Unlikely targets in cross hairs as Russia aims to expose foreign influence

TheNew York Times reports: Dmitry Zimin, the telecommunications billionaire and benefactor of a foundation known as the Dynasty Fund, was not calling for revolution or election monitors. His efforts were elsewhere: awarding grants to young Russian researchers and financing high school science camps.

But after a monthlong battle to remove the foundation from a list of “foreign agents,” the Dynasty Fund’s board announced this past week that the organization would close. The foundation has given around $7 million annually for more than a decade to programs dedicated to the sciences.

Mr. Zimin became an unlikely casualty of Russia’s campaign to expose foreign influences that President Vladimir V. Putin has deemed threatening. While some targets have been predictable, Russia’s new foreign agents include an organization that supports the mothers of soldiers and Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights organization, founded to research repression under the Soviet Union.

Even with anti-Western sentiment at a fever pitch, the labeling of Dynasty as a foreign agent struck Russian scientists as bizarre. Founded by Mr. Zimin in 2002, Dynasty sought to reinvigorate Russian science after a devastating decade of post-Soviet budget cuts.

“In short, this man gave two billion rubles of his own money and they decided to abuse him,” said Mikhail Gelfand, a Russian biologist who had taught courses for Dynasty. “Dynasty formed around itself a community of successful and respectable people. Apparently that was seen by the government as something suspicious and dangerous.”[Continue reading…]

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