MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) – The number of Russian citizens supporting the possible reunification with southeastern regions of Ukraine decreased, while the independence of the region from both Ukraine and Russia is supported by the majority of respondents, according to the survey published Monday on Levada-Center pollster website.
“Over the past two months, the number of respondents who approve of the possible reunification of Ukrainian territories with Russia decreased. Only 26% of surveyed would like to see the political future of the southeastern regions of Ukraine as part of the Russian Federation, against 49% in the beginning of March. The majority support the independence of the south-east of Ukraine from both Kiev and Russia. In this regard 72% of Russians consider it necessary to recognize the independence of Donetsk People's Republic”, the annex to the survey of the non-governmental polling and sociological research organization Levada Center reads.
Levada Center’s sociologists also noted that almost half of Russian citizens (49%) think that Russian government supports pro-Russian forces in Ukraine with more than half (59%) saying that Russia should support them.
The data of the survey indicates the growing uncertainty among Russian people. On one hand, the respondents support pro-Russian activists in Ukraine, considering it necessary to give them diplomatic (89%) and economic (70%) support, but on the other hand Russia’s right to protect "its own population" in Ukraine is being questioned although generally supported by the surveyed.
The survey was conducted between 23 and 26 May among 1,600 respondents over 18 years old from 45 regions of Russian Federation.
Mass anti-government protests began in the southeastern regions of Ukraine in the end of February 2014 as a response of local residents to the military coup in Ukraine followed by an attempt of new authorities to abolish the law that insured the regional status of Russian language in those areas. The Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics declared themselves independent states following the May 11 referendum and soon started to form governments and law enforcement agencies.
The self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk signed a treaty on May 24 to unify under the name of Novorossiya.
The interim Kiev government refused to recognize the legitimacy of any of these decisions and continued the military operation launched mid-April against the independence supporters in the regions.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned the new Kiev authorities for what it called "a punitive operation" and stressed the need for de-escalation of the Ukrainian crisis.