The University of Oxford has been accused of “selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates,” after having accepted Leonid Blavatnik’s £75 million donation.
Pavel Litvinov, the Soviet dissident leader, and others, including former Oxford academics and human rights activists, wrote a letter to The Guardian denouncing this. They assert that the university has failed to examine Blavatnik’s involvement with the state-sponsored harassment campaign against British Petroleum (BP) in Russia.
The letter said that Blavatnik and other Russian billionaires are members of a consortium called Access-Alfa-Renova (AAR), which was accused of being behind the harassment campaign, when western managers “were forced out of Russia” in 2008 and 2009.
Andrew Garfield, Blavatnik’s spokesman, said: “I don’t think we are going to comment. The allegations are primarily directed at Oxford.”
The university commented that they did not examine the quarrel between BP and AAR.
A spokesman for the university said: “Oxford University has a thorough and robust scrutiny process in place with regard to philanthropic giving. The Committee to Review Donations conducts appropriate due diligence based on publicly available information. The university is confident in this process and in its outcomes.
“The university is a world leader for research and education at a time of growing global competition. Generous philanthropic donations help make this possible, supporting outstanding teaching and research discoveries of worldwide benefit.”
As a result of Blavatnik’s £75 million donation in 2010, this autumn the Blavatnik School of Government will move into a brand new building at the University of Oxford. This donation has been said to be one of the biggest donations received by the university for 900 years.
Nevertheless, signatories of the letter to The Guardian, calling for transparency on Oxford donation procedures, state: “It is time to open a cleaner chapter in UK-Russia relations.”