SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 02, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):National Research University Higher School of Economics

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 2, 2019, Russian authorities arrested Yegor Zhukov, a political science student at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, in apparent retaliation for his nonviolent, expressive activity, including his alleged role in a protest movement.

On August 1, Zhukov, who is also a well-known activist and blogger, published a video on his YouTube channel about a large protest in Moscow on July 27, 2019. The protest, which was reportedly unsanctioned, was held following a decision by electoral authorities to ban several opposition candidates from participating in city council elections scheduled for September.

At approximately 3:00 AM on August 2, police arrived at Zhukov’s home, where they detained him and reportedly interrogated him. He was initially charged with “directing street protesters,” apparently on the basis of the video he posted, but those charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. Authorities then charged Zhukov with inciting extremism, in connection with videos he posted in 2017. Zhukov stated that he called for nonviolent protests.

Police held Zhukov in pretrial detention until September, after which he was held under house arrest.

On December 6, Mr. Zhukov was found guilty of “inciting extremism” and issued to a three-year suspended sentence. He was also barred from administering websites for two years.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention, prosecution, and sentencing of a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Detentions and prosecutions aimed at limiting such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.