Statement by Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers, Director of the Center for Global Politics and chair of the OEI Department of Political Science
News from Jun 17, 2019
A few days ago, the Berlin-based student Lukas Latz was expelled from a term-long stay at St. Peterburg State University. As a consequence, he also had to leave Russia immediately. The trigger for this was his research in environmental issues in the Russian Federation which had led him to a research stay in Chelyabinsk (Ural). Some of his findings and interviews were later published by the online magazine Jungle World (in German, https://jungle.world/artikel/2019/16/freier-atmen-ohne-bergwerk).
Apparently based on this publication, Latz was visited by two police officers in his dormitory, reprimanded for working as a ‘journalist’ while holding a student visa, fined for misconduct and told to sign a paper and accept his ‘guilt’. Shortly after, he left the country.
From an academic and political perspective, a few points deserve attention.
First, the history of Freie Universität started with a handful of students expelled by Humboldt University in 1948. For a long while the FU authorities were proud on this part of their history. So it could be expected that FUB has a political position to this issue involving one of its students.
Second, St. Peterburg State, executing the relegation of Latz, is a ‘strategic partner’ of Freie Universitaet. Some exchange programs are running, others are in preparation. What does FUB think about such a partner? Will it send more FUB students there, in the framework of exchange programs? Will it ask for any guarantees against similar infringements on free speech in the future? Will it publicly and internally stand to the principle of the freedom of expression that is currently under pressure in many countries, and in Russia in particular?
Finally, also the Osteuropa-Institute of FUB (where Latz is a student) should come up with a position. To intensify cooperation programs with this Petersburg University right now seems to be hard to imagine.
The Center for Global Politics and the chair for political sciences at Osteuropa-Institut are holding a critical position toward expelling Mr Latz from ST Peterburg State University. We think that running exchange programs should be suspended, and new initiatives put on hold, as long as the partners of FUB do not come up with guarantees that similar issues will be avoided in the future.