According to Ms. Bekeshkina, neither Ukrainians, nor Russians want to be united with Russia. The majority of respondents in Ukraine and Russia would like both countries to remain independent, yet friendly, countries with open borders and without any visas or customs. The idea is supported by 68% in Ukraine and 59% in Russia. Only 12% of respondents in Ukraine want it to merge with Russia into one country.
Commenting on the referendum in Crimea, the Head of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation stressed that, ‘if held under the barrel of a gun, the referendum will yield the results planned by its organizers. This is no way a democratic expression of will. In Crimea, less than half of the population (41%) support the union. In Donetsk, the number is 33%. There is not a single region in Ukraine where the majority of population would be in favor of joining Russia.’
Ms. Bekeshkina also highlighted the factors that separate and unite Ukrainians. According to her, from the very beginning Ukrainians were divided in their attitude to Maidan: less than half Ukrainians did not support Maidan, but even among those people, the absolute majority would not wish to join Russia.
Ukrainians are unanimous in that they do not want a military scenario regardless of which side they take. According to the latest surveys of 18 February, only 0.9% of Ukrainians (approximately 300,000 people) are ready to participate in illegal paramilitary groups. Iryna Bekeshkina expects this number to grow in the nearest future.
Speaking of the foreign policy orientation, the majority of Ukrainians (46%) support the EU path and the minority (35%) are in favor of the Customs Union. Ms. Bekeshkina is of the opinion that in view of the recent developments, the number of EU supporters will be growing, while the number of Customs Union supporters will be decreasing.
Iryna Bekeshkina – Head of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, researcher of political behavior in Ukraine, leading Ukrainian sociologist. Doctor of philosophical sciences. Since 1991 – research officer at Institute of Sociology National Science Academy of Ukraine. Since 1996 – vice director of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, one of the first orginizers of exit polls in independent Ukraine. Iryna Bekeshkina was included to the list of 100 the most powerful women of Ukraine by “Focus” magazine in 2007 and 2008.