Staunton, September 29 – Despite the propaganda victories Moscow has reaped from the presence of refugees from Ukraine in Russia and even the profits some Russian businesses have made from them, 45 percent of Russians now say the refugees should be sent back as soon as conditions permit, according to a new Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) poll.
That figure is up from 39 percent in a June poll, and that increase is mirrored by a fall in the share of Russians who say that their country should do everything it can to provide refugees from Ukraine favorable living conditions, with 40 percent saying that now, compared to 50 percent in June.
Even more striking, seven percent of Russians surveyed say that the refugees should be sent back as fast as possible rather than waiting until conditions in the eastern portions of Ukraine from which the refugees fled stabilizes.
Those Russians who have had direct contact with refugees appear less sympathetic to them than do others lacking such experiences. Thus, 66 percent of Russians who haven’t seen any refugees in their cities favor simplified procedures for the refugees to gain Russian citizenship. Of those who have had such contact, only 41 percent back that idea.
Indeed, the larger the influx of refugees, the more opposed Russians are to allowing them to gain citizenship and stay. Among Russians who have observed a large number of refugees in their regions, 48 percent oppose simplified citizenship procedures, the VTsIOM poll found. Most of those surveyed report that there are at least some refugees in their regions or cities, but almost one in five – 18 percent – say that there aren’t any at all.
Two-thirds of the sample say that Russia is today providing refugees from Ukraine “all the necessary help, but a quarter – 24 percent – say that it is giving them too much. Those who feel that way are most often found among those with lower incomes (30 percent) and in places where there are a large number of refugees (28 percent).
Only one in 25 – four percent – said that Russia isn’t doing enough for the refugees from the war zone.
On the one hand, these results are certainly not surprising: such refugee fatigue has affected many people around the world. But on the other, they must be worrisome to the Kremlin because popular attitudes about the refugees may be a more accurate measure of how Russians feel about the war.
And to the extent that Russians are less and less willing to support the refugees, such attitudes may put some pressure on Moscow to try to arrange things so that the refugees can return home rather than remain where they are now and become a trigger for popular anger at the Kremlin.