Leonid Ragozin explains why many Ukrainians are disillusioned with both Kiev and Moscow:
Southeast Ukraine may be the world’s most difficult and unwelcoming environment for fomenting a genuine protest—stability tops the list of local values and priorities. Many local residents admire Putin for bringing that to Russia, but what he is now peddling in Ukraine is instability, and that’s a very tough sell.
Russia’s efforts are getting increasingly counterproductive. In fact, Putin has become the single biggest force helping to patch up the split between Ukraine’s nationalist west and Russophone east. While the West and many Ukrainian politicians continue to alienate Ukrainian Russophones by treating them as if they are an unfortunate historical error, Putin did more than all of them combined to awake many in Ukraine’s east to the fact that their country, however imperfect, is a better place for a Russian speaker than Russia proper is. A recent poll show that a majority of people in Ukraine’s Russophone regions don’t support separation.
Akos Lada and Maria Snegovaya note that the divide between supporters and opponents of the Euromaidan revolution “is becoming more generational than regional”:
Younger (and better-educated) Ukrainians across all the regions of Ukraine are Western-oriented, support democracy and pro-Western development. As to their attitudes toward Euromaidan, the pattern is such that the older a person is, the more he or she supported the Viktor Yanukovich government and opposed the protesters[.] … Strikingly, the generational change would almost entirely eliminate any existing regional divide in Ukraine in about 10 years if Russia did not intervene – according to the estimates of Evgeny Golovaha, a Professor at the Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine. This is similar to the pattern of convergence described by Alesina et al. in “Goodbye Lenin or not” for Western and Eastern Germany. Overall, Ukrainians are not only turning to the West but making a different civilizational choice, where democracy comes in a package with different political values.
Christian Caryl relays what people in Odessa, another strategically important Russophone city, are saying:
There are, undoubtedly, many Odessans who might welcome rule from Moscow. One hears little Ukrainian spoken on the streets; it’s estimated that about 90 percent of the 1 million people inhabitants of the city prefer to use Russian in their daily lives. Politically, though, Odessa is sharply divided between those who applaud annexation by Russia and those who remain loyal to the goals of the Euromaidan revolution that toppled the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. …
Yet despite the differences in opinion, it’s hard to find anyone in Odessa who welcomes the possibility that Russian forces might invade. “I’m afraid of war,” says Alina Savchenko, a 25-year-old teacher, who notes that her family has members in both Russia and Ukraine. “I live here. I don’t want to see any conflicts among my relatives.” She can think of little positive to say about the revolutionary government in Kiev, but says that she would prefer to see Ukrainians solve their own problems “without interference from the outside, whether it be from Europe or Russia.” Poll figures suggest that Savchenko speaks for the mainstream. Recent surveys in eastern Ukraine have found that even there only a tiny minority — from 4 to 4.7 percent — want to break away from the country.