Staunton, October 22 – Seventy percent of Ukrainians say that there is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine, while only 26 percent of Russians agree with that, a remarkable testimonial to Moscow media’s power to distort the situation -- and one that also has had a impact in the West where many governments are unwilling to describe the situation accurately.
In an article in today’s “Vedomosti,” Elena Mukhametshina reports on the findings of new polls by the Levada Center in Russia and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in Ukraine (vedomosti.ru/politics/news/35054791/bratskij-vzglyad-na-vojnu and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=54474F1204755).
The two polls show that Ukrainians and Russians are divided on other aspects of the current situation as well. Seventy-four percent of Ukrainians but only 50 percent of Russians agree with the statement that “Russia is supporting pro-Russian forces in the east of Ukraine,” the Moscow paper reported.
The two nations also divide on who is to blame. Sixty-three percent of Ukrainians say Russia is to blame, while only 27 percent of Russians agree with that. Instead, in Russia, three out of every four respondents say Russia was not to blame, and only 17 percent of Russians say their country is responsible.
And the polls show that Ukrainians and Russians are also deeply split about the future of the so-called Donetsk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic. Seventy-seven percent of Ukrainians say that these territories must remain part of Ukraine, but 40 percent of Russians support their independence from Kyiv.
Aleksey Makarkin, a Russian commentator, told the paper that Kyiv is using the conflict to deflect public attention from the shortcomings of Ukrainian state policy, a statement that could be applied with equal or even greater force to the Kremlin, which has invoked the notion that “Crimea is Ours” as a kind of universal moral solvent against any criticism.
The Moscow commentator added however that the events in eastern Ukraine has had one major effect: “If earlier, Crimea was a political-psychological complex for Russia, then now, this is a complex for Ukraine,” a reflection of the fact that “many Russians do not even know that citizens of Russia are fighting in Ukraine.”
And he added that the two nations remain deeply divided on the nature of their relationship. “Russians,” he said, “view Ukrainians as a fraternal people that has taken the wrong path and must be put on the true one,” but Ukrainians feel themselves to be in the right and view Russia’s actions as those of an imperial aggressor.
Makarkin concluded that Russians have always had the view that when they get involved in the affairs of other countries, they are not engaged in aggression but rather are making an effort to help. That was also the case, for example, when the Soviet Union sent forces into Czechoslovakia in 1968