Survey: Majority of Donbas residents want to be part of Ukraine

More than five years after the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine, most residents of the country’s Donbas region still see themselves as part of Ukraine, according to a recent survey carried out by the Berlin-based Center for East European and International Studies (ZOiS).

According to the research, 64.7 per cent of respondents from the government-controlled parts of Donbas want the region to be fully reintegrated into Ukraine with no special status, a decrease of a mere one per cent compared to a similar ZOiS survey carried out in 2016. Among the residents of the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk (DNR) and Luhansk (LNR), 31 per cent would prefer autonomous status within Ukraine, while 23.5 per cent would support full reintegration.

However, the number of those supporting the region’s absorption by Russia without any special conditions has grown by seven per cent to 18.3 per cent.

“In both the 2016 and 2019 surveys, about 55 per cent of the DNR/LNR population expressed their preference for belonging to the Ukrainian state. This is an important corrective to Russia’s official rhetoric and public perceptions in the West,” said Gwendolyn Sasse and Alice Lickner, the authors of the report.

At the same time, the number of those identifying themselves as Ukrainian in the separatist-controlled regions has dropped significantly from 53 to 26 per cent over the last three years. “This significant weakening of identification with the Ukrainian state captures the disappointment of those living close to the front line and a sense of having been left behind by the central government,” the ZOiS research found.

However, the research also claimed that the share of residents considering themselves ethnic Ukrainian, mixed ethnic Ukrainian and Russian, as well as people from Donbas, had also grown significantly.