Harvard says it’s not directly invested in Russian companies, but past donations are under scrutiny | News


Harvard does not have direct investments in Russian companies, university spokesman Jason A. Newton wrote in a statement to The Crimson on Wednesday. The proclamation comes as US institutions face widespread calls to hand over their assets to Russian companies as the country wages war on Ukraine.

The University had previously been silent on its investments in Russia. Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, hundreds of Harvard affiliates held a rally in support of Ukraine at Harvard Yard that called on the university to disclose its financial ties to the Kremlin.

Newton wrote that Harvard does not believe in holding indirect stakes in Russian companies.

“Like all investors, we do not have full transparency on every investment made by third-party managers, but we believe there are no significant indirect holdings in Russian companies,” he wrote. .

But some Harvard organizations and affiliates say the University needs to go further in disclosing its financial exposure to Russia.

Emily Channel-Justice, program director at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, said it was “reasonable to ask universities to be more transparent.”

“It’s very interesting – what they said – that they don’t claim any direct involvement without having full transparency,” she said.

Some critics have taken aim at donations Harvard accepted from Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who sold his stake in a Russian oil company in 2013 for $7 billion. Blavatnik, a US and UK citizen, donated $200 million to Harvard Medical School in 2018.

The Anti-Corruption Action Center – a Ukrainian organization dedicated to fighting corruption in the country – has released a petition urging “all Western institutions to end all forms of cooperation with Kremlin-linked entities and sponsors” .

The petition specifically asks Harvard to rename programs and buildings that bear Blavatnik’s name, claiming the billionaire ‘derives huge insider benefits from Putin’s regime, suppresses free speech, cooperates with Russian officials corrupt and finance Russian entertainment propaganda”.

Several programs within HMS are named after Blavatnik, including the Blavatnik Institute and the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator.

A spokesperson for Blavatnik’s company wrote in a 2019 statement to Mother Jones that Blavatnik “has no connection with the Russian government or its leaders.”

Tetiana Shevchuk, head of international programs at AntAC, said the organization uses the “name and shame” method to implement change.

“Writing them privately, asking them, wouldn’t make a difference,” she said. “So we’re trying to build momentum at least to name and shame, because in this situation there’s no excuse for very serious war crimes.”

Oleh Kotsyuba, publication director at the Ukrainian Research Institute, wrote that he was “far from happy” with the university’s statement, saying that Blavatnik and other wealthy people linked to Russian oligarchs are “laundering their reputation” through their donations to leading universities. like Harvard.

Kotsyuba criticized previous statements from the University – which describe Blavatnik as a “philanthropist” and his donation to HMS an “unprecedented act of generosity and support” – for omitting the billionaire’s ties to Putin.

Kotsyuba said accepting money from Blavatnik “undermines the morality of the University”, even though the initiatives funded by Blavatnik’s donations “represent a noble cause”.

“At least until 2014, Harvard University should have removed Blavatnik’s name from all of the above initiatives and reallocated some of the funds received to aiding Ukrainians and supporting Ukrainian studies at Harvard and the beyond,” Kotsybua said.

Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Newton declined to comment on criticism of Blavatnik’s gifts.

Harvard affiliates have also circulated a petition in recent weeks calling on the University to support Ukrainian students and condemn Russia’s actions.

Georgiy Kent ’22, who helped publicize the petition, noted that the statement calls for support for Ukrainian Harvard students, “as well as disclosure of potential financial ties to Russia.”

Some Harvard affiliates have expressed appreciation for the shows of support from students and faculty. In remarks last week, the university’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, denounced the “deplorable actions of Vladimir Putin” which “endanger the lives of millions of people and undermine the concept of sovereignty”.

“Institutions dedicated to perpetuating democratic ideals and articulating human rights have a responsibility to condemn such wanton aggression,” Bacow said.

Ilya Timchenko, a Ukrainian Harvard Kennedy School student and founder of the Ukrainian Caucus at HKS, said he wanted Harvard to be “a school of principles and dignity as it preaches.”

—Writer Dekyi T. Tsotsong can be reached at [email protected]

—Writer Eric Yan can be reached at [email protected]


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