Ben Aris in Moscow -
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have won the battles in East Ukraine but he has definitely lost the war for hearts and minds in Ukraine, which suggests that he will also fail to achieve his long-term goals to keep Ukraine out of EU and maybe even Nato.
A poll released by Gallup on December 15 concludes that the support there was for the Russian leadership in Ukraine has fallen by 90% in the last year: just 5% of respondents in the survey say they have a positive view of the Russian administration under Putin, down from 43% a year earlier (The poll excluded the Crimea).
The poll should worry the Kremlin as traditionally the Russophile eastern half the country has shown high ratings for the Russian leadership for most of the last decade. Now the disapproval of the Kremlin is uniform over the whole country, Gallup found.
"The drastic change in approval is not that surprising, given Russia's backing of pro-Russian separatists and its gas dispute with Ukraine, but it marks a full divorce from Ukrainians' generally high approval ratings of Russian leadership over the past decade," Gallup said in it report. "Importantly, ratings have declined sharply across all of Ukraine - including the country's typically more Russian-leaning South and East, where 57% approved in 2013 and 12% approve today. In Ukraine's Central and North and Western regions, current approval is 1% and 2%, respectively."
The West may cheer in what could be taken as a victory for liberal forces, except Ukrainians have been underwhelmed by the West in the conflict as well. Disillusionment and disappointment with the EU and US for failing to come to Ukraine's aid with either money or military help during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv earlier this year, and now, with lack of fiscal support to stave off the looming economic meltdown, are also reflected in the poll. In particular, the approval of the German leadership amongst Ukrainians, which has been fighting the good fight on Europe's behalf, has also fallen by 7% over the same period to 41%.
While the western perspective is that Ukraine has definitely turned from Russia to Europe, the poll reflects the local view that Ukraine is on its own; the Maidan protests began as a call to join Europe, but quickly morphed into a more fundamental call to break the oligarch-client system and end endemic corruption. These are the same values espoused by Europe, but Ukrainian's feel let down by Europe, which has offered little other than rhetorical support in a fight that has cost 4,000 Ukrainian lives so far.
"Ukrainians' hard feelings toward Russia's leadership are not wholly unexpected, given its alleged actions in Ukraine, and that the situation in the East is still far from being resolved," concluded Gallup. "That Ukrainians' views of Western leadership have not improved is more surprising - but it suggests that many Ukrainians still feel they are on their own, despite the West's tough talk and economic sanctions against Russia. This is evident in their belief they would be alone if the conflict between Russia and Ukraine ever became an armed one."
The majority of Ukrainians (55%) think it is unlikely that the EU would intervene in the event of armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and about half (49%) think it is unlikely that the US would get involved, Gallup found.
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