (Reuters / Antonio Bronic)

The survey, which included a range of questions on the country’s politics, economics, the conflict in the southeast, and European values, also shows that people have little trust in their government. Only 8.3 percent of the respondents said they trust their president – who ended sixth in the trust rating. Ukraine’s media was among the least trusted institutions, given 5.1 credit points out of 10.

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When asked about high-profile crimes, including the Maidan shooting and the inferno ignited by radicals at Odessa’s House of Trade Unions – with both events causing over a hundred deaths – the majority of the respondents blamed the government for the crimes remaining unsolved. Over 45 percent thought the country’s officials were motivated to avoiding uncovering the truth.

The situation in Crimea bothers Ukrainians less than the Donbass conflict: 18.5 percent of respondents said the peninsula should be fought for and regained from Russia.

A decentralization of power in the country was demanded by the majority of 36.5 respondents in southeastern Ukraine.

The issue of Ukraine joining NATO worries only some five percent. The main concern in 2014 was rising prices, which bothered 64.8 percent of respondents.