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Support for union with Russia plunges in Belarus - BAW poll
A peaceful protest against integration with Russia in December 2019 / Euroradio
The number of people in Belarus supporting a union with Russia dropped from 60 down to 40 percent in 2019, the latest national poll by Andrei Vardamatski's Belarusian Analytical Workroom (BAW) reveals.
BAW polled some 1000 respondents representing the urban and rural population from Belarus' all regions in December 2019.
In January 2019, 60.4 percent supported a union with Russia. The number was gradually decreasing but in September 54.8 percent were still supporting a union with Russia as a geopolitical orientation. However, it dropped in the last quarter down to 40.4. percent.
Simultaneously, the number of people who want Belarus to join the European Union grew from 24.4 to 32 percent.
“In September-December, we saw a 15-percent drop in the number of people supporting a union with Russia. Pro-EU orientations grew but twice as slow. The trend is not about the thaw in the relations with Europe and the West in general. This is about the cooling of the relations with Russia," Andrei Vardamatski told Euroradio.
The last quarter of 2019 saw the talks between Minsk and Moscow on 'deeper integration', which led to pro-independence protests. In December, several rallies in defense of Belarusian sovereignty and against integration with Russia took place in Minsk and other cities.
According to BAW, 74.6 percent of Belarusians reckon that Belarus and Russia should be independent but friendly countries without border and customs controls. 6.6 percent said the countries should be separated by the closed border, customs and visa control just like with other countries.
12.8 percent support the unification of Belarus and Russia into a single union state. Only 3.7% would like Belarus to become part of Russia.
Vardamatski explains the plunge in pro-Russian attitudes by the end of 2019 by how the state-owned media covered the Belarus-Russian relations. He believes that the relations between Belarus and Russia and their media coverage will continue to influence the geopolitical choice of Belarusians in 2020.
In the views of the sociologist, the gradual growth of pro-Russian attitudes is possible, yet it may be difficult. "One can observe a certain stabilization of the trend towards the drop in pro-Russian sentiments," Vardamatski noted.