Most Russians still support govt’s policies on Syria, poll shows

A Russian Su-34 fullback bomber jet lands at Latakia airport, Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov
An overwhelming majority of Russian citizens are closely following events in Syria and over half of them support the current anti-terrorist operation or even call for greater Russian involvement, according to the latest research.

A poll conducted by the Russian state-run agency VTSIOM found that 69 percent of the Russian public remain very interested in the current situation in Syria and in how the Russian air operation against the Islamic State terrorists is developing.

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Fifty-three percent of respondents said they supported the Russian government’s course, including 15 percent who said that they would not mind if Russia got more actively involved in the conflict. Forty-five percent said that they supported the authorities’ course in general, but would like it to take different forms. Of these, 22 percent said that the campaign against terrorists in Syria should be slowed down and 13 percent said that Russia should halt any participation in the Syrian conflict.

VTSIOM general director Valeriy Fyodorov said in comments in the agency’s report that the current situation is being caused by the modern character of Russian operation in Syria. “Combat casualties are non-existent,” he said. “The war has assumed a high-tech form, we see no blood or victims. Besides, the opponents are very clearly marked as terrorists and any attempts in the West to present Russia as an aggressor and an enemy of the Syrian people have no support in our country or in the world as a whole.”

Fyodorov also said that Russian society was not making a direct link between the Syria operation and the recent crash of the A231 passenger jet over the Sinai Peninsula, as all reports of possible terrorist involvement were merely rumors and speculation when the poll was conducted.

When a similar poll was conducted in early October, over 70 percent of Russian citizens expressed support for the Russian Air Force operations against ISIS terrorists in Syria. Forty-seven percent of respondents said that Russia should support Syrian President Bashar Assad in his fight against both Islamic State and the armed opposition. Twenty-eight percent said that it would be better for Russia to stay out of the Syrian conflict, while 8 percent said Russia should join the Western coalition and begin fighting against ISIS and the Syrian government.

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Before Russia started its campaign of airstrikes against ISIS the share of people who backed support for President Assad was lower. In late September, 39 percent of respondents approved of Moscow’s support for the Syrian government, with the share of those who disapproved at 11 percent.