Ukraine’s Security Service orders ‘check’ on authoritative public opinion pollster over question in survey
The Lviv Regional branch of the Security Service, or SBU, has announced it is carrying out a check into what it calls a “provocative survey”, possibly containing ‘calls to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and inviolability’. The news has caused bemusement and not only because the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology [KIIS] is one of the most authoritative researchers into public opinion in Ukraine. It is even more baffling since similar research carried out in 2014 may have played a major role in restraining Russia’s plans for seizing control of even more parts of Ukraine.
The SBU became involved over a survey which KIIS was commissioned to carry out in Halychyna (Western Ukraine) by the newspaper Dzherkalo Tyzhnya. Western Ukrainians were asked how they viewed the fate of their area after the presidential elections. One of the possible answers was: “Halychyna should join Poland”.
At least one Facebook user believed that KIIS had been paid to ask a question that he evidently saw as seditious, and suggested that it was for the SBU to ascertain who was the paymaster.
That same day, 24 April, the Lviv Oblast Branch of the SBU wrote that they were carrying out a check into the survey and asserted that: “According to initial expert conclusions, “the survey” contains certain elements of the crime envisaged by Article 110 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code. In particular, public calls or the circulation of material with calls to encroach upon the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine”.
The report went even further, urging the public “to not succumb to provocation and not encourage the public circulation of the said ‘survey’ which is a clear element of hostile propaganda.”
It is not only Volodymyr Paniotto, KIIS Director, who does not see this as at all clear. The survey in Halychyna is carrying the same task as that of surveys undertaken in Donbas in 2014, when respondents had an option of saying that they wanted to join the Russian Federation.
There were no objections then from the SBU. Perhaps the latter’s vigilance has intensified since then, however it is, in fact, very fortunate that those surveys were carried out.
Paniotto notes that Andrei Illarionov, a former aide, later fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote back in 2014 that it was the results of the survey that had resulted in an end to the so-called ‘Novorossiya’ project and Putin’s further advances into Ukraine, since the Kremlin had understood that it lacked the support needed in Ukraine.
Paniotto was referring to a survey, also carried out for Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, which found that even in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, there was only 30% support for joining Russia. In the Kharkiv oblast there was 16% support and in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast even less.
There are also other surveys from that period which doubtless made unpleasant reading for Putin.
The last survey into Ukrainian attitudes to Russia and vice versa before Russia’s invasion of Crimea was carried out in Ukraine by KIIS, together with the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, from 8 to 18 February 2014. The results were compared to those obtained by the Levada Centre in Russia.
12% of respondents throughout all parts of Ukraine wanted to form a single country with Russia. This had fallen over recent years from 20%, but increased by 3% in connection with Euromaidan. The figures were certainly higher in Crimea (41%); the Donetsk oblast (33%) and the Luhansk oblast (24%), but still far from even a simple majority.
A poll on Ukrainians’ attitude to the status of Crimea and to whether Ukraine should remain a unitarian country was carried out by the Rating [«Рейтинг»] Sociological Group from 1-7 March 2014, i.e. between Russia’s invasion and the pseudo-referendum it used to claim justification for annexation. The results directly refute key assertions made by Russia during annexation and since.
Only 5% of Ukrainians (including respondents in Crimea) though that Crimea should be separate, or handed over to Russia, with a large majority (77%) believing it should retain autonomous status within Ukraine. That percentage had risen from 60% three years earlier. Most of those who supported Crimea’s separation and ‘joining’ Russia were in the south, however there was still only 19% support.
87% of the respondents were against Donbas seceding from Ukraine (with 9% in favour).
A survey was carried out by the Ukrainian Sociological Service for the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Civic Watch from 16 to 30 March 2014. The questions were aimed at determining whether Ukrainians had separatist leanings, and found essentially that they did not.
An absolute majority (89% both in Ukraine as a whole, and in Donbas) viewed Ukraine as their motherland. Only a small percentage supported separatist ideas – 8% for the country as a whole, and 18% in Donbas.
Russia has expended a great deal of money on pushing a narrative about rampant separatism in Ukraine, as well as on supporting various fringe groups. It has also used fake NGOs and even fake protests to claim that minorities in Ukraine are persecuted and / or want to secede (see, for example,
In all such cases, hard statistics are of vital importance, and the SBU is not helping Ukraine’s interests by obstructing research into the real situation in Ukraine.