🔒 89% of Ukrainians reject ceding land to reach peace deal with Russia – with insight from The Wall Street Journal

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WATCH: Snake Island, in the Black Sea, is a key battleground in the Ukraine war. Satellite images show how Russian forces are using the island to strengthen their military capabilities and block ships carrying grain, as Moscow continues its push in eastern Ukraine. Photo composite: Eve Hartley

In New Poll, 89% of Ukrainians Reject Ceding Land to Reach Peace With Russia

Ukrainians back Zelensky’s position that peace talks can’t grant Russia land it has seized, WSJ-NORC poll finds

By Aaron Zitner

An overwhelming share of Ukrainians—some 89%—say it would be unacceptable to reach a peace deal with Moscow by ceding Ukrainian territory that Russian forces have seized in their invasion this year, a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll finds.

The survey, conducted in conjunction with a Ukrainian polling firm, also finds that 78% of Ukrainians approve of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s response to the Russian invasion, with only 7% saying he has handled the war poorly. With little sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing popular revolt over the war, the new Journal-NORC survey suggests that the leader of neither nation is feeling immediate pressure from public opinion to make concessions that could lead to a settlement of the conflict.

The poll used live interviewers to survey 1,005 adults who use a mobile phone with service from one of Ukraine’s mobile providers, essentially covering areas controlled by the Kyiv government, as well as some Ukrainians who relocated abroad but retained Ukrainian mobile service. It excluded Russian-controlled Crimea and the separatist-controlled parts of Donbas, in Ukraine’s east, where Ukrainian mobile providers aren’t used.

The survey was conducted June 9-13, just as Ukrainian hopes for success in the war were bolstered by promises from the U.S. to supply advanced, guided-rocket systems intended to match Russia’s superior artillery power. It was taken before Russia’s recent missile attacks on areas of relative calm, such as the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and before Russian forces made significant advances toward their goal of controlling the full Donbas area.

While 89% of Ukrainians said it would be unacceptable to cede territory that Russia has taken since its invasion began on Feb. 24, a similarly large share, 81%, said their leaders shouldn’t negotiate peace by granting Russia parts of Ukraine it had seized earlier. That territory includes Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014, and parts of the Donbas, where Russia has organized and led separatist movements that have gained control of much of the region.

The rejection of any land-for-peace deal is built in large part on Ukrainian optimism about success on the battlefield. Presented with a list of possible outcomes for the war, 66% of Ukrainians in the survey said their nation’s forces would likely succeed in driving Russia out of territory it has seized this year. Only 10% said that prospect was unlikely.

Just over half in the survey, some 53%, said they believed Ukrainian forces would likely win an even more substantial victory, pushing Russia out of all territory it has occupied in recent years, including Crimea and the Donbas region. About 20% said the war would likely continue as a prolonged military stalemate, while only 6% said the war would end in a cease-fire that allowed Russia to retain occupied parts of the Donbas and the country’s south.

For a nation often divided by cultural differences between Ukrainian speakers and those who primarily speak Russian, the survey showed that Ukrainians are unified, at least for now, said Vadim Volos, a NORC vice president with polling experience in Eastern Europe who worked on the new survey.

“What we see in the poll is practically a united nation in response to the external threat,” he said.

Mr. Volos said his conversations with interviewers who conducted the poll suggested that the Ukrainian optimism for battlefield success “is almost like a faith. It’s not a calculated knowledge based on what we are seeing in the war, but it’s almost like a religious belief that ‘we have to win.’ ” Nevertheless, he said, those views suggest that Ukrainians, at least in the regions controlled by the Kyiv government, support Mr. Zelensky’s hard line against giving up territory in a potential peace deal.

The U.S., the U.K. and—most of all—Poland drew strong marks from Ukrainians for their support during the war, whereas Ukrainians showed little satisfaction with assistance from France and Germany. Those views mirror a split among leading North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations.

France and Germany have been reluctant to provide Ukraine the weaponry needed to reclaim ground lost to Russia and have talked about a negotiated settlement to the war. The U.S., U.K. and others, including nations once subjugated by the former Soviet Union, have taken a more aggressive posture and see the invasion as a prelude to additional Russian expansion in Europe.

Some 27% of Ukrainians in the survey said they were satisfied by support to their nation from France, and 22% said German support was satisfactory.

By contrast, 89% said they were satisfied with assistance from Poland, which has taken in more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees, as well as supplied weapons. About three-quarters of Ukrainians said they were satisfied with support from the U.S. and the U.K. In the U.S., Congress has appropriated more than $50 billion for aid to Ukraine.

The survey documented the personal toll that the war has taken on the Ukrainian public. More than half of people in the survey, or 55%, said they knew someone who had been killed in the fighting or had lost a family member, and three-quarters said they knew people forced to move from their home during the fighting.

Only one-third said they were free of any hardship from the war, with the rest saying that since Feb. 24 they had lost a job or income, or else had endured family separation, destruction of a home or property, failure to receive medical care or another personal hardship. About one-third said they had been displaced from their home or had to live apart from some family members.

Still, Ukrainians in the survey gave Mr. Zelensky high marks for the war effort. More than three-quarters said he has handled the nation’s defense and relations with Western countries well, and 84% said they had trust in him, compared with 38% who said they trusted the country’s parliament.

Support for Mr. Zelensky among people who primarily speak Russian or the Russian-Ukrainian patois known as surzhik was nearly as high as among people who primarily speak Ukrainian, suggesting that the invasion has unified the nation more than it has exacerbated its cultural divisions.

The survey also found high resentment toward Russia and an appetite for limiting the use of the Russian language in Ukrainian civic life, challenging Mr. Putin’s claim that citizens of the two nations are “one people, a single whole.’’

Some 82% of Ukrainians said their view of the Russian people had turned more negative since the war began, and two-thirds said they believed that the next generation would view Russians more negatively than Ukrainians do today. Even 79% of those who primarily speak Russian or surzhik said they have come to view the Russian people more negatively.

The poll showed that cultural differences remain, however, including on granting a role to the Russian language in civic life. While 77% of Ukrainian speakers opposed teaching Russian in schools and universities, only 47% of Russian or surzhik speakers did so.

Some 73% of Ukrainian speakers opposed allowing Russian to be used in courts and government institutions in mainly Russian-speaking areas of the country, compared with 41% of Russian and surzhik speakers.

Mr. Volos described these divisions as “a sleeping giant that was put to sleep by the war, but after the war can surface again,” depending on what territory Kyiv winds up controlling.

The survey also found that longstanding dissatisfactions among Ukrainians with their political culture remain. Some 57% said they held little or no trust in the Rada, or parliament. And 85% said that corruption among high officials and the wealthy was a major threat to the nation, nearly as large a share as the 97% who said the Russian invasion was a threat to Ukrainian security.

The Journal-NORC poll was conducted by live interviewers in Russian or Ukrainian. The weighted data reflect the Ukrainian adult population, excluding Crimea and Donbas areas not under Ukrainian control before Feb. 24. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

– Alan Cullison contributed to this article.

Write to Aaron Zitner at [email protected]