Speaking at a private breakfast at the Legatum Institute, Ambassador Mark Green, President of the International Republican Institute (IRI), discussed the results of the IRI’s latest Ukrainian opinion polls, ethno-linguistic relations between the country’s Russian—and Ukrainian—speakers, the role of the Ukrainian (social) media, and the memories on display in Maidan Square.
Having recently returned from Kiev, Ambassador Green outlined the motivations behind the IRI’s polling in Ukraine, citing the need for “issues-based parties”, united under a shared appreciation of the country’s needs. Describing the polling’s potential to clarify critical issues in the debate, the Ambassador spoke of the “strong majority” in Ukraine who favour closer ties to Europe, as well as the 53% in Crimea who denied any desire to become part of Russia. Although the polls shows support for the government currently incumbent in Kiev, he explained, this support is limited and pro-reform Ukrainians are becoming impatient.
Among the most important findings of the latest poll, he argued, was that Russian-speaking people in Ukraine are not under threat, nor do they feel as though they are. Confirming these results anecdotally, the Ambassador recalled conversations between Ukrainian people oscillating with ease between the Russian and Ukrainian languages: “I’ve been in places that are multi-lingual, but I’ve never been to a place where the shift occurs so easily and frequently.”
Of all the challenges facing the West as we look further into the crisis, Ambassador Green set the “propaganda warfare coming from Moscow” at number one. The Ukrainian media is “Russian-owned, Russian-led, and Russian-managed” the Ambassador explained. Expressing similar concerns for Ukraine’s social media platforms, he called upon the West to support the Ukrainian-owned media, of which there are currently only a fragile few.
Describing the latest scenes at the site of the protest camp in Maidan Square, the Ambassador sketched a “living museum" of brutality, where flowers adorn the bullet-holes in make-shift shields and barricades as men and women genuflect beside a sea of candles and weathered photographs. Recalling the Ukrainian families who could be seen taking their children to visit the site, Ambassador Green believed that whilst our nation-defining moment occurred perhaps decades ago, Ukraine’s defining moments occurred only days and weeks ago.
As the number of those who were killed on the site of this “living museum” of brutality and community extends into triple digits, Ambassador Mark Green recommends the following. “If you ever get cynical about the work we’re all involved in—go there. Take a look at what those people did and tried to do. You’ll see the bullet holes, the tattered uniforms of the defence forces, and the flag of Ukraine flying with the flag of the European Union next to it.”
The conversation, hosted as part of the Legatum Institute's Transitions Forum, was moderated by Christian Caryl, Legatum Institute Senior Fellow and Managing Editor of Democracy Lab.
The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.