by Staff Writers
Kiev (AFP) Oct 16, 2014
The number of Ukrainians in favour of joining the NATO alliance has risen sharply during Kiev's drawn-out conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country, a poll showed Thursday.
Becoming a NATO member would be the best way for Ukraine to ensure security, said 44 percent of respondents to the poll by the Foundation for Democratic Initiatives and Kiev's International Sociology Institute.
The figure showed a rise from 34 percent in a similar poll in May this year and 13 percent in another poll in 2012 by the same two institutions.
"The rise began this year. It's the reaction of Ukrainians to Russia's military aggression," said sociologist Maria Zolkina from the foundation.
Twenty two percent of those questioned wanted to keep an independent status while 15 percent wanted closer ties with Russia and the former Soviet states.
The 2012 poll showed 26 percent of Ukrainians in favour of joining a Russia-led bloc.
The poll was carried out in mid-September on 2,035 people from across Ukraine apart from Crimea and the eastern Lugansk region, due to intense fighting.
The pollsters approximated the results for Lugansk by increasing the quota for eastern Donetsk.
The east of Ukraine is Russian speaking and generally more pro-Russia.
Kiev blames Moscow for stirring a bloody pro-Russian insurgency in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, where 3,600 have people died since April, according to the United Nations.
In 2010, former president Viktor Yanukovych opted for a non-aligned policy.
The new pro-Western leadership has vowed to put the country back on track to join the alliance - a sore point with Moscow which accuses Washington of meddling in its sphere of influence.
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