A poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), the results of which were released on July 19 and posted on the center’s website, Wciom.ru, found that following Shamil Basaev’s death, 72 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that President Vladimir Putin is fulfilling his promise to destroy the Chechen militants. Only 57 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement in a poll taken after the March 2005 killing of Aslan Maskhadov. An overwhelming majority of those polled—82 percent—said that they approved of the physical elimination of the “leaders of the Chechen terrorists” both in Russia and abroad, while only 11 percent said such a practice was unacceptable.
At the same time, 57 percent of the respondents said that Basaev’s elimination was only one episode in the armed conflict in Chechnya and did not mark its end, and only 17 percent said that they thought Basaev’s death would mean the final destruction of the rebels and a return to peace in Chechnya and Russia in general. Almost the same number—16 percent—said Basaev’s death would only intensify the resistance of the “separatists and terrorists,” and only 39 percent said that it would have any effect on the threat of new terrorist attacks. Indeed, while 27 percent predicted Basaev’s death would reduce the threat of terrorism, 23 percent said they were expecting an upsurge in terrorism. A majority of those polled—61 percent—said that despite successes in imposing order on Chechnya, the situation there remains difficult and tense. Only 12 percent said they thought the war in Chechnya was over and that peace and quiet had been established in the republic, while 20 percent said they saw no improvement in the situation in Chechnya whatsoever.