Moscow: Almost half of Russians -- 46 percent -- believe that the Syrian conflict is the result of interference by hostile foreign powers seeking to increase their influence in the Middle East or to weaken Syria.
According to a public survey published Friday by Russia's state-run VTsIOM pollster, only 19 percent of those polled describe the Syrian crisis as a popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
More than one third -- 34 percent -- of respondents were undecided on the nature of the conflict.
The poll also showed that the majority of Russians seem not to care what is going on in Syria. Less than half of those polled -- 44 percent -- said they were following the events in the Middle Eastern country, and those were mainly elderly Russians.
Eight percent of them said they follow the events closely and another 37 percent said they know about the situation in general.
But 52 percent, most of them young people, said they were not interested in the conflict.
More than 17,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the unrest in March 2011, according to UN estimates based on Syrian activist accounts. Thousands have fled their homes.
While the Russian government is widely seen in the West as a staunch supporter of Assad, the majority of ordinary Russians -- 57 percent -- say they support neither the Syrian government, nor the insurgents fighting to end more than 40 years of the Assad family's rule.
Among those who have taken a clear stance on the conflict, 14 percent support the Syrian government and 11 percent favour the rebel cause. Another 19 percent could not define their position.
The poll conducted July 7-8 involved 1,600 people in 138 locations spread across 46 regions.
Russia, along with China, has vetoed three Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions against Assad, citing a pro-rebel bias. Moscow insists it has no special interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but said that the "Syrian people" must decide his fate.
First Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 11:06