MARIUPOL, Ukraine: Several residents in this city in far eastern Ukraine said they want a united country, but they’re split on the use of force to solve Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists.
“We’re all here for a united Ukraine,” said Eduard Fyodorovych, 69, a retired steel worker, standing with friends by the community pigeon roost. But Fyodorovych said he wants protections for Russian language and schools, and he disagrees with the war. “All we want is peace and pensions,” he said.
His views and those of others reflect some of the findings of an opinion poll coming out Monday, which says a clear majority of Ukrainians would accept neutrality between the European Union and Russia.
“The greatest potential consensus lies in Ukraine affirming a neutral position between the EU [European Union] and Russia,” said the survey being presented at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.
The survey authors did not define neutrality other than to point out that European countries have urged Ukraine to move closer to the EU, while Russia wants Ukraine aligned with former Soviet republics.
The poll found wide differences on some questions between Ukrainians in different regions of the country, reflecting a split between the mostly Ukrainian-speaking north and west, which lean toward Europe, and the mostly Russian-speaking east and south, which lean more toward Russia.
The results show that 63 percent of Ukrainians would find neutrality tolerable, while 31 percent find it unacceptable. Support for the idea was least strong in Ukraine’s west, where 48 percent said they could tolerate the notion, and the same percentage said neutrality would be unacceptable.
The poll of 1,409 respondents in February and March was developed by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, a private Ukrainian company working with the National University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy.
The survey involved face-to-face interviews of 1,005 people across the country, including rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, and 403 additional phone interviews in those two regions.
It comes as more of President Obama’s advisers have voiced support for providing military aid to Ukraine’s military. A slight 52 percent majority of Ukrainians support this move, with three-quarters of respondents supportive in the west, and three-fifths supportive in the north. In the east, 62 percent opposed US military support, and the south is evenly divided.
The poll also found that Ukrainians were almost evenly divided (48 percent in favor and 42 percent against) on the use of force to regain territory lost to the separatists.
Anastasia Vinnechenko, 16, and Aleksander Shaptala, 17, walked elbow to elbow in a city park Sunday. She was dressed up for the occasion, a bunch of tulips and a box of chocolates in her arm.
The two stepped somewhat apart, however, when they started talking about the war.
The US should stay out of a war not on its soil that will only weaken both Ukraine and Russia, Shaptala said.
“I don’t want to fight,” he said. If he is drafted, “I’ll move away to Russia or some other country.”