Russians are evenly divided over whether Ukraine is a friendly neighbor or a worrying threat in Eastern Europe, a new poll has revealed, amid escalating tension across their shared border with the former fellow Soviet Republic.
The survey, in which 1,600 people were questioned, was published on Tuesday by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, and uncovered people’s attitudes towards the nearby country and its citizens.
More than half of respondents (52%) answered that they view the Ukrainian people as brothers, with this opinion being more common among older citizens. In comparison, 31% of Russians surveyed, mostly young people, said they had a neutral attitude towards their neighbors. Only 11% believed that Ukrainians were a hostile people to their population.
Meanwhile, the number of respondents who consider Ukraine a friendly country was notably lower, polling at 29%. More than a quarter (26%) said that they consider the state to be just a nearby country.
An equal number of Russians (12%) said Ukraine is a friendly state and the same percentage also called it a threat. According to a previous survey conducted in 2019, there has been no change in the perception that Kiev is a threat to Moscow. In comparison, the number of respondents who believe that Ukraine is a friendly state has increased by 4% in the last two years.
The results of the survey come amid escalating political hostility swirling around the two nations. Earlier this month, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed concern over the risk of a full-blown armed conflict in south-eastern Ukraine, warning that Kiev could order an offensive into the war-torn Donbass region.
Peskov’s remarks came just a day after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged that the country was significantly increasing its military force by “pulling heavy equipment and personnel” into the region, claiming that 125,000 troops had already been deployed – half of the size of Ukraine’s army.
Kiev’s intelligence service and Western officials have issued several warnings in recent weeks that Moscow could soon invade Ukraine. Russian officials have insisted the allegations do not reflect reality, instead expressing concern over its neighbor’s long-held ambitions to join NATO.
Zakharova warned that the edging of the US-led military bloc further eastwards is a red line for Russia, and Ukraine’s hopes for accession into it is unacceptable. According to her, Washington is pulling Kiev into NATO’s orbit and transforming it into a “bridgehead” of confrontation with Moscow – which could destabilize Europe.