“ARC” has already written about the methods of the Russian invaders to imitate the activity in the educational process of Crimea at the expense of “foreign students”. In particular, it was pointed out that the absolute majority of these “foreigners” were citizens of Ukraine, mainly residents of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions . Since then, the mechanisms of violent imitation of “productive international relations” in the field of higher education and science between the Crimean “universities” and foreign high schools have significantly strengthened. Whether this is a daring improvisation of the aggressor or, on the contrary, his thoughtful, far-sighted plan – Associate Professor Andrii Chvalyuk will try to figure it out.
On the web-site of the “Crimean Federal University named after V.I. Vernadsky” (hereinafter – “CFU”), created by the Russian occupiers through the illegal association of Ukrainian universities, it is noted in the section “International activities”  that “CFU” graduates allegedly have the opportunity to receive a “document of a pan-European sample”, the Diploma Supplement, which is supposed to “simplify the recognition of their academic and professional achievements for abroad”. However, even the formal presence of such a “diploma” issued by the “CFU” does not guarantee employment. For example, an Estonian graduate of “CFU” was never able to find a job in his country. And although the “rector” of “CFU” cites this situation as an alleged “exception to the rule” , in our opinion, this will become a good example for other “students” who are planning to be tempted by “free cheese”.
To conduct an effective introductory campaign to attract “foreign students”, the Russian invaders go to various manipulations and provide information that does not correspond to reality. In particular, in the already cited “CFU” web-site’s link “International activity”, there are some Russia’s bilateral international acts on the recognition of foreign educational documents, scientific degrees and academic titles pointed . There is the Agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Russia on mutual recognition and equivalence of educational documents and academic titles among them. The Protocol on Amendments to this Agreement of 2000, which entered into force on January 28, 2003, does indeed provide for the recognition in Ukraine of educational documents issued in Russia .
However, for some reason, the “CFU” “did not take into account” that this agreement was concluded before the attempted annexation of the Crimea, that directly affected the subject of the treaty. Article 75 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of International Treaties allows Ukraine to neglect its obligations to the aggressor State not only with regard to fake “diplomas” issued in Donetsk or Simferopol, but also with respect to Russia’s documents of higher education proper. Taking this into account, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine provided an official explanation that “diplomas and other educational documents issued in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are not recognized and have no legal force either in Ukraine or in other countries of the world” . The fact that the “management” of “CFU” did not reflect this on its web-site directly indicates the fact of manipulation of the norms of international law. At the same time, of course, it would be better for Ukraine to deprive such institutions as “CFU” of the very object of their manipulations, denouncing both the 2000 agreement and the 2003 protocol to it.
In 2016, Igor Voronin, the “director” of the “CFU” “Taurian Academy” said on the air of local radio that “graduates of the university” can allegedly work anywhere abroad: he said that there are already examples that certain holders of diplomas of “CFU” allegedly got a job at work in Germany and the Baltic states. However, at the same time, Voronin noted that the vector of Russian geopolitics turned 180 degrees to the east, and he urged to focus on the institutions of the eastern countries, where there allegedly would be no questions to the “CFU” diplomas at all. And a year later, on August 7, 2017, the Russian invaders announced that allegedly the employees of the “international activities department” of the “CFU” “legalized” the diplomas and supplements to them of university graduates from Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri-Lanka, Yemen and Bangladesh .
What is the reason for the popularity of “CFU” among foreigners? It is quite simple – over the long history of the Ukrainian educational institutions, which the Russian invaders consolidated during the formation of “CFU”, have earned a certain prestige in foreign third countries. And the quality of the training of specialists by the Crimean institutions was known far beyond the peninsula. To the beginning of 2014, only the number of foreign partners of the Taurian National University named after V.I. Vernadsky (TNU) has grown to 206. As of the beginning of 2014, there were 87 projects and grants on international cooperation with universities in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Norway, Switzerland, USA, Belarus, Russia. Among them there were the Universities of Thessaloniki and Athens, the University of Lublin, the Universities of Nice and Perpignan, the Universities of Genoa and Rome, and so on. Annually more than 100 employees and students of TNU underwent scientific training abroad. TNU itself hosted about the same number of foreign trainees. Students were exchanged with foreign universities, joint scientific conferences and seminars were organized . Some of these developments are still abused by “CFU”.
At the same time, the Ukrainian educational standards themselves, within the framework of which this cooperation became possible, are subjected to propaganda criticism by the occupiers. In particular, the future rector of “CFU”, at that time “vice-premier” of the Crimean “government” Sergei Donich, promised at the end of September 2014 that new state standards for personnel training would be introduced in the planned “federal university” in the Crimea, ostensibly “having no analogues in Ukraine”, and diplomas of the new “university” will be recognized at once by 105 countries of the world, where Russian diplomas are recognized, “from the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France to the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America”. Donich stated that Ukraine allegedly “issued cheap diplomas to anyone”, while “there is a completely different approach in Russia” . In the future, the “leaders of the republic” became less categorical and, as is often the case with them, they diametrically changed the concept of attracting the foreign applicants.
On February 26, 2020, the notorious “representative of Crimea under the President of the Russian Federation” Georgy Muradov and Crimean “Minister of Finance” Irina Kivik visited India as part of a “working visit”. After that, Mrs. Kivik said that many private schools in India allegedly want to send their students to the Crimea for a language workshop, and added that the “people’s diplomacy” of the occupying state “will be able to break the Western sanctions imposed on Crimea and Russia”. And Georgy Muradov boasted that he lured Indians to Crimea with “inexpensive Russian education” and even the climatic conditions of the peninsula favorable for the Indian nation .
The fact that the presence of “foreign students” on the peninsula is a political matter, not an educational one, indicates the existence of additional admission benefits. Certain categories of representatives of third countries, namely Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are lured to “Crimean universities” for “budgetary places” on the basis of the Russian government decree No. 662 of 1999. The invaders claim that the citizens of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, “permanently residing on the territory of Russia”, can exercise “similar rights” on the basis of the 1992 intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of education. A similar separate agreement applies to citizens of Georgia.
In addition, the aggressor state launched a “compatriot support program”. According to it, program participants who have proven their belonging to the direct descendants of persons born on the territory of the USSR can enter the “universities of the Crimea” controlled by Russia and “study at budgetary departments” . That is, in this case we are no longer talking about “inexpensive Russian education,” but about free education for citizens of third countries. In this context, the tangible influx of “applicants” to the Crimea seems no longer to be something extraordinary. But that’s not all. “ARC” has already written about the socio-political and financial role played by the numerous “national-cultural autonomies” formed by the Russian special services in the occupied Crimea . But it seems that the Russian invaders use this resource in other spheres as well.
In particular, at the end of July 2020, the Crimean media spread the news with the habitually far from the truth and pretentious headline “South Korea recognized the Crimean diplomas”. The “confession” turned out to be that “the diplomas of the Crimean Finance and Economics College” were supposedly “valid” for the entry into the bachelor’s degree at the Seoul institution Sahmyook. It is a private university that is part of a global network of Seventh-day Adventist Christian universities and it provides a spiritual learning environment, “individual dedication to Christ, personal integrity, intellectual development and community service”. The “national and cultural autonomy of the Koreans of the Crimea” was the third party in the signing of the “cooperation agreement”.
The “president” of the aforementioned “Crimean college” Vladimir Uzunov, who is also a “member of the public chamber of the Republic of Crimea”, assured that the signed “agreement” will not only contribute to the development of Korean culture in the Crimea, but will also allow Crimean applicants to study in Seoul – though not clarifying whether they should become Adventists for this. It was also not specified how this is linked to the systemic oppression of the Adventists themselves in the Crimea by the Russia-controlled “administration”, in the form of “fines” and restrictions on the activities of religious schools and missionary work.
However, the “students” of the “college” have already been promised permanent Korean language courses and two-week study tours to Seoul, because it was stated that the Korean side would bear some of the expenses. According to the “head of the Association of Koreans in the Republic of Crimea” Vladimir Kim, representatives of Sahmyook University were “pleasantly surprised” to learn that more than 4,000 ethnic Koreans live on the occupied peninsula.  We ourselves were surprised by this figure, because according to the 2001 all-Ukrainian census, 2,877 Koreans lived in Crimea, and the “population census” conducted by the Russian invaders in 2014 (covering all individuals identified by the invaders in the Crimea) reflected 2,983 persons who considered themselves as Koreans. Although it is possible that “additional” Koreans were brought in as part of the program of mass resettlement of the loyal Russian population to the Crimea, or the figure was determined taking into account the North Korean “students” of the “CFU”.
The “conquest of Asia” by the “Crimean universities” is also taking place in the Chinese direction. In 2015, the “first enrollment of students” for the specialty “Chinese language and literature, English” was carried out at “CFU”. At first, the “students” practiced the language with Taiwanese teachers Sen Chen and Li Yu, and in 2016 they were joined by a teacher from mainland China, Song Zhe. In June 2016, the “rector” of “CFU” Sergei Donich, announcing the opening of a new specialty, said that the need for its existence was due to “active ties between Russia and China”. However, in the table
“Distribution of budget places for the bachelor’s program and specialties in 2021”, this specialty is absent in “CFU”, as in previous years also. Apparently, one enrollment of “students” was enough to ensure “active ties between Russia and China”.
At the same time “CFU” announced in 2021 a recruitment for such specialties as “Philology (Arabic language and literature. English)” and “Philology (Turkish language and literature. English)”. Perhaps the aggressor State had the goal of “preparing the ground” in advance for the establishment of new active ties in the East. However, the “introductory campaign” failed and “priority places for the specified specialties” remained unassigned . This means that the “state ordering” will be canceled for these specialties, just as the “program of training students” in the specialty “Persian language and literature”, which was stopped in due time. Perhaps the plans of the Russian invaders lost their relevance after the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Ukraine Mohammad Beheshti-Monfared said that Iran has always supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and has never recognized the legal attempt to annex the Crimea by Russia . However, some “students” from Iran are still listed at “CFU”.
On March 30, 2017, the invaders held an “international round table” at “CFU” as part of the “project” “People’s diplomacy: mutual understanding between peoples and strengthening the image of Crimea as a territory of peace and harmony”. The event was organized by the “Committee for Interethnic Relations of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea”, “CFU” and “Regional German Cultural Autonomy of the Republic of Crimea” and “House of Friendship of Peoples”. Obviously, “the Koreans did their job”, and now the stake “was placed on the Germans”. Russian propaganda stated that a delegation of German politicians, whose names were not disclosed by the Russian invaders, allegedly took part in the “round table”.
After some Europeans, having recklessly “lit up” in the occupied Crimea, came under personal sanctions, the occupiers began to hide real German citizens from the media. During the above event, Alexander Mashchenko called the “people’s diplomacy” of the Russian invaders as “an important tool in the fight against information blockade” and he expressed his belief that the guests of the event, upon returning home, “will tell the citizens of their country, including politicians, the truth about the peninsula, and they will be able to understand the choice of the Crimean people”. Similar “explanatory” activities are carried out by the invaders almost monthly, both in the Crimea itself and beyond. In particular, the institutions of the “Moscow Center for International Cooperation”, scattered throughout the post-Soviet countries, are used for this.
In order to circumvent international sanctions and the illegitimacy of educational documents obtained in the occupied Crimea, the invaders decided to pull off another “transparent” scheme. In August 2017, Andrei Falaleev, who at that time was still “acting rector” of “CFU”, said that the result of cooperation between his “university” and Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov (MSU) may be achieved and “Crimean students will receive diplomas of these two institutions at once”. This scheme is quite working and it is rather difficult to oppose anything to it. Unless the countries participating in the aforementioned and other agreements on the mutual recognition of educational documents with Russia will apply their denunciation. But there are no trends for this yet.
However, it is still possible to conclude an agreement with Russian universities for “Crimean universities”, but this is often not very successful working with third countries. For example, Russian propaganda claimed that the “Sevastopol State University” (“SevSU”), controlled by the Russian invaders, had entered into a cooperation agreement with the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (FH Oberösterreich). The cooperation was supposedly supposed to cover “exchange of students, teachers, joint internships and the creation of joint programs with the subsequent issuance of double diplomas”. At the same time, as “ARC” already reported to the readers, after Ukraine introduced sanctions against “SevSU” in 2020, our Association specifically informed all educational institutions of third countries mentioned on the “SevSU” website that they were allegedly declared as “partners” by the structure, in respect of which complicity in the financing of terrorism, in money laundering and in the uncontrolled use of a nuclear reactor, contrary to international law, has been proven.
After that, “ARC” received an official letter from Dr. Ulrike Hillemann-Delaney, Director of International Affairs at the Technical University of Berlin. She indicated that the Technical University of Berlin, mentioned on the “SevSU” web-site, did not have any cooperation with “SevSU” and expressed gratitude to “ARC” for the message that this information (as we can see – false and fraudulent) was posted on “the Sevastopol official website”. The letter stated that the Technical University of Berlin would immediately request that the relevant information be removed from the “SevSU” website . A somewhat different, dirtier and more remarkable situation has developed with the aforementioned FH Oberösterreich, located in the city of Wels. Let us recall that in December 2020, “ARC” highlighted the long-term and carefully worked out network of Russian agents of its influence in Austria and Switzerland, which, among other things, was used by the aggressor State precisely within the framework of the “Friends of Crimea” project, and which, “by a strange coincidence” of circumstances, was based precisely on the city of Wells through local politicians  (by the way, already former ones).
No response was received to “ARC”’s direct request to FH Oberösterreich – why did the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria conclude agreements with such a specific structure as “SevSU”, which, among other things, uses a nuclear reactor outside the IAEA’s control. However, Austrian journalists were extremely interested in this story also, and, unlike “ARC”, they managed to get an official comment from FH Oberösterreich, because university officials simply could not fail to provide it. In it, the Austrian higher education managers admitted the fact of “making a deal” with “SevSU”. But, as they added at the same time in the official response of the university, in 2018 they signed only a “declaration of intent” with the invaders, which in subsequent years was not implemented in any way, no one changed “students”, and no one issued “double diplomas”. As representatives of the Austrian university were forced to admit, in particular, this happened because this issue is “too subtle due to the predetermination of a possible violation of sanctions” .
The list of international partners in “SevSU” is not as wide as in “CFU”, but apart from the above-mentioned European ones, there are higher and secondary specialized ones, first of all, private educational institutions of certain Asian countries, as well as the Vietnamese branch of the Moscow Institute of the Russian Language named after A.S. Pushkin . One can hardly expect a response from them to “ARC”’s appeals or to journalistic inquiries, so they also need to be elaborated by the governing institutions. By the way, it is “incomprehensible” why the “Sevastopol University” does not cooperate with the Moscow Institute of the Russian Language directly, without using a foreign branch in Hanoi as a strip. It is incomprehensible – if you think logically, or in terms of the educational process or scientific cooperation. If we are guided by the logic of the Russian special services to “legitimize the occupation of Crimea” through international cooperation in the field of education, using “for convenience” their own controlled institutions in third countries, then the situation is completely clear.
To conclude new “international relations”, the invaders also use the tactics of infiltrating the “Crimean students” into the educational and scientific environment of third states through the creation of “foreign missions”. In October 2018, Andrei Falaleev said that the “university” he headed did not abandon plans to open “foreign missions” to provide an “international program” and attract “foreign students”. At the same time, he admitted that the infrastructure of “CFU” is not ready for such steps, given the lack of space for living and learning, which needs “modernization, expansion and quality improvement”. Also, the “management” of “CFU” faced the problem of solving the financial difficulties of “foreign students”, due to problems with transferring funds to the Crimea, but it was planned to solve this issue by opening an office of “CFU” in Moscow .
We have already written that the “Western Union” money transfer system does not work in the Crimea and that Crimean residents are forced to use the services of shadow dealers, paying for their services from 3 to 10 percent . As we can see, the impact of sanctions also hinders attempts to legitimize the “Anschluss of Crimea” through education, or at least complicates this process. However, if the “branch” of “CFU” in Moscow became primarily a category of propaganda, then the subdivision of Moscow State University operated in Sevastopol until 2014 officially. At the end of January 2019, this “Sevastopol branch” of Moscow State University announced that they would “teach students from Syria”. The corresponding “agreement” was signed during the visit of representatives of Sevastopol’s “authorities” to Tartus. A year earlier, the “vice-rector for strategic communications” of “SevSU” Ivan Kusov said that his “university” cooperates with Syria “pointwise”, “in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s instructions” . This clause also shows that the establishment of “massive international cooperation” is based not on scientific or educational needs, but on the personal whims of the leader of the aggressor State.
In early September 2019, a “delegation of students” from Serbia also arrived in the occupied Crimea. Before that, this Balkan country was visited by a “delegation of students of the Faculty of Geography” of “CFU”, while another “delegation of Crimean students” went to communist China. Then “Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Youth of the Republic of Crimea” Konstantin Alikin spoke about the alleged “preliminary agreements reached” with Serbia, Turkey and China on “international exchange of youth and student delegations”. This topic was discussed with the “CFU”, which has already “received the experience of such an exchange” and with the “Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University”.
At the same time, “CFU” announced the “beginning of cooperation” with the Beijing University of Language and Culture. In particular, they allegedly discussed joint actions in the field of distance learning of “CFU” “students” in the Chinese language, holding “summer schools” in Beijing and on the basis of the “CFU branch” in Yalta, as well as “various exchange programs and joint scientific research” . In the very fact of the “exchange of student delegations”, the authorities of third countries are often really difficult to see the corpus delicti, and that is why this scheme sometimes still works. If the “Crimean students” start to be hosted anywhere, the “leadership” of the “Crimean universities” instantly raises the issue of “starting cooperation between higher educational institutions”, creating “exchange programs”, conducting “internships”, opening “summer schools”, “branches” and so on. And after a while, Russian propaganda reports that “another cooperation agreement has been signed”. After all, if the structures, controlled by the aggressor State, fail to establish a dialogue with state universities of third countries (which most often happens), then “delegations of Crimean students” begin to run between private, religious and other specific educational institutions. The calculation here is that, according to the rules of large numbers, they will be accepted at least somewhere. Of course, this practice of frantic “search for a foreign partner” has nothing to do with real student exchanges and joint academic research.
Sometimes the desire for “recognition” for the “Crimean universities” takes on frankly tragicomic features. For example, back in February 2017 it became known that the British publishing house “Oxford University Press” had published a collective monograph “The Waffen-SS: A European History”. The work includes a section on collaborationist formations in World War II, the co-author of which, the Crimean historian Oleg Romanko, was referred to as a “professor” of “CFU”. According to Oleg Romanko himself, he allegedly received the author’s copy in a parcel post with the address “Republic of Crimea, Russian Federation” . And although no one actually saw this parcel, and the text of the book does not indicate that “CFU” is a “Russian organization”, the very hypothetical mistake of the packer or of the publishing house secretary, responsible for mailing copyrighted copies, provided grounds for the Russian media to proclaim that allegedly “one of the largest publishing houses in Great Britain has recognized Crimea as Russia”.
In conclusion, it is worth warning that attempts to bypass the sanctions and to “legitimize” the attempted annexation of the Crimea by Russia will continue and intensify, in particular with the usage of “Crimean universities” and “academic cooperation”. Our Association will continue to monitor carefully the relevant aggressor’s activities.