Doubts About Recent Ukraine Referendum: ‘Legitimate Concerns’

Photo Credit: NEWSCOM

Photo Credit: NEWSCOM

A new Gallup poll of Ukrainians undermines the main rationale for Russia’s aggression towards its neighbor and calls into question the U.S. approach to diplomacy with the Russians, which treats some of the Russian claims as legitimate. The findings of the national survey also cast further doubt on the results of the recent referendum on Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainians of all backgrounds and from every corner of the country reject Vladimir Putin’s decision to send Russian troops to Ukraine to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians, with 81 percent of those surveyed expressing opposition to the move and 13 percent in favor. The skepticism is largely explained by the fact that Ukrainians don’t buy Putin’s claim that ethnic Russians need protection at all. Eighty-five percent of Ukrainians said that Russian-speaking citizens are not threatened, an opinion shared by 66 percent of ethnic Russians themselves. Seventy-four percent of Ukrainians living in both the south and the east, regions where Russians claim protection is most needed, responded that Russian-speaking Ukrainians were not under threat because of their language.

The survey of 1,200 Ukrainians from all regions of the country, including Crimea, was conducted March 14-26 by Gallup and Baltic Surveys for the International Republican Institute. IRI—which describes itself as a “nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide”—has extensive experience polling overseas, and U.S. policymakers often rely on its findings. The interviews were conducted in person at respondents’ homes.

“These results show that east and west Ukraine are not as divided as Moscow would like you to think,” says Ambassador Mark Green, president and CEO of IRI. “Ukrainians across the country, including Russian speakers, believe in democracy and want closer ties to Europe.”

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