Russian professor sacked over criticism of actions in Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian philosophy professor at a prestigious state university has been sacked after comparing Moscow’s actions in Ukraine with Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, the school said on Monday.

In an op-ed earlier this month on the day Russian lawmakers voted to give President Vladimir Putin permission to send troops into Ukraine, Andrei Zubov warned against war, saying: “We must not behave the way Germans once behaved, based on the promises of Goebbels and Hitler.”

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), a diplomatic school with ties to the foreign ministry where Zubov has worked since 2001, said it had dismissed him for criticising Russia’s foreign policy.

“Let the inappropriate and offensive historical analogies and characterisations lay on Zubov’s conscience, the leadership of MGIMO view it as impossible for A.B. Zubov to continue working at the institute,” MGIMO said in a statement.

It said that it had handed him notice on March 5, the day after the opinion piece was published by Vedemosti daily.

“Numerous statements and interviews by A.B. Zubov on what is happening in Ukraine and on Russia’s foreign policy have caused indignation ... They counter Russia’s foreign policy course,” it said.

Zubov’s criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea echoed concerns aired by liberals and critics of the Kremlin, some of whom saw his sacking as a Soviet-style clamp down on dissent.

Russian officials bristle at any comparison of the Soviet Union or Russia with Hitler’s Germany, and many Russians including Putin view victory in World War Two as their country’s proudest moment of the 20th century.

Zubov could not immediately be reached for comment. He had told Russian media earlier this month that MGIMO had asked him to resign over his vocal criticism of Russia’s policies in Ukraine but he would not keep silent.

“I am afraid, but there are situations in which you have to act, regardless of your own fear,” he told the Russian New Times magazine.

Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Ruth Pitchford