As teachers, scientists and scholars who find themselves outside the Russian Federation, we feel it necessary to make the following statement.

The invasion of Ukraine which started on February 24, 2022, the violation of its sovereignty and the grave crimes against humanity that followed became the source of suffering and loss of life in Ukraine, next to which all other interests, public and private, pale into insignificance. We are writing and signing this letter in the clear understanding of this fact. 

Some of us were fired from state universities for political reasons long before the war began. Some of us are (by now former) employees of the leading academic institutions of the Russian Federation, from full professors to assistants, from union members to journalists of venues which were closed down in the past few days and are being still being closed down by their dozens, from student newspapers to large outlets. Many of us are civic activists in other communities, including non-political ones. 

While we have found ourselves in the same group, that is, being persecuted for political reasons and for speaking critically on a number of other issues, our political views and values are quite varied. Until recently, we often continued to adhere to positions of political neutrality as part of our scholarly work in academic teams.

But on February 24, 2022, this political neutrality came to an end. A letter in support of the illegal actions of the authorities was signed by 260 rectors of the largest universities of the Russian Federation.

In response, the Western academic community has announced sanctions against official – or institutional – Russian scientific and educational system.

Thousands of students and graduates spoke out against their rectors' statements, and hundreds of faculty members were subjected to reprisals ranging from dismissals and expulsions to incarceration. Some of them managed to flee the country. In just the past month, nearly two million Russians have signed anti-war petitions.

All those who oppose the war, who risk or lose not merely their positions but their freedom, remain allies of the free world. That is why sanctions against official Russian academia must be applied with this dissenting segment in mind, and also with a view to its enlistment for the reconstruction of Europe after this criminal war. 

We welcome the example of British universities that have terminated their contracts with Russian institutions but continue to cooperate with individual scientists/scholars.

So far, this differentiation does not apply to students. Undergraduate and graduate students are being punished twice: the administration of their own state universities in Russia expels them for their anti-war statements, and foreign programs expel them for having been students at their universities yesterday. The individual waiver of sanctions so far applies only to academics and professors. The disregard for the safety, health, and lives of the students is unacceptable. This is the very generation that resists the crimes of the Russian regime to the best of its ability.

Two years ago, when the first wave of politically motivated layoffs in Russian universities began, some of us co-founded the Brīvā universitāte. This university operates online and so far mostly in Russian, but it is open to all colleagues and all languages. 

We, Brīvā universitāte professors and other scholars outside of Russia, offer our cooperation in establishing a dialogue with the leadership of universities willing to renounce their rectors' letters and with student organizations that have already signed letters of protest against the Russian Federation's criminal war in Ukraine. We are ready to sign letters of recommendation to all of you so that your applications can be accepted on an individual basis at universities in Europe. 

We share the values of the free world, the values of non-violence. We do not recognize the right of an aggressor state to dictate its will to others. Today, the Russian state has embarked on a path of brutal violence inside and outside the Russian Federation, and we are ready to support to the best of our ability those who are suffering directly or indirectly from this violence.