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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK

World: Europe

Russian public demands action

Scenes like this have caused widespread anger in Russia

By Russia specialist Tom de Waal

There has been a broad consensus amongst Russian politicians of all views and the Russian media against the Nato campaign on Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
Even the most liberal figures have opposed the bombing, while Communist and extreme nationalist politicians have proposed supporting the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, by sending him weapons or inviting Yugoslavia to join a "Slavic Union" with Russia and Belarus.

Opinion polls show mixed messages

The evidence confirms that ordinary Russians overwhelmingly oppose the bombing -- but it also shows that they are against Russia getting more closely involved in the conflict.

A survey taken by the "Public Opinion" Foundation of 1,500 people during the first week of the campaign found that:

  • 92% opposed the bombing and only two percent supported it.

  • The lowest level of opposition to Nato came from young people [88%] and the highest [96%] from amongst those who, aged 50 or more remember how NATO was Russia's enemy during the Cold War.

  • The highest level of support for NATO -- though still tiny at five percent of those questioned -- was in Russia's two capital cities, Moscow and St Petersburg.

Another survey of the same size by the same foundation taken earlier this week asked Russians what actions they would like to see their country take and found them reluctant to support any military involvement.

  • The most popular tactic, supported by almost half the respondents [47%], was the use of diplomatic pressure on Nato to make it stop the bombing.

  • Forty percent of people wanted to send humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia.

  • Only a sixth of those questioned were in favour of sending military advisers to assist the Serbs.

  • The idea of sending volunteers to fight in Yugoslavia turned out to be the most unpopular measure: over half those questioned [54 percent] were strongly against it.

[ image: One of Russia's Black Sea Fleet warships]
One of Russia's Black Sea Fleet warships
The poll findings suggest that public opinion is more in tune with the official position on the crisis than with the views of the Communist and nationalist opposition. President Yeltsin and the prime minister Yevgeny Primakov have attacked NATO in the angriest terms, but have so far ruled out any active assistance to Mr Milosevic. Despite a few ambiguous remarks, the indications are that their policy will stay that way, at least in the current phase of the conflict. If NATO commits ground troops to the region of course opinions may change.

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