I first visited Ukraine in 2018 to meet soldiers in the trenches in the eastern Donbas region, defending their country from Russian-backed separatists.
I have been lucky enough to return several times and now I am back in kyiv to show my support on the anniversary of the invasion.
No one who has followed the events of the past year could not be moved by the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people. My latest survey only underscores that.
Most people here are prepared for the war to last months or even years longer, and I have found no appetite for any compromise with Russia or the exchange of territory for peace.
‘Victory is the 1991 borders (the official territory declared when Ukraine declared itself an independent state, free from the USSR) and joining NATO, as well as returning Crimea to Ukraine. That’s a minimum,” as one kyiv resident said.
I first visited Ukraine in 2018 to meet soldiers in the trenches in the eastern Donbas region, who were defending their country from Russian-backed separatists, writes Lord Ashcroft, pictured visiting Ukraine in December.
Nearly seven in ten Ukrainians say they are more confident in their ability to defeat Putin than they were a year ago.
But even after that, the threat from Russia would remain, probably longer than Putin himself. ‘We need to be more like Israel,’ said another. ‘Since 1947 they have lived in a war situation. We have to learn from them how to live in war conditions.’
While 85 percent of Ukrainians say their country’s defense is progressing successfully, compared to 57 percent of Russians who say the same of Putin’s “special military operation,” they want more help.
We can be proud that they think Britain has done more than most; in fact, Boris Johnson still rivals President Zelensky himself in popularity.
But while I found voters in Britain and the US more willing to offer humanitarian aid and diplomatic support to help broker a peace deal, these were a little lower on the list of priorities for the Ukrainians themselves: what most they would like were weapons and military equipment, admission to NATO, and a no-fly zone over Ukraine patrolled by Allied air forces.
If allied support has been strong so far, there are worrying signs of fatigue. While around half the public in Britain and the US believe their governments are providing roughly the right amount of aid to Ukraine, a quarter of Americans, including four in 10 of those who voted for Trump in 2020, they say they are already giving too much. military support.
Men walk past a shell-damaged residential building in the city of Chernihiv on March 4 last year.
An 80-year-old woman presents Lord Ashcroft with one of the cushions she makes for front-line soldiers as a ‘thank you’ for his support of Ukraine.
Only half of Republicans are happy to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, compared to three-quarters of Democrats. In Britain, the Conservatives are more willing to help militarily, while Labor voters are much more willing to accept more Ukrainian refugees.
In Britain, too, more than two-thirds of the public think we have a direct interest in ensuring Russia’s defeat, or that helping Ukraine is simply the right thing to do. Only slightly more than half of Americans agree.
Six in ten Ukrainians now believe that Putin has the support of a majority of Russians, a number that has risen since the invasion, and my poll suggests they are right. More than three quarters of the Russians polled said they support the ‘operation’, and 85 percent have a positive opinion of their president.
Online focus groups with people in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg exposed many grievances about life: skyrocketing prices, shoddy products, poor services, and endemic corruption. But the citizens shifted the blame elsewhere.
‘He is not our president, his head is occupied with more important matters,’ a Russian told us. ‘He Sometimes he names people, and they make mistakes and he replaces them with other people. Although in reality, the error rate is very high.
Despite the absence of a quick victory, Putin has managed to control the narrative inside Russia to a remarkable degree. About eight in 10 Russians say the United States or NATO is responsible for the war, almost twice as many as Russia itself.
Four-fifths also believe that NATO expansion is a threat to Russian sovereignty and that action in Ukraine was needed to protect national security.
Still, ‘not everything is going according to plan’, as one focus group member put it. ‘On the battlefield the situation is dire. Family members are buying uniforms and food. People are mobilized but they send them there without taking care of them’.
Many feel their government underestimated their adversary, and six in 10 Russians say Ukraine is holding out harder than they expected.
However, there is little demand for Russia to cut its losses. Many feel that whatever their reasons were for starting this ‘operation’ in the first place, it now has to take place.
There is also disdain for Russians who have left the country to avoid the draft. “My husband ran away to Europe and I decided to divorce him,” said one woman. ‘If he can’t defend the country, I don’t need him as a husband.’
However, not everyone is so staunchly supportive of the Kremlin. Nearly three in ten young Russians said they were opposed to the invasion, and a large majority of them want to see negotiations to end the war.
But, equally, no one should be swayed by the idea that Russians who are skeptical of military action are also pro-Western: few have a positive view of Western countries or organizations, and a clear majority think that allied nations are more interested in attacking Russia than liberating Ukraine.
However, despite all this, Ukrainians are not only determined but also optimistic. Nearly seven in 10 say they are more confident in their ability to defeat Putin than they were a year ago. “They expected an easy victory,” said a kyiv resident. ‘They did not consider that we are not slaves, we are civilized people. No one expected how the nation would come together.
Full details of Lord Ashcroft’s investigation will be available from tomorrow on LordAshcroftPolls.com. Lord Ashcroft is an international businessman, author, pollster and philanthropist. You can follow him on Twitter/Facebook: @LordAshcroft