A new Pew Research Center poll, conducted in April, finds that the majority of Ukrainians want the country to stay united. This is the case even in the country’s more Russian-influenced east, though support is not surprisingly lower there. Among Russian speakers, 58 percent said the country should remain divided. Only in Crimea, now under the de facto control of Russia, did a strong majority support secession.
The country’s start political divisions remain in place, however, with 67 percent of the population of the east expressing negative feelings about the government in Kiev, compared with just 24 percent positive. The numbers are almost a mirror image of those in the West. In general, Ukrainians were not at all confident that the May 25 presidential elections will be conducted fairly.
A parallel poll conducted in Russia found that the vast majority supported the March 16 referendum in Crimea and that 61 percent agreed that there are parts of neighboring countries which should rightly belong to Russia.
It should be pointed out that the “east,” as defined in this poll, is a larger region than the southeastern oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are currently under separatist control and where support for secession in highest. In three days those two regions are holding a referendum on secession, despite Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that it be delayed.
The poll suggests that the events of the last few weeks have not significantly changed Ukrainian attitudes toward unity. It’s a starkly divided country, but it still wants to be a country.
But while the majority of Ukrainians don’t feel that either the annexation of Crimea or the referendum that affirmed were legitimate, the poll does suggest that the region’s new status is likely to be permanent.