More Russian ties cut as Europe offers help to Ukrainian colleagues

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted unprecedented action by governments around the world, but while many ministries of education and academic associations have spoken out in favor of their Ukrainian colleagues, there is there was less consensus on how academic relations with Russia should change.

A day after the attack began, Germany’s education and research ministry said its ‘long-standing cooperation’ with Russia would be ‘immediately terminated’, calling it a ‘serious breach of international law’ which demanded “serious consequences”.

Following Germany’s example, Danish Education Minister Jesper Petersen has written to universities urging them to “suspend all research and innovation cooperation” with institutions in Russia and Belarus and not start new conversations.

Many other countries had already started to reduce their cooperation with Russia. Latvian Education Minister Anita Muižniece said Times Higher Education Russia was previously “one of Latvia’s biggest research partners”, but this trend of collaboration has diminished in recent years. She said Latvia’s remaining cooperation with the country was mainly through European Union programs or large-scale research consortia like CERN, and the few bilateral projects with Russia were minor, such as postdoctoral positions. The Latvian institutions were “strongly urged” to end even this cooperation.

In Lithuania, where universities have also been urged by the ministry to sever ties, Vilnius University rector Rimvydas Petrauskas said he would “never impose any sanctions on the nationality of students or teachers “. Professor Petrauskas warned against false reports that Russian citizens were being expelled from European universities and said it was an attempt to distract from military aggression by Russian authorities.

In contrast, some have called for academic ties to be preserved as an aid to peacemaking. The rectors’ conferences of the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking regions of Belgium have issued a joint statement asking all governments to “ensure that university cooperation can continue as much as possible, as it allows the free flow of thoughts even during the darkest hours. darkest parts of the armed conflict”. .

Sinead O’Gorman, director of the European branch of the charity Scholars at Risk, said that while a temporary suspension of cooperation in some areas “might be warranted”, the impact on individual scholars must be considered. account, “especially those who are actively speaking aware of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and might face backlash for it”.

Academics were among thousands of Russians who risked arrest protesting the war, with some revealing THE they hoped their foreign colleagues understood that a significant number of Russians opposed the conflict.

While acknowledging an open letter signed by thousands of Russian scientists opposed to the war, Estonia’s rectors’ conference expressed “regret” that institutions in Belarus and Russia have been “silent on this issue”. Latvian rectors called on the “progressive Russian academic community to adopt a clear and firm position” against the invasion.

Many governments provide scholarships and services to people dispersed by war. The French Pause program, supported by the Ministry of Education, has opened a call dedicated to Ukrainian researchers. In Germany, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative for Scientists at Risk has extended the deadline for its current appeal.

Help also came from Ukraine’s immediate neighbors and those with a history of Soviet domination. In a letter to rectors, Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek said the ministry would allow recognition of absconding students’ exams and internships, citing a mutual recognition agreement with Ukraine. Mr Czarnek said he would also “consider” a new scholarship scheme for Ukrainians and the universities that host them.

The Czech Ministry of Education has earmarked 150m crowns (£4.9m) for Ukrainian scholarships, enough for one year of schooling for around 1,000 students. In a letter aimed at reassuring the more than 4,000 Ukrainians already studying in the country, Minister Petr Gazdík referred to “similar situations” the Czech Republic had experienced in the 20th century.

After a video call with their Ukrainian counterpart, Serhiy Škarlet, education ministers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued a joint statement calling on EU education ministers to offer “all assistance necessary” to Ukraine.

Ms O’Gorman said the charity had received less than 10 applications from Ukrainian scholars so far and that was likely due to the ban on men of fighting age leaving the country and travel visa-free Ukrainians in the EU.

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