Russian government designates our parent organisation akno e.V. as an “undesirable foreign organisation”

Berlin, 05.12.2023

The Russian Ministry of Justice added the Academic Network Eastern Europe (akno e.V.) to a list of “undesirable foreign organizations” on 4 December.

The German association is now prohibited from doing any work in Russia. Its partners in Russia are banned from cooperating with akno e.V. under threat of punishment of up to 6 years. Russian individuals and organizations with links to akno e.V. are thus exposed to an incalculable risk of political persecution.

According to Russian human rights group OVD-Info, the designation is based on a decision by the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office on November 14. The reasons are currently unknown. At the time of writing, the relevant list by the Ministry of Justice was not available on its website.

Dr. Philipp Christoph Schmädeke, Chief Executive Officer at akno e.V., says: “The decision is yet another attempt to make free and independent civil society work in Russia difficult or even impossible. We are concerned for all those in Russia who are now threatened with repression and persecution because of alleged links to us.”

“Our commitment to free, critical science is anathema to the Russian regime. Ultimately, this only proves the importance of the work that we and many other organizations are doing. We will continue to fight for at-risk academics and students in Russia and other post-Soviet countries, irrespective of our designation as an ‘undesirable’ organisation.”

akno e.V. is a non-profit association in Berlin, Germany, that advocates for academic freedom in post-Soviet countries. Among other things, it runs the SCIENCE AT RISK Emergency Office, a project funded by the German Federal Foreign Office that supports scholars and students affected by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine or political repression in Belarus and Russia.

On November 20, just a few days after the (at that time unknown) designation, the SCIENCE AT RISK Emergency Office presented 3 comprehensive studies on the state of academic freedom in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine at the Leibniz Association in Berlin. The Monitoring Reports address both the Russian “scienticide” against Ukraine – i.e., the intentional destruction of Ukrainian science – and the ongoing repression against critical scholars and students in Russia and Belarus.

Since 2015, the Russian government is designating as “undesirable” international organizations that campaign for democracy, freedom of expression, human rights or environmental protection. More than 100 organizations have been affected, including the Zentrum für Osteuropa- und internationale Studien (ZOiS), the Zentrum Liberale Moderne, Central European University, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Transparency International and Greenpeace. Since the Russian full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the level of repression has strongly increased.