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 12, 2024

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Harvard University | International Center for Security Studies | University of Cambridge | University of London | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | University of Oxford

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 12, 2024, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced sanctions, including entry bans, on 18 British citizens, including a list of scholars and researchers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the ban was a response to the United Kingdom’s “continued confrontational course, which includes efforts to demonize our country, active fabrication of anti-Russian narratives in a bid to weaken Russia’s influence on the international arena, and further pumping of the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine with weapons… and representatives of British academic community to the Russian stop list.” The ministry also accused the banned scholars and their institutions of contributing to the UK’s “sabotage operations in Russia”.

The scholars sanctioned include: Orlando Figes, Professor Emeritus of History at Birkbeck College, University of London; Norman Davies, Professor Emeritus at the University of London; Timothy Garton Ash; a professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford; Robert Johnson, director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre and an associate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford; David Abulafia, a Professor Emeritus of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge; Graeme Robertson, a professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Calder Walton, the Assistant Director of the Belfer Center’s Applied History Project and Intelligence Project at Harvard University; and James Sherr, a senior fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence & Security. The reason behind why these specific scholars have been sanctioned has not been reported publicly.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about state authorities restricting international academic exchange in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and academic freedom, as well as retaliation for US-Russia political relations. International academic engagement, including the sharing and exchange of ideas across borders, is a core aspect of academic life, and crucial for social and democratic advancement. Arbitrary restrictions on international academic exchange erode academic freedom and harm democratic society generally.