Russian soldier in Crimea, March 2014
© Anastasia Vlasova
The majority of Russian citizens recently interviewed by the All Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies (VTsIOM) believe that their country should vigorously defend the interests of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea, VTsIOM director Valery Fyodorov said on Thursday.
In 2009 and on March 1-2, 2014, Russian citizens were invited to offer their opinions on whether or not Russia should actively defend the interests of Russian-speaking people in Crimea, or whether Russia should refrain from getting into conflicts with the Ukrainian authorities, he said.
Five years ago, 73% of respondents spoke in favor of more active measures to defend the interests of Crimea's Russian-speaking population, and 15% of those polled took the opposite view, Fyodorov said.
The results of the March 1-2 survey were practically the same, he said.
"Seventy-one percent believe that it is necessary to protect Russian-language speakers in Crimea more vigorously, and a mere 15% think that Russia should not get into any conflicts," Fyodorov said.
The Ukrainian crisis has recently been at the forefront of Russian citizens' minds, he said.
"The interest toward Ukraine has been growing over the past couple of months," Fyodorov said.
According to the VTsIOM director, 72% of Russians followed the developments in Ukraine three weeks ago, 74% two weeks ago, and 80% a week ago. Of them, 35% said that they "have closely been following" the situation in Ukraine.
When asked how they assess the latest developments in Ukraine, the majority of those polled described them as a "coup d'etat and an armed seizure of power," "anarchy, lawlessness and banditry," and a "civil war", while 8% of those polled said that it was a provocation on the part of the United States, and 3% blamed Western interference.
"Whereas a mere 16% of respondents said earlier that Russians and Ukrainians do not have much in common, 38% of people say so today. However, 44% still believe that the two nations have a lot in common," Fyodorov said.