As Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine continues to wreak destruction, I want to update you on the steps we are taking in response to these events.
In reply to a communication I received, I have written to my counterpart at the National Technical University of Ukraine to express our outrage at the actions of Putin’s Russian state and affirm our solidarity with all at the university and the people of Ukraine. I am sure I speak for the whole of Cardiff University when I say we view the brutality and utter disregard for human life displayed by Putin with the utmost horror. In common with many universities across the world, we unequivocally condemn this catastrophic aggression.
Our practical influence is necessarily limited, but where we can, we will offer our help. Clearly, the invasion may lead to Ukrainian academics seeking refuge in this country, and we are working to offer support in such cases through our long-standing cooperation with the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA). It was heartening, too, to hear that some Cardiff colleagues are already volunteering short-term placements to help Ukrainian academics re-establish themselves on a more permanent basis.
We have now contacted all the Cardiff University students who are from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, insofar as our records allow, and Heads of School have been liaising with members of staff. In addition to any emotional support that may be required we are considering practical requirements such as the possibility of hardship funding for students encountering financial difficulty, as well as ensuring that students who are unable to return to their home country (especially those from Ukraine) can continue to be accommodated in Cardiff when term finishes.
The efforts to isolate Russia internationally have a range of implications for Cardiff University. In terms of links with the country, we have established that we do not have any Russian-funded research projects, or student exchange links with Russian universities. So far as other links may be concerned (for example with industry) I would urge caution, especially since any such work may be subject to sanction. We must ensure that any collaboration with Russian government agencies or sources of Russian government funding ceases immediately. Thus far we have not identified any instances of this nature, but please do inform Professor Ruedi Allemann, PVC International, if you are aware of any.
It is important to say that we must be careful not to withdraw our support from Russian academic colleagues who may have opposed Putinism for years, many thousands of whom are running a significant risk by signing statements opposing the war and the actions of their government. This is a complex set of circumstances and it is important to remember that a key role of universities is to build academic bridges where governments may destroy them.
I have said before that Cardiff’s strength comes from the collective diversity of background and experience that characterises our community, and in these most dire circumstances I have been struck once again by our community’s compassion. That strength will manifest itself through the opportunity to come together and reflect on these terrible events on Wednesday 9 March at 11:00, on the Horseshoe Drive of Main Building, at a vigil organised by the multi-faith chaplains. I look forward to seeing some of you at that event, and will continue to keep you updated on the actions we are taking to respond to this crisis.