Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin (C) addresses his units withdrawing from Bakhmut, the city captured from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. File Photo by Press service of Prigozhin/UPI | License Photo
July 9 (UPI) -- Russians have begun to look unfavorably on Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercenary boss of the Wagner Group who led a rebellion against the country's military last month, according to a new poll conducted by a non-governmental research organization in Russia.
The poll was conducted by the Levada Center, a Moscow-based think tank required to register as a foreign agent with the Russian government since 2016 when a previous poll found that support for Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party had declined among Russians.
A survey conducted a few days after the failed rebellion showed that the Russian public was highly aware of the events that occurred with more than half of respondents saying they had "closely followed" news of Prigozhin's march to Moscow, the think tank said in an analysis of the poll results.
Those who did sympathize with Prigozhin were driven by the recognition of his accomplishments on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to the Levada Center."The opinion that [Wagner mercenaries] fight better than regular troops is quite popular," the think tank said in its analysis.
The poll results indicated that as much as 58% of Russians supported Prigozhin in the lead-up to the rebellion but that support dropped to just 22% by early July -- mostly among elderly women who get their news from Russian state media.
Russians mostly cited lines pushed by the Kremlin that Prigozhin had personal ambitions for money and power with some even believing the Wagner Group boss was "bought out" by the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, pollsters allegedly found that the ratings of Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Mishustin had not changed and that only public opinion toward Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had dropped.
"Putin, from the point of view of the majority, did exactly what was expected of him," the Levada Center analysis reads. "He spoke out, showed his awareness, showed firmness, supported the military and condemned the rebels."