Staunton, March 20 – Since the Maidan, a new Kyiv poll shows, the share of Ukrainians favoring EU integration has risen from 41 percent to 47.2 percent since the Maidan, while that backing integration with Moscow has fallen from 35 percent to 12.3 percent. At the same time, the portion favoring neutrality has increased from 9 to 27 percent.
These figures are a response to Russia’s military actions against Ukraine and to the European Union’s failure to do as much as many Ukrainians had hoped, analysts at the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology which conducted the survey, told Tatyana Ivzhenko of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” (ng.ru/cis/2015-03-20/1_ukraina.html).
In fact, the Kyiv experts said, “Ukrainians are afraid of the actions of Russia and at the same time do not trust European Union.”
The only part of the country in which more people favored integration with the Eurasian Union (30 percent) than the EU (20 percent) was in the Donbas, but even there, the former were far from a majority. In the southern regions, support for joining the EU stood at 33 percent, while backing for the Eurasian Union was 12 percent. In western and central Ukraine, majorities of 57 to 75 percent favored the EU while only very few backed the Moscow-led organization.
These figures mean, the newspapers Tatyana Ivzhenko says, that “even after the complete end of military activities, the Donbas could be reintegrated in Ukraine only on its own conditions,” which Kyiv has not yet accepted, and that there would be serious debates elsewhere as well because of distrust in the European Union.
Distrust in Europe, the Ukrainian experts say, has been growing over the past year because of the EU’s constant statements about the need for Ukraine to do nothing that would anger the Russians and its failure to do more than issue political declarations which showed that the EU was “for peace at any price,” even if Ukrainian interests had to be sacrificed.
The attitudes in the Donbas are “dictated by completely different things than in the remainder of Ukraine,” the Kyiv experts say. There, people put regional values ahead of state ones, a pattern that is true they suggest even in those parts of the region still under the control of the Ukrainian government.
According to one of the volunteers speaking on conditions of anonymity, “pro-Russian attitudes” are not strong there, “but people nonetheless feel a desire “to separate themselves from Ukraine which has not defended them or saved them from shelling, has not paid them their wages and pensions, and doesn’t offer them help.” They make the same demands of Russia.
Konstantin Bondarenko, the head of the Institute of Ukrainian Policy, says that “we have lost the Donbas, in the sense that Ukraine has lost the struggle for its people.” Even if Kyiv wins militarily, it will create more problems for itself because “the Donbas cannot be subordinated by force alone.”
But Sergey Taran, the head of the International Institute of Democracy, disagrees. At the very least, he suggests, it is too early to draw such conclusions. And he points out the obvious: the Donbas cannot afford to go its own way and needs help from Kyiv or from Moscow. Over time, the Ukrainian government is more likely to provide it, and that could prove decisive.