As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, anti-war protests across Russia and the government crackdown to intimidate protesters also escalate. As of March 27, 2022, Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs demanded that St. Petersburg State University administer expulsions for at least 13 students who participated in anti-war protests surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. St. Petersburg is expected to comply with the order, and according to Scholars at Risk, more expulsions are expected, as the university has requested information from at least 22 students regarding their involvement in additional anti-war protests.
Vladimir Ashurkov, a Russian activist, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and coordinator of the Freedom Degree project, spoke with Times Higher Education about the influx of students requesting “advice and moral support” following the intense academic persecution from both the government and university. Ashurkov, who has proposed that it is likely that there have been hundreds of additional students expelled for anti-war activism, went on to describe the university’s strategies to silence students as “blatant and offensive.”
These repressive actions will surprise anyone familiar with the recent Russian legislation that has restricted free speech and expression in the months since President Vladimir Putin first targeted Kyiv, Ukraine in late February. A new domestic law now mandates prison sentences of up to 15 years if individuals spread "‘false information’ about the operations of Russian diplomatic missions abroad,” especially including its ongoing war in Ukraine. Consequently, news organizations like the BBC, CNN, and The New York Times have suspended journalism in the country, leaving more opportunities for the spread of disinformation and the repression of human rights activists.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) forcefully condemns the ongoing violations against the academic and civil freedoms of Russian students and scholars who stand with Ukrainians and denounce the Russian regime’s war. We agree with Scholars at Risk’s statement that “state and university authorities should refrain from disciplinary actions intended to retaliate against nonviolent expressive activity.” These abuses compromise the intellectual and moral liberties of academics around the world. ESW calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights and the Ukrainian people to also protest these violations and expulsions. Please continue to circulate and sign the New University in Exile Consortium’s Ukraine Statement of Support. Additional resources to help Ukrainian students and scholars can be found in our earlier post here.