Staunton, July 29 – The Russian government is totally opposed to the creation of an international tribunal to investigate the downing of the Malaysian airliner a year ago and will likely veto a proposal for such a venue at a meeting of the UN Security Council today. But a recent poll shows about half of all Russians are quite ready to see such a tribunal set up.
The reason for that, Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Center Analytic Center which conducted the poll, says that those taking that position generally believe that such a tribunal would condemn the Ukrainian side.
“Only a small part of the citizens of the Russian Federation are inclined to believe that it would condemn” either pro-Moscow separatists or “Russia which gave them arms. Those who think that guilt falls on the Russian Federation are mostly against a corresponding tribunal or at least more cautiously evaluate the prospects of its being set up.”
“For the domestic consumer,” he says, the Russian government explains “its protest against the creation of an international tribunal at the UN by saying that such a decision is premature, not objective, politicized, and isn’t necessary until the completion of investigations by other courts.”
“The presumption of Ukraine’s guilt exists,” Gudkov continues. The Russian media is still full of stories saying that the Ukrainians are “exclusively” guilty, and “the majority of Russians” as a result are inclined to believe that either the Ukrainian military or Kyiv itself is guilty of the shoot down.
Thus, Gudkov argues, “the absolute majority of the Russian population on this issue supports the position of the official authorities,” even though they are more willing to have a tribunal formed than the Kremlin is. Their view has been formed by “a most powerful and extraordinarily aggressive one-sided demagogic position.”
Russians “cannot check the facts and believe everything they are told, especially in the provinces. After more than a year and a half of unceasing anti-Ukrainian campaign, people are ready to view Ukraine a priori as guilty of all sins.”
A small but declining percentage blame the US. A year ago, 22 percent of Russians said the United States was responsible for the shooting down of the Malaysian plane. Now, 17 percent do, and this opinion is found most often among the least educated strata of the Russian population.
The small share of Russians who are ready to blame the Russian side for the shooting down of the plane, in contrast, Gudkov says, are “more educated, politically better informed, and critically inclined toward the authorities. In general,” he adds, “this is the urban population of the major cities.”