07.09.23 Polls Review

Peace without Concessions: Surveys show that most Russians want an end to the war but are not ready to give up what they have won

Surveys conducted in August by the Levada Center reveal low levels of attention to news from Ukraine and high levels of support for a transition to peace negotiations instead of a continuation of military operations. The responses clearly reflect both a detachment from the news backdrop in August and a sense of weariness of the war. Those who support peace negotiations note the scale of losses ('people are dying') as their primary motivation. At the same time, an absolute majority of respondents reject the idea of making concessions to Ukraine, both in terms of its accession to NATO (75%) and the return of its territories, such as the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics (75%) or the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions (68%). On the surface, Russians seem to have distanced themselves from news about Ukraine, but closer analysis reveals that, in their perception, the war has outgrown the framework of a 'special military operation' and has split into several interconnected themes. News of Ukraine's retaliatory attacks (strikes on the Crimean Bridge and drones) and the story of Yevgeny Prigozhin occupied a stable place in respondents' information landscape. The level of awareness of the plane crash in which he died is extremely high, even among those who primarily receive their news from television. Interpretations of this disaster reflect the mythologisation of the figure of Prigozhin in the minds of certain respondents.

In general, the monthly face-to-face surveys conducted by the Levada Center traditionally show the highest levels of support for the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine in response to a direct question about such support. The debate surrounding the relevance of the responses to this question given the conditions of 'wartime' mobilisation of public opinion and widespread repression against opponents of the war has been ongoing since its inception and, in any case, requires caution when it comes to interpreting these figures. It is better to track the trends rather than rely on absolute values.

Throughout the year and a half, the level of attention paid to events in Ukraine has varied in Levada Center surveys, ranging from 51% to 66% of respondents. In August, a new record was set: only 48% of those surveyed claimed to pay attention to the news from Ukraine, while the number of those not following the developments exceeded the share of those who did, reaching 51%. This is, undoubtedly, a seasonal effect: the previous nadir of attention was recorded last August, but even then, 51% were still following the events, while 48% were not. However, in July of this year, 59% of those surveyed were paying attention, evidently due to Ukrainian drone attacks and, in particular, the surge in anxiety surrounding talks of a Ukrainian counteroffensive and Prigozhin's rebellion. However, in August, citizens returned to 'vacation' mode, reassured that Prigozhin's disappearance and the Wagner Group's activities did not change the balance of power on the front, and the rebellion would not have any lasting consequences.

The level of support for the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine has reached the lower end of the Levada Center's range, with responses ranging from 71% to 81%, and in August, only 70% of those surveyed expressed support. The share of those who ‘definitely’ (rather than ‘rather’) support these actions is also at the lowest end of the range recorded by Levada at 38%. Previously, this group's share had never dropped below the 40% threshold.

Furthermore, the support for the 'special military operation' and responses to indirect Levada questions about attitudes towards the war have fallen to their minimums. Among those surveyed, 38% expressed support for continuing military operations, while 50% favoured transitioning to peace negotiations (12% were undecided). The lowest level was observed in October 2022, immediately after the announcement of mobilisation, with 36% in favour of continuing military operations and 57% in favour of peace negotiations. However, recently, the proportion of those in favour of continuing military operations has averaged at 42%.

In your opinion, should military action continue or should peace negotiations now begin?, 2022-2023, % of those surveyed

In all age groups, the percentage of those who approve of the idea of peace negotiations exceeded the share of those in favour of continuing the conflict. Conventionally, the youngest Russians (18 to 24 years old) are more likely to support this idea, with 64% in favour. Among the oldest cohort (55+), 43% favoured continuing the war, while 44% supported starting negotiations. These differences reflect the 'TV effect': among those who consider television a reliable source of information, 45% would prefer a transition to peace negotiations, while among those who rely on social media and Telegram channels, 58% do.

The main motivation for those who support peace negotiations is the high casualty rate ('many young people are dying,' 'people are dying'), which was mentioned by 52% of those surveyed, followed by a more abstract 'war fatigue' ('everyone is tired of the war,' 'it would be better if it all ended,' mentioned by 40%). The main motivation for the pro-war party is the belief that they should 'see it through to the end, too much has been invested' (32%), with the much less popular motive being the need to eradicate 'nationalists/fascists' (16%).

Despite the majority of Russians having a positive view of peace negotiations, only 20% of those surveyed would be willing to see Russia make concessions. Under no circumstances, according to respondents, are concessions such as Ukraine's entry into NATO (75%), the return of territories to Ukraine, including the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics (75%), as well as the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions (68%) acceptable.These figures have remained virtually unchanged since February 2023. 

Moreover, in August 2023, the percentage of Russians who mentioned 'events in Ukraine' as among the most memorable events of the month dropped to 9% for the first time since the start of the war. However, as evident from the table, the topic of the war in Ukraine has not disappeared from respondents' attention, but it has ceased to fit the pattern of a 'special military operation.' In particular, we see a consistent presence in the information landscape of the topic of Ukrainian counterattacks and Prigozhin’s story has occupied a significant place.

What events of the past four weeks are most memorable to you? May-August 2023, % of those surveyed





Capture of Artemivsk/Bakhmut


Prigozhin's rebellion


The Crimean Bridge bombing and Russia's retaliatory attacks


Prigizhin's death










Explosions and sabotage in Russia


Bathyscaphe accident


Prigozhin's rebellion / Wagner in Belarus


BRICS summit, Africa summit, acceptance of new members to BRICS




Destruction of the Kakhovka Dam


Natural disasters


Ukraine's attacks on Russian territory (drones, terrorist attack)


According to the Levada Center's August survey, 32% of respondents mentioned (at the beginning of the survey) Prigozhin's death among the most memorable events, and 90% answered affirmatively when asked directly if they had heard about the plane crash in which Prigozhin died. This is an exceptionally high level of awareness, rarely encountered in surveys, and this awareness remained virtually unchanged regardless of age group, staying at the same level (90%) for those whose primary source of information is television. However, perceptions of the reasons for the plane crash remain incoherent: 26% consider it a tragic accident; 20% see it as retaliation by the 'authorities' against Prigozhin; 14% believe it was an act by Western intelligence agencies, and roughly the same percentage (16%) think it was staged by Prigozhin himself. Among those who watch TV, the version of events where it was an accidental crash is supported by 35% of respondents, while among those who rely on social media and Telegram channels, 30% believe it was retaliation by the 'authorities.' In one way or another, Prigozhin occupies a partially mythological place in the minds of Russians.