78% favor end to Chechen war, Russia poll says

January 20, 1995|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- A new poll shows astonishingly broad opposition throughout Russia to the war in Chechnya, offering graphic testimony to the extent to which public opinion here is no longer subject to government efforts at control.

The survey found large majorities in favor of a withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and supportive of European and U.S. criticism of the Russian offensive.

By overwhelming numbers, respondents voiced support for critics of the war within the government, and expressed doubt that President Boris N. Yeltsin is in control of the situation.

The poll, conducted the first two weeks of January by the International Sociological Research Center on Public Opinion, and released this week, sampled 3,000 people in six cities. The center's director, Lilia Kazakova, said it has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

A substantial majority -- 78.9 percent -- said they wanted fighting in Chechnya to end and the troops to withdraw. Another 15 percent favored a cease-fire so that negotiations could begin.

Only 4 percent favored a continuation of the Russian offensive.

A large majority -- 77.3 percent -- also supported the stand of Sergei A. Kovalyov, the government's human rights commissioner, who has been a leading opponent of the war.

Mr. Kovalyov has spent much of the last month in the Chechen capital of Grozny, and although he has been bitterly criticized by army officers, that attitude apparently does not extend into the civilian population. Only 5.1 percent of those polled said they disapproved of what he has done.

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