A poll by a Kiev-based firm found that pro-independence sentiment is even more prevalent after Ukraine’s nasty past year than before it, when the Maidan movement turned from protest to ouster and a new Ukraine began its struggle to be born. In fact, it’s the highest in 15 years. Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe reports:
Andriy Bychenko, the director of sociological research at the Razumkov Center, told RFE/RL the survey reflected a surge of patriotic feelings since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and the outbreak of war with separatists about two months later.
Bychenko said that “the fact that Ukraine did not give up” and allow eastern Ukraine to break away from the rest of the country with Russia’s military support was “a manifestation, not a cause, of a high level of support for independence.”
Overall, 72 percent support independence today, compared with 61 percent a year ago.
Yet as the article goes on to note, the top-line figures need a little context: the occupied and breakaway regions of Ukraine were not included in the poll. And even so, the total level of support for independence, though higher than in recent memory—only 53 percent supported Ukrainian independence when the same poll was taken in 2005, a year after the Orange Revolution—is markedly lower than the 90 percent who voted for Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. (Related, and similarly troubling: see this article in The Daily Beast about meaningful pro-Russian sentiment in Mariupol, the strategically significant port city on the Azov Sea currently being defended from separatists by the Ukrainian army.)
As Walter Russell Mead discussed back in February, a critical mass of reform-minded, Western-leaning citizens in Ukraine is as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for real change. That the number is higher is good news for those of us that want the best possible future for the country. But the challenges ahead for Ukraine—crushing debt, simmering conflict, rampant corruption, oligarchic control of politics—remain formidable.