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: June 30, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Novosibirsk State University

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 30, 2022, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Dmitry Kolker, a scientist and director of a laboratory at Novosibirsk State University on charges of treason. He died in custody two days later, after being transported to Moscow from a clinic where he was being treated for pancreatic cancer.

According to reports, Kolker was convicted on accusations of espionage and sharing state secrets with China’s government. The accusations arose following a series of lectures Kolker gave during an academic exchange between the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) and Chinese scholars, in 2018. Sources stated that the FSB reviewed the contents of the lectures and that an agent was by Kolker’s side during the academic exchange, which took place in China.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a scholar in connection with their exercise of academic freedom – conduct which is expressly 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. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from taking actions that punish peaceful expressive activity. These actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.