Russia war fears: ‘Hardly popular’ Putin may fail to win support for Ukraine clash

Ukraine: Russia issued warning by US as hostilities intensify

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Orysia Lutsevych, head of the Ukraine forum at Chatham House, spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark yesterday about recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, tensions flared between Moscow and Kyiv – and have more recently escalated.

Ms Lutsevych suggested the Russian President is facing decreasing popularity over his actions, and may struggle to achieve support for a new conflict with Ukraine.

She told Ms Wark on Newsnight: “Well obviously a domestic situation is important, motive and intention for Putin.

“And we must remember that the public opinion and support for the ruling party is decreasing and we’ve seen the wave of internal protests.

“So, clearly Putin would like to have Russian rally behind the flag and to give him support like they did in 2014.”

Opposition politician Alexei Navalny was jailed upon re-entering Russia on January 17 this year, sparking outrage and protests.

Mr Putin’s approval ratings have remained at 64 percent, according to a Levada Centre poll in February – but have dropped considerably from 2014’s 83 percent, GALLUP suggests.

Comparing Mr Putin’s popularity in 2014 to now, Ms Lutsevych said: “Unfortunately the annexation of Crimea was popular among the Russian public, but the open military conflict with Ukraine with direct incursion into a new Ukrainian territory is hardly popular in Russia.

“Russians are also tired of this International adventurism of Russian troops being deployed in Syria – to some of their proxy groups being in Venezuela and in Africa.

“So, the question is whether he will be able to achieve it, and to achieve this is quite legitimate.”

Ukraine and Russian tensions grew steadily over recent weeks, with skirmishes between troops intensifying along the eastern region.

Iuliia Mendel, Ukrainian presidential spokeswoman, told Reuters on Monday Russia had massed more than 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, and more than 40,000 in Crimea.

In 2014, Vladimir Putin unilaterally annexed away from Ukraine and declared Crimea Russian.

Over seven years, clashes between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian military reported another death after a soldier is said to have been killed by artillery fire from Russian-backed fighters.

In response to the tension, US President Joe Biden and his cabinet have reaffirmed their support for Ukraine against Russia.

Russia has warned the US to keep American troops away from the annexed Crimean peninsula “for their own good”

Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov said: “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores.

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good.”

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