Staunton, March 13 – Two out of every three Russians now consider Eastern Ukraine to be “Russian territory” and back Moscow’s use of force to “defend” the population of that region, the result experts say of an intensive Kremlin-directed propaganda effort rather than long-held views and of the Putin regime’s effective blockage of information sources challenging that line.
Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, said that the results of the new VTsIOM poll conducted this past week are the direct result of “a two-week long campaign of propaganda and disinformation unprecedented for the entire Soviet period” rather than a reflection of strongly held long-term views (top.rbc.ru/politics/13/03/2014/910927.shtml).
“All alternative or independent sources of information differing with the official one have been completely blocked,” he continued. Consequently, a majority of Russians are prepared to go along with what the official media say even though 70 percent of those surveyed said they did not entirely understand what is occurring in Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s propaganda effort, Gudkov said, is based on the frequent repetition of “several simple theses,” including the notion that the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers are being compromised, the leaders of the Maidan revolution are “bandits, Nazis and Banderites,” and Ukraine has been in chaos since Viktor Yanukovich was ousted from Kyiv.
The VTsIOM poll confirms that Russians have largely accepted all three of these ideas. Moreover, it shows that 44 percent of Russians believe that the introduction of Russian forces into Crimea will contribute to the stabilization and peaceful resolution of the problems there, and only 21 percent think that it will lead to escalation and bloodshed.
Forty-nine percent of Russians are ready to annex Crimea, with another 30 percent more inclined to support than oppose such a step. Only 12 percent oppose such a move. And 43 percent of Russians favor the separation of Crimea and possibly the eastern regions of Ukraine as a means of resolving the crisis.
The underlying reason for such views, according to the VTsIOM organization is that “a majority of Russians (65 percent) declared that ‘Crimea and Eastern Ukraine are in essence Russian territories and Russia has the right to apply military force for the defense of their population.”