A Likely Story: Russia Urges Foreign-Based Students to Come Home

Transitions Online — April 19, 2018

Moscow’s relations with Britain nosedived after Moscow denied the UK’s allegations it was behind the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil and the expulsions of dozens of Russian diplomats by Britain and its allies.

In a move possibly connected with the presence of thousands of Russian students at British universities, Russia’s Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation, also known as Rossotrudnichestvo, has launched a campaign to encourage an estimated 60,000 Russians studying abroad to complete their studies at home.

Called “Highly Likely Welcome Back,” the name of the new program strikes at British Prime Minister Theresa May’s use of the phrase “highly likely” to comment on whether Russia was responsible for the Skripal poisoning.

“As we know, domestic policy in a number of countries and in Europe, in particular, increasingly has a pronounced anti-Russian character,” Rossotrudnichestvo’s Olga Evko said, according to Russian television network NTV.

“We are forced to note the negative influence of Russophobic attitudes on the activities of our compatriots, whose opportunities for self-realization are narrowed,” Evko added.

“There is serious concern that young Russians may suffer from provocations in countries that express unfriendly attitudes towards our country,” said the moderator of the program’s roll-out on Monday, Kommersant reported, according to The Moscow Times.

Rossotrudnichestvo officials have promised to grease the skids for students willing to return to Russia. Undergraduate students who are currently studying abroad will have the opportunity to transfer to the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

Britain’s embassy in Moscow told Kommersant that the country “is very happy, as always, to accept the Russians that come to the United Kingdom for tourism, education and business.”

  • Russian attitudes toward Britain have turned more negative in the wake of the Skripal poisoning, independent pollster Levada reported recently. Fifty-one percent of respondents to a recent survey thought “very poorly” or “poorly” of Britain. A similar poll a decade ago found that 61 percent saw Britain in a positive light, The Moscow Times reported.
  • Of the 81 percent of respondents who said they were aware of the Skripal poisoning, only 9 percent believed that Western accusations were justified.

Compiled by Savannah Delgross

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