Residents’ moods in the occupied Russian territories: presentation of the study

25.08.2022 Off By Editor
Residents’ moods in the occupied Russian territories: presentation of the study

On August 15, 2022, at the Ukraine-Ukrynform Media Center, the Active Group company  and the International Center for Countering Russian Aggression (MC PRA) presented the results of a study on the attitudes of residents in the temporarily occupied territories of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Kharkiv regions.


With a report in Spanish, German, etc. Languages can be found at the end of the material.

In his opening remarks, Dmytro Gromakov, head of research projects at the International Center for Countering Russian Aggression , said: “Recently, Russia has very actively started promoting the idea of ​​a “referendum” in the temporarily occupied territories. And in order to understand what is happening there, and what they can count on, we offered the Active Group company  to conduct such a sociological study. The numbers we got as a result show the main thing – that the Russians have nothing to count on today in terms of the so-called “referendum”, no one supports them, and no one wants a split or the withdrawal of Ukrainian territories to some other state. In general, at this time, as far as we know, the Russians have already changed several dates of these “referendums” and in general, this topic is leaving the information agenda.”

According to Andriy Yeremenko , director of the Active Group company , the research was conducted on August 4-8, 2022 in the temporarily captured territories of Kherson region, Zaporozhye region, and Kharkiv region using a combined method using all possible means of communication. The error does not exceed 2.9%.

According to the results of the survey, residents of the territories of Ukraine temporarily under the control of Russian troops mostly feel fear, disgust and hatred towards the Russian Federation.

“What emotions do they feel there? The greatest emotion is fear. That is, how come they (invaders – ed.) don’t say that they liberated, that the “liberators” came, but the main emotions that people feel are fear and disgust, hatred,” Eremenko said, also mentioning helplessness, anger, sorrow. About 10% of those surveyed are happy.

If Russia gains control over the region, 72.7% of the survey participants answered that their well-being will deteriorate significantly, 16.7% believe that it will deteriorate somewhat, 2% are convinced that their well-being will not change, 3.1% – somewhat will improve, 1.8% will improve significantly. And 3.7% could not decide on an answer.

To the question: “In your opinion, to what extent are the actions of the Russian Federation in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine fair and justified?” (1 – fair and justified, 10 – categorically illegal, unjust and unjustified)?”, almost half of the respondents (49.5%) answered that the actions are categorically illegal, unjust and unjustified. A quarter of respondents (25.9%) scored 9 points out of 10 for illegality and injustice, 15.6% of respondents scored 8 points. 3.1% of the respondents justify the actions of the invaders, 0.2% to 1.5% of the respondents gave 2 to 7 points.

The research participants were also asked to assess the validity of the territorial claims of the Russian Federation on their region: 72.7% answered that the claims are completely unfounded, 2% – that the claims are rather unfounded. However, 9.9% consider Russia’s claims justified, and 15.4% could not decide on an answer. “Those who find it difficult to say should be paid special attention to, because in those conditions they experience fear. That is why many of them answered yes, because they are afraid,” the director of the Active Group company is confident .

At the same time, 6.8% of respondents are sure that their region should be an integral part of Ukraine; 0.9% – that their region should become an independent state or part of a new independent state; 6.8% – for joining the Russian Federation; 10.3% – it doesn’t matter in which country their region will be, 13.6% of respondents were undecided.

When asked about participation in the “referendum” if Russia were to hold it, 81.8% said they would not go, and only 9% answered that they would go, 9.2% of respondents did not decide this question for themselves.

The head of analytical projects of the International Center for Countering Russian Aggression, Valentina Bykova , spoke about persons who, from the Russian side, will try to create the illusion of popular expression and are involved in the organization of fake referendums.

“At the level of the Kremlin, this is handled by the Department for State Affairs, which is headed by Oleksandr Kharichev, a close friend of Serhiy Kiriyenko. The “referendums” are directly overseen by Kharychev’s deputy, Boris Rapoport, a political technologist who specializes in problematic election campaigns. And this is good, it indirectly indicates that the occupiers do not expect that it will be easy and the result will be exactly as they want. As they say, another Russian political technologist Serhiy Tolmachov works “in the field”, that is, directly in the occupied territories. His official position is vice-governor of the annexed Sevastopol, that is, he is Aksyonov’s deputy. Serhiy Tolmachov is a specialist in “black PR” and the use of administrative resources in election campaigns. So again we see that personnel are being recruited who are trained from the outset to

Now Tolmachov and other Russian political technologists are trying to create an informational background through numerous interviews in the Russian media, which allegedly indicates that the population of the occupied territories of Ukraine cannot wait for the so-called referendums to be held and when this “joyful event” will finally take place.

I want to note that the occupiers are working quite roughly, even now, at the preparatory level, there are no illusions that this will be a free expression of will, as we in Ukraine are used to understanding it. What data show this? All visible propaganda in the occupied territories, and the entire information campaign for the organization of fake referendums, takes place under the slogan “Together with Russia.” Under this slogan, a forum was held in Melitopol, in Kherson, under which there is now an agitation and a “civil movement” with this name has been created. That is, it is not about determining the fate of the territory through a plebiscite. “We are together with Russia” is already being programmed at this stage. I will read a quote from the final communique of the forum in Melitopol: “We, the participants of the forum “Together with Russia”, the people of the Zaporizhia region, its various social groups and professional communities declare,

Well, first of all, pay attention to the so-called “people of the Zaporizhia region”, which suddenly appeared. That is, for 8 years we have heard that there is some mythical “people of Donbas”, although it has neither its own special language, nor any national clothes, nor other signs that define the people as a separate community. Now we are told that a separate community “people of Zaporizhzhya region” has already appeared, and apparently there are also “people of Kherson region” and “people of Kharkiv region”.

All this, together with formative polls, which are also voiced by Kremlin political technologists, is one of the techniques of Russian propaganda called “big wagon” or “joining the majority.” When a person constantly hears that supposedly 90% of the population wants to enter Russia, or that we already have a public movement “Together with Russia”, and a person thinks – well, what can be done here? This is one of the ways of forming and programming people who are still undecided or have doubts about something.

I also want to note that for the first time since 2014, we are recording organized informational resistance in the occupied territories of Kherson region, Zaporizhia region, and Kharkiv region. Anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian leaflets constantly appear there, inscriptions on the asphalt, such as “We are waiting for the Armed Forces” or “The Armed Forces are already nearby”, yellow-blue or separately yellow ribbons appear. The yellow ribbon became a symbol of resistance to the occupiers in the territories of southern Ukraine and part of the Kharkiv region.

After the presentation, the speakers answered the journalists’ questions.

  • Tell me, did you make a sample at least for internal needs, by age and by territory? And the second question – is it possible to raise the issue of education during the next research? It is very interesting to know how many people there are ready to go to those schools and to those teachers who are imported from Crimea. That is, how many are looking for opportunities to study in Ukraine, and how many are willing to temporarily sacrifice part of the educational process of their children in order to send them to full-fledged Ukrainian schools later?”.

Andriy Yeremenko : When you see a small sample – 1,200 or less, and there are distributions of age, sex, and territory, it means that there is a very high error. That is, in general, according to the research, the error is acceptable, and for each of these distributions, it is already high. Therefore, this picture can be published, but the error will be from 8 to 10%.

As for other topics, there is a lot of interesting stuff there. When we formed the questionnaire, there were many questions, and many topics could be inserted. Next time we will change the topic. I

Dmytro Gromakov: In general, the problem of research in the occupied territories is that we cannot know how many people have left there, and what is the current social structure there. These percentages matter, but only in large numbers. They show the main trend and the overall picture, nothing more. As for the following topics, now including the topic of education and how it will be built, when we still have a war and active hostilities, is a big problem. Because we understand that starting the educational process when something may fly into the school tomorrow is too bold even for them. As we can see from the behavior of teachers in the occupied territories who refuse to go to the classrooms, this is not a very acute problem so far.

  • How long did it take you to do this work and what difficulties did you face during the surveys?

Andriy Yeremenko : the survey itself, when they called and asked directly, lasted 4 days. But we had at least a week before the field, when we were preparing ways to reach people, looking for coordinators, people on the ground who can give and collect questionnaires. It then took some time to process because not all responses were valid. It took another two days to control and process the information.

  • Say, we see from the results that 9% of those you spoke to said they would go to the so-called “referendum”. They support the occupying power, or maybe there are those among them who will go to show their position, which will show that they do not support the occupying power?

Andriy Yeremenko : we understand that there are 10 to 12% of those who expect certain improvements, or see the “reasonableness of the Russian Federation’s claims to the land”, or there are those who consider the Russian Federation’s actions justified to one degree or another. According to these data, we can say that they are somewhere around 10-12%. But not on the last question “will you come or not come?”

Valentina Bikova:Regardless of how exactly the residents of the occupied territories vote, the result that the Kremlin needs will be drawn. I will add a little more about exactly how the so-called referendums are planned to be held. Serhii Tolmachov, whom I mentioned, has already highlighted in the Russian mass media that, first of all, it can be electronic voting. And you and I all perfectly understand that the result of electronic voting on the territory under the control of Russia will be exactly the number that is needed. Second, it will be a vote at home. And not for some limited category of citizens – the elderly or those with disabilities, it is planned quite massively. It is also planned to involve heads of condominiums or house elders, who will be appointed by the occupiers if the person who held this position has left, and they will go around the apartments accompanied by Russian military personnel. As a person votes, when two Russian soldiers come to her, most likely with assault rifles? And there is also information that this “referendum” will be extended for 7 days. That is, now the only question is what figure the occupiers draw “for” – 60, 70, 80 or 90%.