KIEV, Ukraine -- A strong majority of Ukrainians want their country to remain a single, unified state and this is true even in the largely Russian-speaking east where a pro-Russia insurgency has been fighting for autonomy, a poll released Thursday shows.

The survey results were released just hours before the pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine said they would go ahead with a referendum on autonomy planned for Sunday, ignoring Russian President Vladimir Putin's call to delay the vote.

The poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington found that 77 per cent of people nationwide want Ukraine to maintain its current borders, and even in the east the figure is 70 per cent. Only among Russian speakers does the percentage drop significantly, but it is still over half at 58 per cent.

The central government in Kyiv has the confidence of only about 41 per cent of Ukrainians, with a sharp divide between the west of the country, where support is 60 per cent, and the east, where it is 24 per cent, according to the poll.

Russia, however, is viewed with great suspicion, with three times as many Ukrainians surveyed saying Russia is having a bad influence on their country as saying its impact is positive.

The poll of 1,659 adults, conducted April 5-23, has a margin of error of about 3.3 percentage points.