A poll by Moscow-based VTsIOM has found that eight in ten Russians believe that recently convicted Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was involved in the deaths of two Russian journalists in Ukraine’s Donbas region last year.
The poll, conducted on March 19-20 this year, found that 81% of respondents who had heard of Savchenko believe she was involved in the lethal shelling at a roadblock in Luhansk, resulting in the deaths of Russian journalists Igor Korneliuk and Anton Voloshin. Only 4% believe that she was not involved, and 15% were unable to answer.
While 65% of respondents had heard of Savchenko, only 43% knew who she actually is. 22% knew her name but nothing about her.
Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Russian court on March 22, in what has been described by many as a show trial, amid suggestions that Savchenko was kidnapped in eastern Ukraine and smuggled over the Russian border.
Despite 81% of respondents saying they believe Savchenko was involved in the deaths of Korneliuk and Voloshin, only 37% described her in terms that were clearly negative or explicitly accusatory, as the second bneChart shows.
When asked to describe what they knew about Savchenko, only 14% specifically described her as the journalists’ killer, with 9% calling her a terrorist. 5% described her as a “Banderite” – a derogatory Russian term used to describe Ukrainian nationalists – while 4% described her as a military criminal. 3% described her as a “bad person”, while 2% described her as an assassin or Ukrainian spy.
The most popular description was simply that she is a Ukrainian pilot, at 22%. 19% described her as an artillery spotter.
Following her sentencing, it has been suggested that Savchenko may be spared prison, as part of a prisoner swap that could see her return to Ukraine in exchange for two Russian troops currently being held by Ukrainian forces.
When asked about the potential swap, 28% of respondents were against the idea, with 47% saying that Savchenko should serve her sentence in full. 2% of respondents believe she should be pardoned.