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Poll Shows Half Of Russians Don't Oppose Chechen Split

A woman walks past a shop on Akhmed Kadyrov Street in Grozny, the Chechen capital.
A woman walks past a shop on Akhmed Kadyrov Street in Grozny, the Chechen capital.
Every other Russian citizen would not be opposed to Chechnya's secession from Russia, according to a new poll by the Levada Center, Russia's top independent polling agency.

The study, conducted across Russia and published on July 1, shows that 24 percent of respondents would be "glad" if Chechnya were no longer part of the Russian Federation.

In 2009, that figure was just 14 percent.

Another 27 of respondents expressed indifference, saying a Chechen breakaway would "not make a particular impression" on them.

That figure has risen steadily since 1998, when just 11 percent of respondents shared such a view.

Sociologist Lev Gudkov, from the Levada Center, says the results illustrate growing public disenchantment with President Vladimir Putin's policies in Chechnya.

Putin's rise to power coincided with the start of Russia's second war against Chechen separatists in 1999. The Kremlin has since installed the iron-fisted Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel and the son of slain Chechen President Akhmed Kadyrov, at the republic's helm.

"The tendency we see here is that since the situation escalated, during the second Chechen war, the number of people who believe it is possible to retain Chechnya as part of the Russian Federation has significantly dropped," Gudkov says. "If we combine the different answers, about half of the population is ready to let Chechnya break away from Russia. This points to the negative results of Putin's policies in the [North] Caucasus."

According the poll, Russian backing for military action in Chechnya is also on the wane.

While only 23 percent said in 2005 that a Chechen breakaway should be prevented "by any means, including military," only 10 percent of respondents chose this answer in the latest poll.

As many as 52 percent of respondents said the threat of terrorism from the North Caucasus has not diminished over the past decade, with 72 percent describing Chechnya as "tense" or "explosive."

The poll appears to have riled Kadyrov, who credits himself with bringing a measure of peace and stability to Chechnya.

"This poll does not reflect the real situation," Kadyrov's spokesman, Alvi Karimov, told RFE/RL. "Today, the Chechen republic is a stable, calm region. I absolutely don't believe the Levada Center's data, and I'm not sure at all that this study was prepared by people who are concerned about Russia's fate, stability, and future."

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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