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Data collected by the Russian Public Opinion Center (VTsIOM), showed that 67.7 percent of Russians, polled on February 22-23, approved of Putin’s actions, while the same poll conducted on February 15-16 had the figure of 61.9 percent.
According to VTsIOM experts, the increase may be attributed to “the results of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as well as to comparison with the political disturbances in the world and the phantom of the civil war in Ukraine.”
Putin’s previous highest rank of approval of 68.8 percent was registered in May of 2012, when he was inaugurated as the president of Russia. Experts say that on the average the rank of the president’s work approval always stood at over 60 percent in the past years.
The poll was conducted on February 22-23 among 1,600 respondents across Russia. The margin of error does not exceed 3.4 percent.
Alexei Zudin, a political expert with the Institute of social-economic and political researches, also said that the president’s popularity increase was the result of the Sochi Olympic Games, which closed on February 23, and the recent political turmoil in Ukraine.
Team Russia finished the 2014 Sochi Olympics with the overall result of 33 won medals (13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze medals) surpassing its previous Winter Olympics record of 11 gold medals, set at the 1994 Winter Games in Norway’s Lillehammer.
As the Olympic Games were underway in Sochi, a new wave of violent riots erupted in Ukraine on February 18 and eventually caused President Viktor Yanukovich, 63, to leave his residence outside Kiev. The Verkhovna Rada, the country’s unicameral parliament, took over and appointed its new speaker, Alexander Turchinov, as interim head of state and set early presidential elections for May 25.
According to the Ukrainian Health Ministry, a total of 82 people have been killed and 787 have turned to the Ukrainian capital’s medical institutions for help, with 527 of them hospitalized, since the start of the latest violence on February 18.
“There are two possible reasons, which determined the high rating figure of the president and they are the Olympics in Sochi and recent events in Ukraine,” Zudin said.
“The Olympic Games in Sochi are viewed as the personal success of the president, since in the public opinion this project was associated with his [Putin’s] name from the very beginning,” Zudin said.
Speaking about possible contribution of Ukrainian situation to Putin’s popularity in Russia, Zudin said that “the events in that country reminded about the advantageous political situation in Russia.”
Nikolai Mironov, the director general of the Russian Institute of Priority Regional Projects, voiced the same opinion as Zudin did.
“The high rating level must be attributed to the successful Olympic Games,” Mironov said. “He [Putin] was personally bidding for the Sochi Games at the International Olympic Committee, took part in the Sochi presentation, supervised the construction of the Olympic facilities, worked with athletes and as a result Russia had the deserved first place. This must be attributed to the president.”
He added that the sharp contrast of the democratic order in Russia and “the political chaos” in Ukraine also played in favor of Putin’s popularity rating increase.