Swedish Universities suspend exchange and research programs with Russia

Eight of Sweden's leading universities have broken off all their exchange programs with Russian and Belarusian universities, a survey by SVT has found.

The old water tower at the Institute of Astronomy at Lund University.
The old water tower at the Institute of Astronomy at Lund University. Photo: Mikael Risedal/Lund University

The decisions have come after Education Minister Anna Ekström on March 2nd called for higher education institutes to break off contact and collaborations with state-run institutions in Russia and Belarus. 

Since then the Uppsala, Stockholm, Umeå, Linnaeus, Linköping and Jonköping universities have all cancelled their exchange programs with state-run institutions in Russia and Belarus, as has the Stockholm School of Economics.

“This is a consequence of the government’s request. All agreements are being put on ice,” Karin Apelgren, head of the Student Affairs and Academic Registry at Uppsala University, told SVT

Students already studying in Sweden under the programs will, however, be allowed to continue their exchange. 

“It’s not  bara är den ryska eliten som påverkas, det är unga människor som vill studera och bygga sina liv. Vi har inte valt att bli ryssar, vi bara föddes där.

“It’s not just the Russian elite who are being affected, but young people who want to study and make a life for themselves,” Lisa Khaidarova, a Russian who has been studying at Uppsala University since 2018, told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT.

“It’s sad. We never chose to be Russian, we were just born there. I have so many friends who would have loved to come here, but now it will be impossible.” 

READ ALSO: How has Sweden responded to Putin’s war in Ukraine so far?

Stefan Ingvarsson, an analyst at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs warned that isolating Russian academic institutions could strengthen rather than weaken the regime around President Vladimir Putin. 

“I understand that this is a problematic situation, but at the same time it’s ridiculous to stop people coming to Sweden. This is exactly the sort of exchange which we need to change Russia,” he said. “I’m afraid that the West is currently contributing to the isolation which certain powers in Russia have only dreamt of, and that we ourselves have pledged to counteract.” 

As well as stopping exchange programs, several universities have also frozen collaborations with Russian universities.

Lund University, for instance, recently suspended one of its Arctic climate research projects because of the project’s high Russian involvement. 

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Sweden sends anti-ship and anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

Sweden on Thursday announced additional aid of one billion kronor ($102 million, €95 million) to Ukraine, consisting of both financial aid and military equipment including anti-ship missiles and anti-tank launchers.

Sweden sends anti-ship and anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

“We are now seeing a new phase in the Russian invasion, where (Russia) is gathering strength in eastern and southeastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian side has requested help in several areas,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told reporters at a joint press conference with Finance Minister Mikael Damberg.

Damberg said the Scandinavian country would contribute 578 million kronor to the Ukrainian central bank’s fund for its armed forces, 60 million kronor to Nato’s fund to help Ukraine’s armed forces, and military equipment worth 262 million kronor.

In addition, Sweden will contribute 100 million kronor for civilian efforts through the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

According to a press release, the military materiel consists of Sweden’s anti-ship missile system Robot 17, which is a modified version of the US Hellfire missile system, as well as 5,000 anti-tank launchers and AG 90 assault rifles and ammunition.

“This is qualified equipment in line with what Ukraine has requested”, Hultqvist said.

In late February, Sweden broke its doctrine of not sending weapons to countries in active conflict for the first time since 1939, announcing 400 million kronor worth of military materiel and the donation of 500 million kronor to the Ukrainian central bank’s fund for its armed forces.

Sweden, along with neighbouring Finland, in May overturned decades of military non-alignment by submitting historic joint applications to join Nato, as support for membership soared in both countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.