War with Russia has pushed Ukrainians towards the west

That doesn’t mean that Ukrainians have a history of hostility toward Russia. As the chart below shows, Ukrainians held very positive feelings toward Russia as recently as 2008. But all of that changed when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began a long, grinding war on the country’s eastern border. According to data from the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), Ukrainian attitudes toward Russia got much more negative around the time of the invasion of Crimea, and haven’t recovered since. “It’s not that Ukrainians are anti-Russian,” said Olexiy Haran, a professor of comparative politics at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. “What Putin is saying is that there is no such thing as Ukrainian nationhood — that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people. But for us, what it means to be Ukrainian isn’t about your ethnicity or your language.”

Meanwhile, as the war on the country’s eastern border has dragged on, Ukrainian views toward NATO have gotten more positive, according to Olga Onuch, a political scientist at the University of Manchester who studies Ukraine. Survey data from Onuch and a group of colleagues shows that support for joining NATO has increased substantially, from around 30 percent in May 2014 to 55 percent in January 2021. Other surveys show similar trends.