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MOSCOW, March 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Over 90% of polled Russians supported the merge of the Republic of Crimea with the Russian Federation, according to a survey of a state-run pollster published on Monday.
Data collected by the Russian Public Opinion Center (WCIOM), showed that 80% of respondents believed that “Russia should struggle for the right of controlling the [Crimean] peninsula even if the issue of the territorial belonging of Crimea turns into a matter of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”
When asked the same question in 2009 only 55% of respondents in Russia voiced their support.
The survey also showed that 89% of polled Russians have always considered Crimea as the Russian territory.
The poll was conducted on March 15-16 among 1,600 respondents across Russia. The margin of error does not exceed 3.4%.
The Republic of Crimea, where most residents are Russians, held a referendum on March 16, in which it decided to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, and subsequently signed a treaty with Moscow on Crimea's accession to the Russian Federation on March 18. Last week the treaty was ratified by the Russian parliament’s upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin.
Putin and other officials have repeatedly stated that the Crimean referendum was in full conformity with the international law and the UN Charter, and also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.
The developments came amid political turmoil in Ukraine, where a coup occurred in February following months of anti-government protests that often turned violent. President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave Ukraine citing security concerns. Russia considers Yanukovich Ukraine’s legitimate leader and does not recognize the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities. Nor do Crimea’s leaders recognize them.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine.
Crimea had its own Constitution in the early 1990s. In 1995, Ukraine’s parliament canceled Crimea’s Constitution.