Russians happier than ever: poll

Youngsters throw colored powder at each other during the Festival of Colors in St. Petersburg on July 19, 2014. Russians are happier than ever despite being locked in a dramatic confrontation with the West over Ukraine that has seen their countr
Youngsters throw colored powder at each other during the Festival of Colors in St. Petersburg on July 19, 2014. Russians are happier than ever despite being locked in a dramatic confrontation with the West over Ukraine that has seen their country slapped with unprecedented sanctions, according to an opinion poll released on Thursday, July 31, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russians are happier than ever despite being locked in a dramatic confrontation with the West over Ukraine that has seen their country slapped with unprecedented sanctions, according to an opinion poll released Thursday.

"The social well-being index over the past three months demonstrates an unprecedented increase and stabilisation at an exceptionally high level," said state-controlled pollster VTsIOM in a new study.

"The life satisfaction index in June hit once again its historic record of (79 points), the material well-being index (76 points) and social optimism index (77 points) in June also rose to a new level and stabilised." At the same time, 23 per cent of respondents now believe that a war between Russia and its neighbours is possible, up from 10 per cent one year ago, said the pollster known for its close links to the Kremlin.

However "only a quarter" of Russians said they supported the deployment of troops in eastern Ukraine, the study said.

VTsIOM added that most Russians did not see the West as a military threat.

"Over the past eight years no more than 13 per cent of respondents have noted a real military threat" from the West, it said.

The study of 1,600 people across the country was released after Washington and Brussels unveiled a new round of sanctions against Russia over its support for separatists in Ukraine.

Unlike previous rounds of sanctions, the new measures target the country's vital finance, energy and arms sectors and are expected to put a major strain on Russia's economy which is teetering on the brink of recession.

Recent polls showed Russians are not concerned by Western sanctions but many economists said that was only because the first two rounds were limited and that the consequences of the latest measures would be felt by ordinary people only gradually.

Critics have said most Russians' perception of the crisis has been shaped by state-controlled television which has portrayed Kiev authorities as a "fascist junta".

Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval ratings soared since the annexation of Crimea in March and the downing in July of a Malaysian airliner with 298 people on board in eastern Ukraine did not appear to dent his popularity.

On Thursday, Mr Putin heard a chorus of praise from prominent and ordinary' Russians including journalists, lawmakers, spiritual leaders and even a sheep herder during an awards ceremony at the Kremlin.

Many praised Mr Putin for his policies, dismissing the threat of sanctions.