MOSCOW — A Russian court ruled Wednesday to transfer a university rector from jail to house arrest in an embezzlement case that has been seen by some observers as part of authorities’ efforts to target members of the country’s liberal elite.
Sergei Zuyev, the rector of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, has been behind bars since November. The school is one of Russia’s leading non-state universities.
Zuyev’s lawyers had long pushed for his release, citing his poor health. He initially denied the embezzlement allegations.
An investigator vouched for the move to house arrest, saying during a Wednesday hearing at Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court that Zuyev had cooperated and compensated for the damage he was accused of causing.
The investigator said Zuyev pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charges, but Zuyev’s lawyer told the Interfax news agency that he didn’t plead guilty to embezzling any money himself. Lawyer Dmitry Kravchenko said Zuyev gave testimony helping investigation and paid more than 15 million rubles (about $250,000) in damages, according to Interfax.
Some observers saw Zuyev’s case as part of the purges targeting the country’s liberal elite and muzzling independent voices amid Russia’s military action in Ukraine.
Another prominent academic, Vladimir Mau, the rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, was put under house arrest in June on embezzlement charges that stemmed from the investigation of Zuyev.
The probe also involved Marina Rakova, a former deputy education minister who worked alongside Mau. Investigators asked the Moscow court on Wednesday to free Mau from house arrest on his own recognizance.