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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Most Russians Back Annexation of Ukrainian Territory But Largely Because Putin Seeks It, Levinson Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – There are no polls yet about the reaction of the Russian people to the referendums Vladimir Putin has organized in four Ukrainian regions, but Aleksey Levinson says most will support the move because Putin is pushing it and they don’t question what the Kremlin leader wants.

            That of course means, although the Levada Center sociologist does not say so, that if Putin were to change his mind and agree that these areas are Ukrainian or if he were to be replaced by another leader who accepted that reality, then a majority of Russians would likely support that as well.

            In an interview with The Bell, Levinson says that the annexation s “will be supported but not because everyone in the Russian Federation has always though that Kherson Oblast should be part of Russia” (thebell.io/teper-eto-zatragivaet-vsyu-stranu-aleksey-levinson–o-tom-kak-mobilizatsiya-povliyaet-na-rossiyskoe-obshchestvo).

            “Of course,” he continues, there are some who think that “all of Ukraine is part of Russia” and became a separate country only because it was “torn away” in 1991. For them, the return of any territory by any means is something they support.

            “But the majority in general doesn’t think about political issues; they are a priori loyal to any decision of the Russian powers that be or specifically to Putin. These people delegate things to him” and to those above them the power to make decisions about everything, “including those which concern their own lives.”

As far as Ukraine is concerned, they tend to view the conflict like a sports event. If Putin can take them back and the West can do nothing about it, then for them, Levinson says, that is a win for Putin and thus for themselves. They simply don’t think about the consequences for the thousands of people involved or indeed even for themselves.

At the same time, the sociologist argues that there are other Russians who are convinced that “all this is a violation of international law and the human rights of those who live on these territories.” Some of them have already expressed their lack of trust in these referendums. But “undoubtedly, they form a minority in Russia.”

“Whether their voices will be heard in Ukraine or Europe,” Levinson says, is something he personally simply doesn’t know given that in many places, Russians are mistakenly viewed as a monolithic whole that supports Putin no matter what.

 

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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