MOSCOW. Aug 21 (Interfax) - Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been referred to independent states by 58% and 55% of Russian citizens, respectively, Levada Center sociologists told Interfax following a recent public opinion survey.
The poll was conducted in 46 Russian regions at the end of July and involved 1,600 people.
Fifty-two percent of respondents believe that Abkhazia should remain an independent state, 22% of those polled called Abkhazia a part of Russia, 25% said that Abkhazia should join Russia, 9% referred to the republic as a part of Georgia, and 8% said that it should enter Georgia.
As far as South Ossetia is concerned, 51% of respondents said that it should remain an independent state, 22% referred to South Ossetia as a part of Russia, 24% of those polled said that South Ossetia should join Russia, 11% described as Georgia's territory, and 8% said that it should join Georgia.
South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia immediately after Tbilisi's armed aggression in early August 2008. Russia and several other foreign countries have recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
Fifty-four percent of respondents believe that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is neither good nor bad for Russia, 23% are convinced that this step has benefited Russia, 10% of think that this decision has done harm to Russia, and 13% were undecided.
Forty-three percent of those polled approved of the Russian government's decision to extend financial support to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, 32% criticized it, and 17% were undecided.
Thirty-one percent of respondents believe that Abkhazia seeks closer integration with Russia, while 32% of those polled said that the republic is promoting relations with all neighboring countries. Six percent of respondents believe that Abkhazia is working to rebuild ties with Georgia, Turkey and the East. Twenty-six percent of respondents were undecided.
The results of a 2013 survey showed that 40% of respondents were speaking about Abkhazia's integration with Russia, while the republic's steps to promote relations with other neighboring countries were mentioned only by 18% of those polled.
Forty-three percent of respondents to the latest survey described relations between Russia and Abkhazia as normal, 22% as good neighborly, 12% as friendly, 7% as tepid, and 2% as tense, while 12% of those polled were undecided.
Abkhazia is due to hold a presidential election on August 24. All candidates for the presidency - acting head of the Abkhaz State Security Service Aslan Bzhania, former Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba, acting Defense Minister Merab Kishmaria and leader of the opposition Forum for the National Unity of Abkhazia Raul Khadzhimba - have pledged to continue to promote friendly relations with Russia.
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