Soros university in Vienna declared 'undesirable' in Russia

FILE PHOTO: Billionaire investor George Soros is awarded the Schumpeter Prize in Vienna

(Reuters) - Russian has designated the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, founded by billionaire financier and civil society activist George Soros, as an "undesirable organisation", according to a list on its website.

Prosecutors had accused the CEU of discrediting Russia's political leadership and the Russian forces that have invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a "special military operation", and of recruiting staff to formulate a global anti-Russian agenda in the media, the Russian daily Vedomosti reported.

Since its foundation in 1991, CEU has been a gateway to the West for thousands of students from eastern Europe, offering U.S.-accredited graduate degree programs in an academic climate that celebrates free thought.

The university, which does not have a branch in Russia, rejected the accusations and said it was committed to academic excellence and critical independent inquiry.

It said the move would restrict its freedom to cooperate with Russian institutions and individuals, prevent Russian citizens from cooperating with it, and put its Russian students and employees at risk of political persecution.

It has therefore ceased cooperating with Russian partners and promoting its degree programmes in Russia.

CEU in 2019 moved the bulk of its courses from Budapest, Soros's birthplace, to Austria after a long struggle with Hungary's right-wing leader Viktor Orban, who accused it of encouraging mass immigration to Europe.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)