Russia Closes St. Petersburg University Monitoring Election

February 25, 2008 12:25 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Feb. 8, Moscow shut down the European University at St. Petersburg, citing fire code violations. Professors and analysts detect a political motive.

30-Second Summary

The private university reopened on Friday after being closed for two weeks due to a “fire risk.”

In light of the March 2 presidential elections, however, academics and observers think the closure was a political move.
Duma Education Committee Deputy Chair Gadzhimet Safaraliyev filed a complaint last year alleging that a €673,000 ($997,960) EU grant to the university to train election monitors violated the institution’s charter.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the program was intended to improve the monitoring of Russian elections by educating party workers about election law.

One professor who spoke to the Chronicle on condition of anonymity said that in December he received threats from government officials to either cancel the program or risk having the university closed. The program was subsequently suspended on Jan. 31.

The university closure comes amid increasing international scrutiny of Kremlin policies. According to the British NGO Network for Education and Academic Rights, “While President Putin has frequently attacked Russia’s NGOs and human rights groups … he has until now largely ignored the higher education sector.”

An official university statement on the closure denied rumors that it had anything to do with the program, while also making a jab at the government: “Taking into account the level of predictability of the ‘elections’, it is strange, why to bother about poll watchers at all ... but ... current problems with the fire inspection has no attitude to this program and its closing.”

Headline Links: Russian university closed, reopened

Background: Russia’s December elections

Reactions: University officials speak out

Opinion & Analysis: Ulterior motives

Reference: European University at St. Petersburg

Related Topics: ‘Putin Accused of Purging Opponents’


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