Russians See Most Nations Accepting Crimea Takeover, Poll Says

Most Russians believe that other countries will accept Crimea as part of Russia within a few years, despite international sanctions imposed in response to the takeover, a poll showed.

Seventy percent of Russians think a majority of countries will recognize President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine during the next few years, while 8 percent say it will never happen, according to the survey to be published on Wednesday by the state-run All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion, known as VTsIOM. Fifteen percent think recognition will come after a decade or more.

“Only very few think that Crimea should be returned because of the economic crisis, the ruble devaluation and the conflict with the West,” Valery Fedorov, head of VTsIOM, said by phone on Tuesday.

Putin formally declared the absorption of Crimea into Russia on March 18 last year, provoking the worst geopolitical standoff since the Cold War with the U.S. and Europe, which imposed economic sanctions in response. In a documentary film aired in Russia on Sunday, he said he intervened in Crimea to save its majority ethnic Russian population from “nationalists” in Kiev and was ready to put nuclear forces on alert to deter U.S. and European involvement.

‘Illegal’ Annexation

The U.S. and European Union sanctions are weighing on Russia’s economy as it slides toward its first recession in six years amid a slump in oil prices. The ruble weakened 46 percent against the dollar in 2014, while inflation accelerated to 16.7 percent in February, the fastest pace in almost 13 years.

Germany won’t forget the “illegal” annexation of Crimea and that the Kremlin broke international law, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on Monday. The U.S. doesn’t and won’t recognize Russia’s “cynical and calculated ’liberation’ of Crimea” and sanctions “will remain in place as long as the occupation continues,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement on Monday.

Crimea is a region of Russia and isn’t occupied, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.

Russians’ feelings about Crimea “are almost exclusively positive,” Fedorov said. They think of it as a vacation spot and hear reports that things are improving on the peninsula, which gives them “hope” that sanctions will be lifted, he said.

The transfer of Crimea to Russia is final and will not be reversed, 85 percent of respondents said. The move is good for Russia, according to 69 percent of those surveyed.

The annexation did more harm than good, 14 percent of respondents to the poll said. The number was “slightly” higher for more educated and affluent groups, Fedorov said.

The poll of 1,600 people in 46 Russian regions, conducted on Feb. 21-22, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, according to VTsIOM.

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