By Shannon Vavra
May 18, 2023
The Daily Beast
A prestigious Kremlin-funded university that trains up Russia’s top civil servants is about to fire all of its employees living abroad, according to current and former employees, in what appears to be Moscow’s latest wartime attempt to secure a vice-like grip around possible dissent.
The Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of Russia (RANEPA) is targeting employees who left during Russia’s war in Ukraine in 2022 and 2023, in addition to those who have been living elsewhere for longer, according to a report from Agentsvo, or The Agency. Sources told the outlet that “the order came from above,” without specifying further.
The firing spree follows a series of crackdowns on liberal elements of the university. Yulia Galyamina, a former professor in the Department of the Theory and Practice of Media Communications at RANEPA, was fired in recent months after she called for protests against the war last year. Russia alleged she was a foreign agent. The school’s former rector, economist Vladimir Mau, left the university after being accused of embezzlement and being interrogated for several days.
Although he had signed a letter in support of Russia’s war, he had reportedly stopped trying to fit into the system, Meduza reported. Instead, he had tried to reform the system from within, according to the Financial Times.
Authorities have also recently searched the homes of Mau and Maxim Dulinova, the head of RANEPA’s Federal Education Development Institute.
The moves come as the Kremlin is searching for alternative ways to clamp down on any appearance of disintegrating support for the war in Ukraine. According to a new intelligence assessment released this week, the Kremlin is likely banning senior officials from leaving their posts—an apparent effort to save face as Russian forces fail to make significant gains in the war. “The Russian state is likely effectively banning senior officials from resigning from their jobs while the ‘Special Military Operation’ continues,” a British government intelligence update shared Thursday states. “As well as being concerned about capability gaps resignees would leave, the authorities are likely also attempting to prevent any impression of defeatism, and to bolster a sense of collective responsibility for the war.”
The news of Moscow’s apparent crackdown on possible dissent coincides with stalled Russian progress in the war. Over the last several months, Russia has only made gains in three small territories. In April alone, Russia made fewer territorial gains than in any of the three months prior, according to a recent U.S. intelligence assessment.
Ukraine reported on Thursday it was making gains in Bakhmut, which Russian forces have been trying and failing to capture for months now, according to Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade. The brigade claimed the advances will help them gain a foothold for a planned counteroffensive against Russian forces. Ukraine has also reportedly made gains on the outskirts of the city in recent days.