Half of Russia Sees Foreign Meddling in Syrian Conflict

Almost half of Russians (46 percent) surveyed believe that the Syrian conflict is the result of interference by hostile foreign powers seeking to increase their influence in the Middle East or weaken Syria, according to a public survey published on Friday by the state-run VTsIOM pollster.

Only 19 percent of those polled describe the Syrian crisis as a popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the survey shows. More than one third (34 percent) of respondents were undecided on the nature of the conflict.

Meanwhile, the poll also shows that the majority of Russians seem not to care what is going on in Syria. Less than half of those polled (44 percent) said they were following the events in the Middle Eastern country, and those were mainly elderly Russians. Eight percent of them said they follow the events closely and another 37 percent said they know about the situation in general.

But 52 percent, most of them young people, says they are not interested in the conflict.

More than 17,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the unrest in March 2011, according to UN estimates based on Syrian activist accounts, and tens thousands have fled their homes.

While the Russian government is widely seen in the West as a staunch supporter of Assad, the majority of ordinary Russians (57 percent) say they support neither the Syrian government, nor the insurgents fighting to end more than 40 years of Assad family rule.

Among those who have taken a clear stance on the conflict, 14 percent support the Syrian government and 11 percent favor the rebel cause. Another 19 percent could not define their position.

The poll was conducted on July 7-8 and involved 1,600 people in 138 residential locations spread across 46 Russian regions. The statistical margin of error does not exceed 3.4 percent.

Russia – along with China – has vetoed three Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions against Assad, citing a pro-rebel bias. Moscow insists it has no special interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but said that the “Syrian people” must decide his fate.

President Vladimir Putin vowed, in a pre-election campaign article earlier this year, not to allow in Syria a repeat of last year’s “Libya scenario,” which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, after a NATO military campaign.

Russia and Western nations have exchanged accusations of fuelling the crisis in Syria by providing support to the conflicting sides. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this month that Russia and China would ‘pay a price’ for backing Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed the remarks as “undiplomatic” and “simply uncivilized,” describing the Western stance on Syria as a “direct invitation to a civil war.”


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