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Cablegate: Kazakhstan - Poll Indicates Public Sympathies Are With

VZCZCXRO4730
PP RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1807/01 2611120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171120Z SEP 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3334
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0637
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0738
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1944

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001807

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PINR SOCI KZ GG RS
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN - POLL INDICATES PUBLIC SYMPATHIES ARE WITH
SOUTH OSSETIA AND RUSSIA, NOT WITH GEORGIA

ASTANA 00001807 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: The results of an opinion poll indicate that the
Kazakhstani public has largely adopted the South Ossetian and
Russian viewpoint with respect to the conflict in Georgia. Overall,
40.2 percent of poll respondents sympathized most with the South
Ossetians, compared to just 2.7 percent with the Georgians. At the
same time, 39.4 percent considered Georgia's military action to
constitute a "crime against humanity," while just 5 percent viewed
what Georgia did as a move against separatism. Approximately 50
percent of the respondents agreed that Russia's intervention was
justified, while only 9 percent saw Russia's actions as aggression
against an independent country. Astana residents were notably less
supportive of the South Ossetians and Russians than residents of
other regions. End Summary.

2. (U) Kazakhstan's Association of Sociologists and Political
Scientists (ASIP) conducted a nationwide public opinion survey on
the South Ossetia conflict during August 22-30, disseminating the
results in a September 15 press release. (Note: Russia's
recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia's independence occurred
midway through the polling process, on August 26. End Note.) ASIP
surveyed 2895 residents of 16 cities and 14 rural district centers
-- a sampling it termed to be representative of the population as a
whole. ASIP reported overall survey results, as well as results by
region for Astana and Almaty and for northern, southern, central,
eastern, and western Kazakhstan.

3. (U) Asked which side in the conflict was "in the right", 34.2
percent of those polled responded South Ossetia and just 3.4 percent
Georgia, while 33.8 percent maintained that both sides were in the
right and 26.8 percent found the question "too difficult to answer."
In response to a second question, 40.2 percent said they
"sympathized" with the South Ossetians, just 2.7 percent with the
Georgians, 19 percent with both sides, and 17.8 percent with
neither; 26.8 percent found this question too difficult to answer.


4. (U) Nationwide, 39.4 percent of those polled agreed that
Georgia's military action constituted "a crime against humanity"
leading to the deaths of innocent civilians, while 5 percent
considered Georgia's response to be a "battle agQ separatism;"
the remainder were unable to chose between these two options.
Approximately 50 percent maintained that Russian intervention in the
conflict was justified "to end military action in the conflict
zone," while 9 percent disagreed, seeing Russia's actions as
"aggression against an independent country." Just over 39 percent
of those polled found this question too difficult to respond to.


5. (U) Asked about the way to resolve the conflicts in both South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, 27 percent of those polled said the two
regions should become independent, 12.3 responded that they should
be joined to Russia, and less than 2 percent said they should remain
within Georgia. Approximately 13 percent believed that the
conflicts could not be resolved, while 43Qcent found this
question too difficult to answer.

6. (U) The pollsters did not report results by ethnicity of
respondent. However, results reported by region indicate that the
views of ethnic Kazakhs and those of ethnic Russians are in relative
alignment, as the results for ethnic Kazakh-dominated southern and
western Kazakhstan did not significantly diverge from those of
heavily Russian northern, central, and eastern Kazakhstan. The main
outlier in the survey was Astana, with residents of the capital
refusing to answer the questions at a much higher rate than
residents of other regions and demonstrating less sympathy toward
the South Ossetian and Russian positions. For example, just 15.1
percent of Astana respondents considered Georgia's military action
to be "a crime against humanity; in the remaining regions, from 37.7
percent (eastern Kazakhstan) to 43.0 percent (central Kazakhstan) of
respondents saw the situation this way. (Note: Just under 80
percent of Astana respondents completely declined to answer this
question, compared with 39 percent nationwide. End Note.) Among
Astana respondents, only 28.6 percent considered Russia's
intervention to be justified; in the other regions, from 42.4
percent (eastern Kazakhstan) to 58.0 percent (central Kazakhstan)
saw Russia's actions as justified.

7. (U) Just 7.1 percent of Astana residents viewed independence for
South Ossetia and Abkhazia as the solution to the two conflicts. By
comparison, 16.5 percent of respondents in eastern Kazakhstan saw
this as the solution, while from 25.9 percent to 33.8 percent of the
residents of the remaining five regions agreed with this view.
(Note: The fact that respondents in ethnic Russian-dominated
eastern Kazakhstan were less sympathetic to the South Ossetian and
Russian perspective on several questions than respondents nationwide
is somewhat of a conundrum to us. This may indicate a flawed
polling methodology for that region. End Note.)


ASTANA 00001807 002.2 OF 002


8. (SBU) Comment: The overall polling results are not entirely
surprising. Most Kazakhstanis are getting their news about the
South Ossetia situation from the Russian media, while very few are
relying on western sources. Moreover, while the Kazakhstani
government has given no public support to Russia on its recognition
of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, President Nazarbayev has agreed with
the Russians that the Georgians started the conflict and that Russia
was justified in intervening to stop the bloodshed. Nevertheless,
we still would have expected somewhat more sympathy for the Georgian
perspective, especially among ethnic Kazakhs. The fact that the
poll included some questions that may not have been up to U.S.
polling standards may have skewed the results. That Astana was an
outlier in the poll - with its residents expressing less sympathy
for the South Ossetian and Russian perspectives -- confirms our
sense that the country's governing elite, protective of Kazakhstan's
own independence, viewed Russia's military intervention in the
conflict with genuine concern. End Comment.

MILAS

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