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Temporarily occupied territories in Donbas and the blockade: action to take – opinion poll, experts

Kyiv, February 16, 2017.

There is no consensus in the Ukrainian society as to the state policy on temporarily occupied territories.

Polling results

Ukrainians are not ready to compromise, majority stands for returning the pre-war status quo, however, they constitute only 27 per cent. Opposite viewpoints – hard and soft power have equal share. The results were presented by Maria Zolkina, political analyst at the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. “Seventeen per cent of respondents support the idea of recognizing the territories as occupied and limiting ties with them to the maximum. Fourteen per cent are ready to accept the special status, preferences or self-government to stop the conflict. Fourteen more percent are of the opinion that the state needs to preserve its current policy while each fourth respondent does not have the answer to the question,” the analyst said.

Seventy per cent of Ukrainians do not support the idea of granting preferences to the territories in exchange for termination of the conflict. This idea is also supported by the majority – 60 per cent in the government-controlled part of Donbas. The respondents, in eastern Ukraine, claimed non-aligned status unacceptable- 47 per cent think. Similarly, unacceptable for all regions is the amnesty to separatists, elections in the uncontrolled areas, remarkably in the east these scenarios are regarded as least acceptable.

The role of Minsk agreements and attitude to them in the society

Only 11 per cent of the respondents support the Minsk process. Ukrainians do not understand what the use of it is. “Minsk agreements are not perceived by the wider society. They do not realize what changes Minsk introduces into their lives and whether they are positive. However, it was Minsk that has brought de-escalation, allows exercising pressure on Russia with the sanctions, as well as consented Ukraine not to trade its sovereignty,” said Valentyn Krasnopyorov, coordinator of “Sylni Hromady” (strong communities) project at the Center UA NGO.

Economic blockade of the territories: a way out?

Seventeen percent of the interviewed support complete blockade of the non-controlled territories. Its supporters say that it is a reintegration tool. “All the companies that operate there are paying “imposts” to the ‘LPR’ and ‘DPR’. They are doing so due to high tariffs on railway transportation and high prices on energy sources. Should we fund the war that the aggressor is waging on us? If we stop financing the war against us, we will have a real opportunity to reintegrate our territories,” said Serhiy Garmash, editor-in-chief of “OstroV” news web site. Yuriy Grymchak, advisor to the Minister on the affairs on the temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons in Ukraine, is of another opinion. “Does anyone really think that if we practice the blockade, they will run out of ammunition and stop firing?” he emphasized. He said, companies registered in the government-controlled areas and operating in the non-controlled ones, paid UAH 32 billion to the state budget. “It is half of our state security budget,” Grymchak said. In his opinion it is remarkable that people residing in the government-controlled areas do not perceive those who remained in the occupied part as traitors. Among those who share this viewpoint, majority is the residents of the government-controlled territories in the east that were most affected by the conflict.

Blockade is not something that the civil society and politicians should focus on. “When negotiations process will start moving away from the deadlock, society after watching TV shows on the blockade not on reintegration, will hardly accept the results of this reintegration process,” said Oleksiy Matsuka, head of board at the Donetsk Institute of Information NGO.

Neither of the political forces is gaining as much support in percentage as the blockade does. “There are political movements that call for early elections, there are many ‘no one’s’ voters. People are disappointed and do not know what to do. The blockade is the way to ‘gain’ voters,’ added Iryna Bekeshkina, director of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

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