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European infrastructures advised to block Russian access

European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures says disruption of ties is “difficult” but necessary

The body that advises European governments on which large-scale research infrastructures to fund has called for those infrastructures and their funders to cut ties to Russia where possible, in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, made up of senior science officials from EU member states and other European countries, said in a statement on 16 March that it recognised that many researchers in Russia had condemned the invasion, putting their careers at risk in doing so.

Esfri also recognised that European researchers and research infrastructures had “fruitful and longstanding cooperation with the Russian communities, with ties which are often difficult to interrupt”.

Nevertheless, it said: “When scientific and technological progress is used to assault the foundations of modern society, peace, security and human life, the research community cannot stand by silently.”

‘Suspend engagement’

Consequently, it called on research infrastructures and funders to “suspend until further notice any ongoing and planned engagement with entities located in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus”. The Belarusian government has provided political support to the invasion, which continues to target and kill Ukrainian civilians.

“This devastating crisis of extraordinary proportions will have profound consequences for our society,” Esfri said. “That is why Esfri is determined to continue to take the utmost care to ensure that research communities remain a place where respect for human dignity, equality, solidarity, objectivity, honesty, freedom and fairness are guaranteed and respected.”

The body also called on infrastructures and funders to support Ukrainian research where possible.

Fallout from rectors’ statement

As Joe Biden, president of the United States, branded Russia’s president Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” for the invasion, other scientific and academic bodies also continued to condemn the actions of Russia and those supporting the invasion. 

In one of the latest moves, Academia Europaea, a pan-European academy, suspended the membership of Moscow State University rector Viktor Sadovnichii after he signed a statement by the Russian Union of Rectors supporting the invasion. Sadovnichii is president of the union.

“The Academia Europaea board of trustees joined with many other organisations that condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the statement recently issued by the Russian Union of Rectors,” the academy said.

It added that its “unprecedented action” in suspending Sadovnichii was taken “to allow for an internal investigation of any possible breaches of the regulations of our academy that may apply in these exceptional circumstances”.