Russia-Ukraine war latest: Putin demands Mariupol surrender; Ukraine accuses Russia of attacking Red Cross – live

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings surged in March to levels not seen in five years as the war in Ukraine enters its second month, according to an independent survey published Wednesday.

According to the Levada Center, which is Russia’s main independent pollster, Putin’s job approval grew to 83% in March from 71% in February. The last time Putin reached similar approval ratings was in 2017, prior to the introduction of an unpopular pension reform that raised the country’s retirement age.

The past month also saw increases in Russians’ trust for the country’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the country’s ruling party United Russia, the pollster said.

The share of those who said Russia is moving in the right direction has also grown to 69%, a jump of 17% from the month before.

Independent sociologists have questioned the logic of polling public opinion in a country where information about the war is carefully curated by state television which has portrayed the country’s invasion of Ukraine as a defensive “special military operation” aimed at “de-nazifying” Kyiv. Sociologists have also said respondents in the country could be afraid to tell pollsters they are opposed to the war. Russia’s parliament earlier this month passed a far-reaching law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.

Still, the latest Levada polling appears to indicate that the Kremlin has so far managed to galvanize support for its invasion of the country.

The Levada Centre has not released a poll of public opinion specifically on the war since the conflict began. Plans to publish results of an earlier poll were scrapped by the centre’s employees because of concerns that their results would promote the intensification of the conflict. State-run opinion polls have indicated that around 70% support the country’s actions in Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugees in Poland are frustrated and confused by British asylum rules, which they say appear designed more to keep people out than offer shelter to those fleeing war.

Refugees arriving at Warsaw central station told the Guardian that they were baffled by the UK government’s rules requiring them to find a sponsor in Britain before they could apply for a visa, which could take weeks to be processed. None said they knew anyone in the UK who could sponsor them.

“I think it’s very complicated,” said Katerina Ilasova, who fled her home city of Poltava after the invasion started. “I’ve heard lots of positive things about Britain. But for me it is too complex. So people are signing up to go to other countries that are easier to get to.”

Ivan Yakovlev, who left Dnipro before the war started to work in Georgia, wanted to get to Britain because of the language. “I speak English, my wife speaks English; it will be good for us, simpler to find a job there. But I don’t know what we should do; I don’t have any connections.”

A small team of British people has set up a stall inside Warsaw station to explain the rules to refugees and advise them on how to apply. They have had a handful of successes matching Ukrainians with British sponsors, but their efforts have been dwarfed by those of a Spanish group at a neighbouring stall, who have helped more than 1,000 Ukrainians start their journey to Spain, arranging free transport and hosts at the other end.

“The bottleneck is in the visa system and the matching of refugees with hosts,” said Ed Pinkney, a British Hong Kong-based researcher who has been volunteering at the station for two weeks.

“I’m getting frustrated because it’s wasting time that could have been given to the immediate needs of Ukrainians,” he said. “The logical thing to do would be to get them to the UK and do any checks there.”

Some hopefuls do get lucky. Alyona Vinohradova was fortunate to bump into Terri Shanks, a woman from Berkshire who was in Poland for business. Shanks has offered to host Vinohradova, her husband and their 11-year-old daughter, Kamila, once the family’s application has been processed and their visa approved.

“I don’t know why we can’t bring them in on a tourist visa,” says Shanks. “The Spanish are scooping them up and worrying about the paperwork later. We don’t seem to be doing that. It’s ridiculous when there’s a home waiting.”

“I think it’s very complex,” said Vinohradova. “I think the UK is ensuring that all the Ukrainians don’t come.”