November 30, 2023

Institute for the Study or War: Support for Ukraine war falls in Russia

Institute for the Study of War

A recent Russian opinion poll indicates that the number of Russians who fully support the war in Ukraine has almost halved since February 2023 and that more Russians support a withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine than do not. Independent Russian opposition polling organization Chronicles stated that data from its October 17-22, 2023, telephone survey indicates that respondents who are “consistent” supporters of the war – those who expressed support for the war, do not support a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine without Russia having achieved its war aims, and think that Russia should prioritize military spending – decreased from 22 percent to 12 percent between February 2023 and October 2023. Chronicles stated that 40 percent of respondents supported a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine without Russia having achieved its war aims, and that this number has remained consistent at about 39 to 40 percent throughout 2023. Chronicles stated that 33 percent of respondents did not support a Russian withdrawal and favored a continuation of the war and noted that this number has been consistently decreasing from 47 percent in February 2023 and 39 percent in July 2023. Recent polling by the independent Russian polling organization Levada Center published on October 31 indicated that 55 percent of respondents believed that Russia should begin peace negotiations whereas 38 percent favored continuing the war.

The Kremlin is likely concerned about how changing Russian perceptions of the Russian war in Ukraine will affect the outcome of the March 2024 Russian presidential election and is implementing measures to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actual electoral support does not rest on Russian battlefield successes. Russian President Vladimir Putin will reportedly center his presidential campaign on Russia’s alleged domestic stability and increased criticism of the West instead of focusing on the war. Putin and other Russian government officials have already signaled their intention to intensify censorship efforts by claiming that some Russian citizens who left Russia and others still in Russia have begun efforts to discredit the upcoming Russian presidential elections and that Russia will do “everything necessary” to prevent election meddling. Russian authorities have also attempted to consolidate control over the Russian information space and have intensified measures encouraging self-censorship. Russian milbloggers suggested that Russian political officials financing Telegram channels ordered milbloggers to cease debates and criticisms about the Russian military prior to the Russian presidential elections. The Kremlin has likely attempted to shore up popular support for Putin throughout Russia by establishing a network of “proxies” to campaign on Putin’s behalf.

Key Takeaways:

  • A recent Russian opinion poll indicates that the number of Russians who fully support the war in Ukraine has almost halved since February 2023 and that more Russians support a withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine than do not.
  • The Russian war in Ukraine has created new social tensions and exacerbated existing ones within Russia, which remain highly visible in the Russian information space despite ongoing Kremlin censorship efforts.
  • The Kremlin is likely concerned about how changing Russian perceptions of the Russian war in Ukraine will affect the outcome of the March 2024 Russian presidential election and is implementing measures to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actual electoral support does not rest on Russian battlefield successes.
  • Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitri Peskov confirmed on November 30 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold his annual live “Direct Line” forum and annual press conference in tandem on December 14.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov notably did not promote Kremlin information operations feigning interest in negotiations during his speech at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in North Macedonia on November 30, and instead promoted escalatory rhetoric about Moldova.
  • Russian forces conducted multiple series of missile and drone strikes on Ukraine that struck civilian infrastructure on November 29 and 30.
  • Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian military bureaucracy is impeding Russian drone usage and acquisition among Russian forces operating on east (left) bank Kherson Oblast amid continued complaints about weak Russian capabilities on the east bank.
  • The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) was reportedly involved in an explosion that caused disruptions on a section of the East Siberian Railway connecting Russia and China on the night of November 29.
  • The Kremlin continues to advance its strategic slow-burn effort to absorb Belarus through the Union State structure.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make any confirmed advances. 
  • A Ukrainian military observer stated that Russian authorities’ plan to form two tank battalions in about four months using equipment from two long-term weapons and equipment stores indicates a lack of combat-ready weapons and military equipment.
  • Occupation and Russian government officials continue efforts to militarize Ukrainian youth in occupied Ukraine.

    For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-november-30-2023
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