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Russian Scientists Demand Greater State Support

ST. PETERSBURG -- About 500 scientists and scholars in St. Petersburg staged a protest today to demand the government give greater support to Russian science, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The action was organized by the Unions of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The demonstrators accused the Russian government of neglecting universities and research centers despite its promise to develop the fundamental sciences and focus on innovative programs.

Sergei Okulov, the head of the unions' St. Petersburg branch, told RFE/RL that the government cut funding for scientific research and universities by 15 percent last year and a further 10 percent this year. He predicted that by the end of 2010, Russia's academies and universities will not be able to cover their costs.

The demonstrators also demanded that the government introduce a system of reserving jobs in scientific institutions for young specialists and researchers and provide them with housing; increase stipends for postgraduate students; adequately finance research projects; and stop attempts by regional governments to appropriate buildings owned by universities and research centers.