Russian research centers face forced merger mandated by the government

Aug. 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM
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MOSCOW, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Moscow may merge Russia's leading physics research centers with an institute with links to President Vladimir Putin, a Russian newspaper reported.

The merger was proposed by the Moscow-based Kurchatov Institute, currently headed by Mikhail Kovalchuk, whose brother Yury is a prominent businessman and a reported affiliate of Putin, the Kommersant newspaper said.

The merger proposal, which the reported said had been ordered by Putin, would make the other research establishments subordinate to the Kurchatov Institute, Alexander Litvak, who heads one of the 14 centers on the merger list, told RIA Novosti.

The Russian government announced in May a major overhaul of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which it had long criticized as ineffective.

Kovalchuk has not made any public comment about the proposed merger, while the president of the sciences academy, Vladimir Fortov, has been quoted as saying he is opposed to the merger in its current form.

That reform of the academy, which proposed to hand over control of its assets and institutions to the government, was fast-tracked in two readings by the parliament but stalled until September pending the third and final reading, after protests from Russian academics.

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