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Russian Scientists Told to Beware Foreign Contacts, Academic Says

Alexander Avilov / Moskva News Agency

Russian authorities have recommended for scientists to avoid communicating with their foreign colleagues, a prominent academic has complained in an open letter.

The Russian Science and Higher Education Ministry reportedly distributed a decree in July advising scientists to brief the ministry in detail about upcoming meetings with foreign counterparts and to seek approval from bosses to meet them outside of work. The decree comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions with the West.

“Such ridiculous and impossible orders won’t improve our country’s security but will only isolate it further,” Alexander Fradkov, a senior member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote in an open letter published Tuesday.

The letter was carried by a regional scientific publications that also released copies of the alleged governmental decree.

“Creative and personal contacts with the world scientific community should be treated with care: They strengthen global stability and mutual understanding between the countries and, ultimately, our country’s security,” Fradkov added.

The academic urged Russian science and education minister Mikhail Kotyukov to recall or rewrite the decree and expressed hope that “those who drafted this half-baked order would be punished, not those who sought its cancellation by informing the public of its absurdities.”

The regulation “must have been written in the pre-internet era and was copy pasted from some Soviet KGB regulations,” an Agence France Presse reporter cited Fradkov as saying.

Foreigners are meanwhile banned from using cellphones, cameras, recording devices or even watches inside government scientific agencies unless their use is regulated in “Russia’s international agreements.”

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