More than six in 10 Ukrainians hold a negative opinion of Russia, a poll by the pro-European and Kyiv-based Gorshenin Institute has found.
The poll, conducted in the second week of February among 2,000 Ukrainians, asked respondents to rate their opinions of Russia on a four-point scale ranging from “very positive” to “very negative”. 62.0% of them said they held either a strongly negative or rather negative opinion of Russia, while only 28.4% held a positive opinion of some form.
Those living in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea, Lugansk and Donestk were not included in the poll.
When asked to describe their opinions of a number of different countries, Russia emerged as the most negatively viewed country in the poll, with 71.6% holding either a negative or strongly negative opinion.
Russia was the only country to receive a majority of negative opinion ratings. The second-lowest rated country was China, with 41.5% holding a negative view, although 58.5% viewed China favourably.
The country held in the highest regard by those polled was Belarus, with 83.6% holding a positive opinion of Ukraine’s northern neighbour. Poland followed closely behind with 81.1% holding a favourable view of it, while Georgia sat in third place at 80.6%.
Belarus finds itself in the same predicament that Ukraine currently does with regards to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial aid package.
Belarus’ leadership appears either unwilling or unable to implement key economic reforms that the package is contingent on. And the remainder of Ukraine’s $17.5bn IMF aid package is also looking less and less likely to be released, as the country’s increasingly shambolic parliament struggles to maintain its reformist coalition amid high-level walkouts, an attempt to oust Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the ongoing saga of who Yatsenyuk’s eventual replacement might be.
Ukrainians’ favourable opinions of Belarus in the poll follows Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s announcement in January that there were no plans to cut trade ties with Ukraine in light of the Russian-imposed trade and freight sanctions on Ukraine.
The Belarusian leader also emerged as the most popular foreign leader among respondents, with 43.2% viewing him favourably, compared to only 33.0% for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 26.6% for US President Barack Obama, and only 6.8% for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When asked which, if any, direction of international integration should be taken, 55.5% of respondents said that Ukraine should join the EU, down from 62.2% last year. Only 12.7% believed that Ukraine should join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, down from 13.5% last year. 23.3% believed that Ukraine should join neither, up from 14.2% last year.
Opinions on Ukrainian membership of Nato were mixed, with 47.1% favouring membership in the military alliance, down from 54.1% last year. 35.4% were against membership, up from 33.1% in 2015.