He has been accused of "weaponising" migrants but Vladimir Putin scored better than British Prime Minister David Cameron in an international poll asking which world leader has what it takes to solve the Syrian refugee crisis. The Russian President ranked third behind Angela Merkel and Barack Obama in a survey conducted across six countries.
Putin was picked by one in three respondents. while his German and US counterparts recorded 46% of preferences each. The poll was based on 4,600 online interviews conducted in the US, UK, France, Germany, Lebanon and Iran in March and April.
The poll, conducted by Edelman Intelligence and named The Humanitarian Index, asked respondents to identify the heads of state that they believed had the capabilities to do the most to address the crisis that has seen more than four million Syrians displaced over the past five years. Cameron was the fourth most selected figure with 28% of votes and was followed at distance by US presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton (17%) and Donald Trump (9%).
The PM polled better at home in the UK (39%). However the 1,000 UK-based respondents still placed more faith in Obama (45%) and Merkel (41%) than him. Britain's fourth most selected leader was once again Putin (33%), who enjoyed higher rates of approval only in Germany (41%) and Lebanon (39%).
His overall score was impressive considering that Russians were not surveyed and the country has been leading a highly controversial military campaign in support of the Syrian regime. Rights groups have accused Russian forces of bombing hospitals and killing large numbers of civilians in rebel-held areas causing thousands to flee.
According to the UN refugee agency 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes since 2011.
Nato's top general Phil Breedlove also claimed the Kremlin was deliberately fuelling the migrant crisis with its war actions in order to use refugees as a weapon to "overwhelm European structures and break European resolve." Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The poll was part of a wider study on the refugee crisis commissioned by the Aurora Prize in memory of the Armenian genocide and conducted by Edelman Intelligence. The research also found that the public deeded terrorism as "most pressing global humanitarian challenges facing humanity" in all of the six sampled counties, while forced migration competed with hunger, access to clean water and climate change for the lower steps of the podium.
Respondents were also revealed to disproportionately associate the global refugee crisis with the situation in Syria, misjudging the impact of emergencies in Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They nevertheless highly underestimated the number of refugees created by the five-year civil war in the Middle Eastern country.
Respondents were more accurate in Lebanon, as the country has seen a massive influx of refugees from its war-torn neighbour, currently hosting more than one million Syrians.
"What this report highlights is the urgent need to inform the public of the global refugee crisis," commented Dominic MacSorley, the CEO of charity Concern Worldwide. "A passionate and mobilized public is critical to both ensuring support for the investment necessary to alleviate human suffering and also to hold political leadership accountable for tackling the root causes of the crisis."