Putin More Popular After Malaysia Air Crash

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating rose to near a six-year high as tensions with the U.S. and Europe escalated after a Malaysia Air passenger jet crashed in Ukraine’s rebel-held territory.

The Russian leader’s rating rose to 86 percent from 85 percent, according to a July 19-20 poll by the state-run All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion, known as VTsIOM. Putin’s popularity was 87 percent in May, which was the highest since 2008.

The popularity of the Russian leader, who returned to the presidency in 2012 amid the biggest protests against his rule, has been rising steadily this year, bolstered by Russia hosting its first Winter Olympics in February and the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March. Putin’s approval continued climbing as the country entered its tensest standoff with the U.S. and its allies over the escalating conflict in Ukraine.

“People’s stance toward Putin and the war in Ukraine is firmly fixed, just like in the West,” VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov said by phone. “The Boeing crash will only reinforce that.”

Russians’ view of Putin is unswayed by the July 17 downing of Malaysia Air Flight 17, which killed all 298 people aboard, as they believe the responsibility lies with the U.S. or Ukraine, Fedorov said. Most people in the country dismiss the U.S. saying that the plane was probably hit by a missile fired from a Russian-supplied launcher, which the Kremlin denies, he said.

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