On eve of Normandy summit, most Ukrainians reject peace at any price

Sloviansk is the first place which experienced Russian aggression in 2014. Photo: Olena Makarenko.  

War in the Donbas

On the eve of peace talks at the Normandy summit in Paris, a record number of Ukrainians reject peace at any price in Donbas, where a war is dragging on between the Ukrainian army and Russian- led militants. Some compromises for regulating the war in Donbas remain unacceptable for Ukrainian society. Among them is a total amnesty for Russian-backed militants who are fighting against the Ukrainian army.

This and other findings related to resolving the conflict in the Donbas are revealed in an opinion poll conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DI) and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. The study was carried out in 110 locations in all the oblasts of Ukraine (with the exception of occupied Donbas and Crimea). Iryna Bekeshkina, head of the DI, stressed that a non-tolerant position toward the militants prevails in all regions of Ukraine, including eastern Ukraine, where 45% do not support a full amnesty.

Only 14% of respondents think that any compromise is acceptable for peace. Compared to June 2019, this opinion has decreased by 6%. Almost 60% believe there should be some compromises for reaching peace, but not a carte blanche.

The wording “self-proclaimed republics” in the question to designate the occupied territories is rather typical of official Russia than in Ukraine. Data: dif.org.ua, November 2019. Data: dif.org.ua, November 2019.

According to the poll, the biggest share of those prepared for any compromise is among the voters of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform for Life party (33%).

The study shows that Ukrainians consider the majority of compromises Russia is pressing for referring to the Minsk protocol unacceptable as well. These include:

  • holding local elections under conditions demanded by the Russian-backed militants – before Ukraine gains control of the border (unacceptable for 66%, acceptable for 16%);
  • a full amnesty for combatants against Ukrainian forces (unacceptable for 66%, acceptable for 19%);
  • forming law enforcement bodies for the temporarily occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts solely from local citizens (unacceptable for 56%, acceptable for 21%).

On the whole, southern and eastern regions of Ukraine are more willing to compromise. Both regions are more supportive than other regions of enshrining a “special status” for the Donbas in the Ukrainian Constitution – 41% in southern Ukraine and almost 54% in eastern. 60% of respondents from the two regions agree on a neutral or non-bloc status.

Respondents considered re-establishing “normal life” in the liberated territories (32%) and international pressure on Russia (32%) as the most effective ways to achieve peace. 15% also considered giving the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics (“DNR” and “LNR”) a special status within Ukraine an effective measure in attaining peace. 22% were undecided.

The poll shows that 62% of Ukrainians prefer the “DNR” and “LNR” being returned to Ukraine on the same terms as before. More and more people support this position as time passes. 4% support the separation of the territories from Ukraine. 22% think these territories should receive more independence from the central government but still remain part of Ukraine.

The majority of respondents support the presence of peacekeeping forces in the “DNR” and “LNR” (59%). Of the respondents, eastern Ukrainians are the least supportive (47%).

Most respondents supported the disengagement of military forces at the frontline initiated by President Zelenskyy (60% positive and 27% negative). Numbers were higher in the eastern and southern regions, with 74% of southern respondents supporting disengagement. Supporters of the Opposition Platform for Life support disengagement almost unanimously (90%), while 69% of supporters of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People support disengagement and 20% do not. Of those who voted for ex-president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party are mostly opposed toward disengagement — 72% against and 19% for.

The biggest share of respondents (45%) define the Donbas conflict as Russian aggression against Ukraine with the involvement of local militants. 30% think the Russian invasion was aimed at conquering the Ukrainian state and adding it to the sphere of Russian influence.

Data: dif.org.ua, November 2019.

The majority of Ukrainians believe the purpose of fighting Russian aggression is to regain territorial integrity and uphold the sovereignty of Ukraine within its recognized international borders (39%) and defending the independence and the right of Ukrainians to define their future independently (31%). 21% of respondents left the question unanswered.

A significant share of respondents (29%) think the real interests of Donbas separatists are about money – they believe Russia pays them for their revolt.

Data: dif.org.ua, November 2019.

The survey was conducted between 4 to 19 November and was funded by the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine. During the research study, 2,041 questionnaires were completed. Accepted survey practice is to consider the percentage of error as 2.3%.


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Edited by: Vidan Clube

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