Almost half of all Russians want warmer relations with Ukraine poll shows

FILE PHOTO: People walk with banners and flags during an anti-war rally in Moscow, September 21, 2014 © Sergey Karpukhin
One in two Russians wants relations with Ukraine to remain friendly and close, without visa regime and customs, but the number of those who want tighter border control is now increasing.

According to the latest research conducted by the private Russian sociological center Levada, 48 percent of Russians said that they would prefer relations with Ukraine to remain friendly and close, and did not want the two nations to introduce a visa regime and tighter customs regulations. Eight percent of the respondents went further and said that Russia and Ukraine should unite and form a single state.

At the same time, the share of those who say they want the Russian Federation to introduce a visa regime with Ukraine has reached 39 percent – the highest since 2008.

The same poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Russians, 83 percent, supported the reunification of Crimea with Russia, while 13 percent answered that they did not support it, and four percent found it difficult to give a simple answer to the question.

Regarding the current situation in Ukraine, 61 percent described it as tense, and 25 percent added that they expected the situation to continue deteriorating in the near future. Eighteen percent described it as critical and explosive, while only 13 percent answered that the situation in Ukraine was ordinary and calm.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine were warm after both nations became independent in the early 1990s, but began to seriously sour in 2015 after the coup in Kiev brought to power the openly anti-Russia regime which subsequently started a war with the south-eastern regions of the country populated mostly by ethnic Russians.

As a result, Russians started to see Ukraine as an enemy state. By mid-2015, Ukraine ranked second among nations that Russian citizens considered to be most hostile to Russia, with the United States topping the list.

However, a different poll conducted in February this year showed that a majority of Russians, 50 percent, still have positive sentiments about Ukraine, while 36 percent have bad or very bad feelings regarding Ukraine. When asked about the reasons behind the Ukrainian crisis, 20 percent of Russians answered that it is due to a misguided political course which was taken by the government in Kiev, with 19 percent saying it was the result of a deliberate provocation on the part of the United States, and 13 percent saying that the crisis resulted from the usual struggle of politicians and businessmen for power and resources.