Retired Leeds professor Ray Bush responds to 'pro-Putinist' accusations as Nadhim Zahawi pledges 'propaganda' crackdown at universities

A retired Leeds University professor has raised concerns that academics are being “smeared” as “pro-Putinist” after Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Government would “crack down hard” on pro-Kremlin views in institutions.

By Georgina Morris
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 12:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 12:56 pm

In education questions on Monday, chairman of the Commons Education Committee Robert Halfon said that an investigation by LBC had exposed “pro-Putinist propaganda at some of our leading universities”.

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He said that at the University of Leeds, retired professor Ray Bush had made reference to the United States having “chemical warfare installations in Ukraine – that’s a lie, as he knows, being spread by the Kremlin”.

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Ray Bush is a retired Professor Emeritus in African Studies and Development Politics, who used to teach at the University of Leeds.

Mr Halfon asked if the Government would take action to stop universities acting as “useful idiots” for the Kremlin. Mr Zahawi said Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan was “already on the case” and in contact with the universities.

“Putin and his cronies are a malign influence on anyone in this country buying their false narrative, and I have to repeat it is a false and dangerous narrative, and we will crack down on it hard,” he added.

But academics have raised concerns they are being “smeared” for raising questions about foreign policy.

Mr Bush, Professor Emeritus in African Studies and Development Politics, said he was “shocked that anything I have tweeted could be interpreted as ‘pro-Putinist'”.

“I am also very concerned that academics who raise questions and concerns about public policy including the veracity of US intelligence would be smeared as ‘useful idiots’,” he added.

“We know what the consequences of US and UK interventions were in Iraq and Afghanistan and the failures of Nato in Libya with an outcome of lawlessness and refugee crises, among other things.”

“For the record, I oppose the war in Ukraine and its horrendous consequences,” he said.

In an earlier statement, a spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: "As Mr Halfon himself states, Ray Bush has retired from the University.

"The University of Leeds condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent wave of violence unleashed by the Russian government through its invasion of Ukraine. We made this clear to our entire university community in a statement issued last week."

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