Russian People Increasingly Against Ukraine War: Opposition Poll

Momentum is building within Russia against the war in Ukraine waged by President Vladimir Putin, the jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny has said, citing a poll conducted by his aides.

Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence on what his supporters and Western legal analysts say are trumped-up fraud charges, has said that the way that Russians view the war being fought in their name will "define Russia's place in the history of the 21st century."

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Navalny outlined how his associates had conducted a series of four quick online polls between February 25, a day after Putin ordered the invasion, and March 3.

In one of the tweets, Navalny provided a database of respondents as well as their ages, which could not be independently verified by Newsweek.

Among the 700 respondents in Moscow who were asked how they would assess the role of Russia in the conflict in Ukraine, less than a third (29 percent) said on February 25 that Russia was the aggressor.

However, by March 3, this had jumped to more than half (53 percent) while only 28 percent viewed Moscow as a "liberator."

In the same time period, the proportion of people who believed that Russia was a "peacemaker" had more than halved—from 25 percent to 12 percent.

The poll of adults aged over 18 also found that on February 25, 14 percent of respondents believed Russia was "guilty," compared with 15 percent who blamed Ukraine and 39 percent who said the west was responsible.

By March 3, the proportion of people who blamed Russia for the conflict had nearly trebled to 36 percent. Those who blamed Ukraine had more than halved, from 15 percent to 7 percent.

Meanwhile, on March 3, 79 percent of people favored negotiations and "the soonest possible end to this fratricidal war," up from 68 percent on February 25.

The survey was not nationwide and gave no margin of error.

"To run a classic phone survey is time-consuming. Therefore we decide to hold a series of 4 quick, ultra-short online polls. Each of them included 700 participants from Moscow, all of them Internet users; quota sampling by gender and age took place," tweeted Navalny.

While admitting the poll was limited, Navalny said that it still gave a "plain and unambiguous" snapshot of a shift in public opinion, and that "it took a few days of war to bring about radical mood changes among Russians."

"People are generally willing to change their stance, but only if we engage them in the dialogue and provide them with true information about the war," he said in a series of tweets about the survey.

"Undoubtedly, the Kremlin can see these dynamics as well, hence the nervousness, the desperate attempts to end the war campaign as soon as possible," Navalny said.

"The anti-war momentum will keep growing across the society, so the anti-war protests should not be halted under any circumstances," he said. Navalny had previously called for daily demonstrations against the war, urging Russians to gather in cities every evening.

With their country facing economic meltdown, Russians may be inspired to take to the streets to oppose the war on financial grounds, although they will face a tough police presence and laws designed to stamp out any dissent.

As of Tuesday, 13,583 people had been arrested across the country for anti-war protests, according to OVD-Info, which tracks political arrests.

Russia protest
A police officer detains a protester holding a poster which reads "No war" at the bridge in front of the Kremlin, on February 27, 2022, in Moscow. Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny said that polling shows opposition within Russia to the war in Ukraine was increasing. Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty