Ukrainians Wary of Both Sides

KIEV -- Many Ukrainians would rather not support either side in Russia's conflict with Georgia over its breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a poll showed on Monday.

The poll, conducted by the state-run Institute for Strategic Studies at the end of August, showed that 48.5 percent of those questioned thought a similar conflict could take place in Ukraine and 40.4 percent thought not.

Almost 42 percent said Ukraine should not take sides and the rest were split as to who to support diplomatically -- 20.2 percent said Georgia, 18.3 percent said Russia. Four percent would help Georgia militarily, 2.9 percent would back Russia.

Ukraine has a 17 percent Russian minority, concentrated mainly in the east and the southern Crimean region, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet rents a base at Sevastopol port.

President Viktor Yushchenko showed his support for Georgia by going to Tbilisi while fighting was in progress. Angered that Russia used its Black Sea Fleet for operations against Georgia, he tightened rules for its movement and said the lease would not be extended.

The poll showed that 47.4 percent of Ukrainians questioned felt greater insecurity because of the Georgian conflict, while 38.7 percent said they did not.

A majority -- 57 percent -- said Ukraine would in any case be unable to defend its independence and territorial integrity should it be attacked.

The institute polled 2,011 people in all parts of Ukraine, including the capital and Crimea, between Aug. 21 and 26.