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: February 28, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 28, 2022, the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics (PRUE) expelled students Polina Lysenko and Antonina Begacheva for commenting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on social media.

On February 24, the students posted Instagram stories that reportedly contained pacifist viewpoints regarding Russia’s invasion. According to reports, the university’s head of security had been monitoring their social media accounts and had shared concerns about the posts with the vice-rector.

The university administration did not notify Lysenko and Begacheva of their expulsion on February 28 and they continued to attend classes for two more weeks. On March 15, Begacheva discovered she and Lysenko had been expelled after contacting the university’s IT department regarding issues with her student account. Faculty members were also not informed about the decision, which was made independently by the rector’s office.

In August 2022, a Moscow district court ordered the university to reinstate Lysenko. SAR does not have information regarding the status of her legal case. Both students reportedly do not intend to attend PRUE.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the expulsion of students for exercising their rights to freedom of expression – conduct which is protected by 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. University authorities must refrain from taking action to restrict nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the expulsion of a student for peaceful expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.