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November 09, 2015

Oxford Draws Fire Over Big 2010 Gift From Putin Ally

As the University of Oxford prepares to move its Blavatnik School of Government into a new home, a group of academics, Russian opposition figures, and former Soviet dissidents are calling on the institution to distance itself from the school's namesake donor, Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, The Guardian reports.

In a letter to the British newspaper, the critics link Mr. Blavatnik — who in September 2010 gave Oxford $117.2 million to establish the public-policy school — to what they allege was a Kremlin-sponsored campaign of harassment to force British energy company BP out of Russia. The 21 signatories say the university has not properly investigated Mr. Blavatnik's role in a consortium of "oligarchs" that owned a Russian oil company in partnership with BP and later sold it to state-owned energy giant Rosneft.

Oxford "should stop selling its reputation and prestige to Putin's associates," the letter states. A spokesman for Mr. Blavatnik, who is now a U.S. citizen and lives in London, declined to comment, saying the allegations "are primarily directed at Oxford." A university spokesman said Oxford "has a thorough and robust scrutiny process in place with regard to philanthropic giving" and "is confident in this process and in its outcomes."