Dutch lecturer accuses Kazakhstan of sacking him under Russian pressure

26th August 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch lecturer on Wednesday accused a top university in Kazakhstan of sacking him after he tried to hold a talk on the "Russian-Ukrainian conflict", a claim denied by the university.

Dutch professor Marcel de Haas planned last August to hold a public talk on the Ukraine crisis at Nazarbayev University, one of Kazakhstan's most prestigious schools.

But he was told he could not host the seminar, titled "The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict", and said he had been since threatened with dismissal.

His contract with the Astana-based university, named after the country's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will be terminated in November.

"The lesson to be drawn from my dismissal is the influence Russia has on this country in general and on this university," de Haas told AFP.

Kazakhstan is a Moscow ally, although relations between the two have appeared strained since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year.

De Haas has released correspondence in which Russia's defence attache in Kazakhstan, Ruslan Kuznetsov, allegedly cautions that the planned talk would "introduce falsehoods into the minds of students", in a message to the manager of a graduate programme at the university.

The West and Kiev accuse of Moscow of fomenting the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, a claim Russia denies.

Nazarbayev University rejected the Dutch professor's claims that his sacking was politically-motivated and said he was a "poor fit" for the school.

"Mr. de Haas' allegations are entirely without merit," it said in a statement, adding that it "has never been subject to pressure from any government to limit the expression of its faculty or students."

The university, which opened in 2010, has attracted researchers from around the world with competitive salaries and promises of academic freedom.

© 2015 AFP

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