Most Russians don’t support closer ties with Turkey, poll shows

© Andrey Iglov
Well over half of all Russians think that their government should not hurry in mending ties with Turkey and only a minor share of population holds that this course is in the interests of their country, according to the latest independent research.

Popular business daily Kommersant reported on Friday that a recent poll conducted by the Russian NGO Public Opinion Foundation showed 60 percent of Russian citizens believe the authorities should slow down their approach to their Turkish partners after the end of the standoff between the two nations caused by the downing of the Russian combat aircraft by Turkish Air Force in Syria.

The share of respondents who support the fastest return of good relations between Moscow and Ankara was just 27 percent, with the remainder saying they did not have a strong opinion on the subject.

At the same time, the majority of respondents, 42 percent said that the decision to lift the ban on tours to Turkey was the correct measure and 39 percent considered it too hasty.

READ MORE: Turkey must accept responsibility for downed jet to restore relations – top Russian senator

The research also showed that 55 percent of Russians think that Turkey is more interested in restoring good relations than Russia. Some 28 percent categorized the benefit as mutual, while 1 percent said neither country gained anything from it. Only 8 percent view the return of friendly relations as more beneficial for Russia and an equal share of respondents said the question was too complicated to give a simple answer.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they expected relations between the two nations to become friendly sooner or later, while 38 percent said any serious improvement is unlikely in the nearest future. Just over a quarter, 26 percent, said that they had no answer to this question.

Some 14 percent of the poll participants said they had personally visited Turkey and 34 percent said they knew people who had. Twenty-three percent answered that they wanted to visit within the next few years and 74 percent said that they had no such desire.

The president of the Public Opinion Foundation NGO, Aleksandr Oslon, commented that such a spread of opinions could be explained by the great number of negative and frightening events that have taken place in Turkey over the past six months, adding that instant changes in public attitudes and opinions were simply impossible. However, he noted that he personally expects Russians’ negative attitudes to Turkey to wane if no new incidents take place in the future.

In early June this year, independent Russian pollster Levada Center released research data showing that average Russians list Turkey as one of the main enemies of their country, along with the United States and Ukraine. This is a sharp uptick from just 1 percent in 2015.

READ MORE: Russians list US, Ukraine & Turkey as country’s main enemies in latest poll

Moscow introduced a broad package of restrictive measures against Turkey in late November after Turkish fighter planes shot down a Russian Su-24 frontline bomber that was executing a pre-planned raid on positions of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. A group of Turkmen tribesmen supported by the Turkish side managed to kill one of the two Russian pilots as he parachuted down after ejecting from the damaged aircraft. The Turkmen also downed a helicopter from the search-and-rescue mission, killing one Russian marine.

After the sanctions were introduced, Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, repeatedly stated that they would be lifted only on condition that Turkey apologized for the hostile act.

In late June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized for the death of the Russian pilot in a formal letter to Putin and expressed readiness to restore relations with Moscow. After this, Moscow canceled restrictions against Ankara.

READ MORE: Erdogan apologizes to Putin over death of Russian pilot, calls Russia ‘friend & strategic partner’