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‘Interference rife’ in Russian academy election

The Russian government has narrowed the list of candidates for the academy’s presidency to five for unknown reasons, its acting head Valery Kozlov has said.

Officials initially attempted to limit the number of candidates to three, a figure “taken from the ceiling”, Kozlov told the Russian liberal newspaper Kommersant in an interview published on 20 September.

Faced with the government’s demands, Kozlov argued that his fellow academics would protest against the arbitrary restriction and succeeded in raising it to five, he said.

On 31 August, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order approving five candidates to run for the post, the Russian news agency Tass reported.

The selected candidates are: Yevgeny Kablov, chief executive of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Materials; Gennady Krasnikov, board chairman of Mikron, a Russian manufacturer of integrated circuits; Robert Nigmatulin, a mathematician and head of the academy’s Institute of Mechanics; Vladislav Panchenko, a physicist who directs the Kurchatov Institute for nuclear energy research; and Alexander Sergeev, who directs the Institute of Applied Physics at the academy.

Physicist Alexei Khokhlov, who was seen as the frontrunner, was removed from the race. He had amassed support from 12 per cent of professors at the academy in August, when there were seven people vying for the top job. Following his exclusion, he “was at loss to say whether he would support some of the agreed candidates”, Tass reported.

Valery Chereshnev, a microbiologist and former chief of the Duma’s science committee, was also excluded from the shortlist. He told Tass that he thought academics would now “unequivocally” support Sergeev.

Acting head of the academy Kozlov has described the presidency as a “difficult burden”. “Problems of the academy can not be solved only from this chair. It is necessary constantly to address the government, the ministry, and the president of the country,” he said.

Asked to give advice to the incoming president, Kozlov said that “the head of the academy should be a diplomat” and that to implement policies, he would have to engage in “everyday dialogue with the authorities”.

The election is due to take place on 25 September.