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Freie Universität Berlin Suspends Relations with Russian Research Institutions

University Responds to Russian Attack on Ukraine

№ 022/2022 from Feb 25, 2022

Freie Universität Berlin has decided to suspend relations with scientific and academic institutions in Russia in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine. The university announced on Friday that it would put its partnerships and other cooperative activities with research institutions in Russia on hold. This includes student exchange programs as well as its strategic partnership with St. Petersburg University. Freie Universität’s Liaison Office in Moscow will also close for the time being. Students, researchers, and scholars from Russia may still apply to Freie Universität Berlin for degree programs or employment.

The president of Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Günter M. Ziegler stated, “Our attitude has always been to keep the pathways of communication open with our partners, even during times of crisis – to support international cooperation, even when others were cutting ties.” Ziegler added, “This has always been important to Freie Universität because we want to make a distinction between political and academic interactions. However, we are breaking from that tradition now as a response to the blatant breach of international law that Russia’s government has committed.”

The university leadership is aware that this course of action will have repercussions for scholars, researchers, and students who are themselves opposed to the war against Ukraine. This is a regretful, but unavoidable effect of these decisions, university leaders admit. However, they also point out that these are necessary measures, especially the suspension of financial support that would otherwise continue to flow into Russia. At the same time, the university plans to take steps to provide special support for researchers and students who are negatively affected by these developments.

Here is an overview of the agreed upon measures:

  • All partnerships and related activity with Russian universities will be suspended for the time being. Degree programs with Russian universities will be suspended, effective immediately. Freie Universität students will be offered the opportunity to return to Berlin. However, they will be able to finish their studies should they choose to do so. Financial losses in this context will be covered by the university. Freie Universität Berlin is contacting all of its students.
  • The strategic partnership with St. Petersburg University will be suspended. Operations at the St. Petersburg Office, which opened online in November and was scheduled to open in Berlin shortly, will also be suspended..
  • All research partnerships and financial transfers will be suspended, in particular the university’s work with the German Russian Interdisciplinary Science Center (G-RISC).
  • Freie Universität Berlin’s office at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (in Moscow) will be closed for the time being. The head of the office there will provide support for any university members still on site.
  • Freie Universität Berlin has also decided to establish a short-term “Ukraine Emergency Fund” to provide support during this transitional and turbulent period, for example for Ukrainian students who won’t be returning home at this time, but whose official stay at Freie Universität is coming to an end. This support is also available for others (not just students).

Further measures are under consideration depending on how the situation develops. For example, Freie Universität, its partner institutions, and foundations are making preparations to expand support opportunities already in place through the “Scholars at Risk” program to include support for exiled researchers from Ukraine.