MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti)
Students Protest Against Closure of Their “Inefficient” University
Students at the Russian State University of Trade and Economics have organized a sit-in to protest against a government plan to shut down their university, which was included in a “list of inefficient colleges.” The Russian Students’ Union anticipates similar protests across the country.
The Ministry of Education and Science, which ordered the controversial evaluation of universities, agreed to talk with the protesters on Wednesday, promising to pass on the students' demands to Minister Dmitry Livanov. The protesters plan to continue their sit-in until the evaluation results are invalidated.
Of the 502 universities evaluated on the basis of their students’ average score upon admission, proportion of foreign students, available educational infrastructure and so on, 136 were deemed “inefficient.” Some have been given a chance to improve while others will either be shut down or merged with other universities.
Sergei Baburin, Rector of the Trade and Economics University, published a letter accusing the ministry of manipulating the evaluation results. The student council supported the rector and announced a sit-in, occupying a lecture hall at night after lectures end at 6 p.m.
Leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov and other activists visited the students, but student leaders have explicitly dissociated themselves from politics.
Deputy Education Minister Alexander Klimov, who was responsible for the evaluation, said the ministry was not going to revise the results. “We used the records sent to us by the university and signed by its rector. The results, according to those records, were exceptionally low even by national standards, let alone for Moscow,” he said.
The ministry is not going to compromise with the protesters or with students of other inefficient universities. “This happens with all kinds of modernization initiatives. People immediately begin screaming for things to be left alone. But we used the same criteria on all universities, and gave them equal opportunities,” he said, adding that the blacklisted universities must submit their development plans by December 22, something the Trade and Economics University has not done yet.
“If I were their manager, I would have used my time more productively to work out a detailed program. The students would much rather get down to revising for their exams,” Klimov concluded. In any case, they will be given the opportunity to complete their degrees, and their tuition fees will not change even if their university merges with another university.
Baburin said they have sent a development plan to the ministry. “We are expanding our branch network and cooperating with foreign universities. This list is an insult to the entire academic community,” he added.
Although rectors criticized the ministry’s initiative, they have now dissociated themselves from Baburin. “Most conflicts have been settled through consultations with working groups,” said Olga Kashirina, head of the Russian Rectors’ Union.
Student Union leader Artyom Khromov anticipates similar protests across Russia. He believes the Education Ministry should meet with students of all blacklisted universities to explain what is going to happen.
China to Buy Russian Submarine
Rosoboronexport has signed a framework agreement with China to jointly create and build four fourth-generation Project 1650 Amur (Project 677E Lada) diesel submarines. The contract, worth $2 billion, is not expected to be signed until 2015 at the earliest. India and Venezuela have also shown interest in this submarine.
A source at the Russian arms exporter said that under the framework agreement signed in late August two submarines are to be built in Russia and two in China. “Chinese components will constitute up to 30% of the submarine,” the source said.
Another source said that “this contract stands at the top of the presidential list of joint projects with China” and that an additional agreement on the first phase of the project could be signed in 2012. The Russian manufacturer of the submarines has not been chosen yet.
Konstantin Biryulin, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said in mid-November that Russia and China had “exchanged visits in 2011 and 2012 to inspect each other’s production facilities.”
The Project 1650 Amur submarine was designed at the Rubin bureau in St. Petersburg. Two submarines were laid down at the Admiralty Shipyard in the late 1990s and another two boats in 2005 and 2006. The 66.8-meter long submarine has a crew of 35, a submerged speed of 21 knots and a maximum diving depth of 300 meters. Its submerged endurance is 25 days and total endurance 45 days. It is armed with 18 Club-S cruise missiles.
The first submarine of this class, the St. Petersburg, was put on combat duty in 2010, but the project was nearly closed down in spring 2012, after then Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Vladimir Vysotsky said the submarine’s propulsion system was below standard. His successor, Viktor Chirkov, subsequently ordered the construction of the Kronshtadt and the Sevastopol submarines under a modernized technical design, to include an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. The first AIP submarine could be built in 2014.
A source said that the submarines designed for China will have foreign-made AIP systems based on the Swedish Stirling engine, which is more eco-friendly and virtually silent.
The contract prohibits China from copying Russian-made technology. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on December 6 that Russia and China plan to sign an agreement on intellectual property rights in military technical cooperation.
At the end of 2011, India announced plans for the purchase and licensed production of six non-nuclear submarines worth $10.7 billion.
Rosoboronexport offered it the Amur submarine, but the tender has never been held. Venezuela had previously expressed interest in the Amur.
Most of China’s 50 submarines are Russian-made Projects 877 and 636 boats, said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. China has bought 12 such submarines since 1991. He assessed the potential contract at up to $2 billion.
India only has 10 Russian submarines, four German boats and a Russian-made Akula-2 (Project 971) submarine, which it has leased for $1 billion.
Ban on Russian Officials’ Foreign Accounts Rushed Through
A bill banning officials from opening accounts and buying property abroad may be approved in its first reading before the end of the year. The clause relating to property is likely to be adopted in the form proposed by Vladimir Putin.
In his address to the Federal Assembly on December 12, Putin proposed banning officials from opening foreign bank accounts and owning securities but allowing them to own property abroad, which they will still have to declare.
The State Duma wants the law to be adopted as soon as possible. The ban on foreign assets was suggested by different parliamentary parties last summer and now deputies are expecting the bill to be approved in its first reading this Friday. The bill may be amended before the second reading but with the president’s support there are unlikely to be any problems. The second and third readings are planned for the first weeks of the spring session after the New Year break.
Amendments to the anti-corruption law and the Criminal Code prohibit government officials from opening accounts in foreign banks, as well as owning property abroad. According to the draft, officials must get rid of such property by June 1, 2013, or they will have to pay a 5 to 10-million ruble fine or could even serve up to five years in prison.
The bill has received strong criticism from the government and the Supreme Court.
“Modern criminal law tends to avoid any excessive legal regulation of civil law relations,” Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court Anatoly Tolkachenko wrote in his reply. “Criminalizing an act is only appropriate when it poses a danger to society and other response measures have proved ineffective.”
The government’s review said that “additional restrictions will prevent highly skilled experts involved in the private sector from taking up government posts. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also said that a ban on owning foreign property would be excessive. State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said this initiative has nothing to do with combating corruption.
Yesterday, Deputy Speaker from United Russia Sergei Zheleznyak put his name to the bill. Earlier, he had written a milder version with A Just Russia’s Ilya Ponomaryov, which states that the owning of foreign property must be reported, rather than banned.
“I promised to support this project if it first received a government review. So today I canceled my signature under my version of the bill and joined my colleagues’ project.”
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