Why many Ukrainian mathematicians will not attend the ICM in Russia

A preliminary version of this appeal was published in the October 2021 issue of the Notices of the AMS

In 2014 a revolution in Ukraine ignited in response to the actions of criminal president Yanukovych. Russia responded by annexing Ukrainian territory, and starting a war in Eastern Ukraine. All of this was done while pedaling lies both about the nature of Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, and about the involvement of Russian military in the war. The world saw Russia’s actions for what they were: a violation of international law, and an attempt to prevent Ukrainians from choosing their own future as a nation.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has already taken more than 13,000 lives and made more than 2,000,000 people flee their homes. While this war has disappeared from the international news, the shelling continues and the number of fatalities is growing each week. It has devastated Ukrainian economy and has made a huge wound in Ukrainian academia. Universities were displaced, careers were broken. Many scientific ties were severed and collaborations abandoned. Our colleagues in Crimea are persecuted for their resistance to Putin’s regime.

In recent years many of us felt awkward when rejecting an invitation for a scientific event in Russia. What do the organizers have to do with the war? Probably nothing. However, like millions of people from our home country, we simply cannot set our feet on the Russian land since 2014.

Imagine the shock Ukrainian mathematicians experienced when in 2018 the IMU honored Russia to host the ICM. The Russian government invested considerable resources to win the bid against France. The fact is, important international events like ICM legitimize regimes with blood on their hands. They gloat at the fact that while we judge them morally, we have no qualms taking their money. Top Russian government official Arkady Dvorkovich was personally involved in fighting to bring the ICM to Russia. The Executive Organizing Committee of the ICM is chaired by the deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko. A top FSB (former KGB) officer Dmitry Derevyashkin and major general Aleksey Zinin of National Guard are among the official organizers. Given all that, it is not unlikely that the organization of ICM and drafting of war plans are carried out from neighboring offices.

On February 26, 2021 the Executive Committee of the IMU issued a statement in which it declares its total indifference to any moral consideration when making decisions: “The IMU as well as the International Science Council, of which the IMU is a member, oppose all boycotts of scientific events and all attempts to link scientific activities to political and societal issues, since boycotts are viewed to be harmful for all concerned”. So many of us live in a society evolved enough to care about things like fair trade coffee, or to worry if products we use are made with child labor. So, why should IMU, which is meant to represent us, remain so morally neutral? Taking human rights into account cannot be just labelled as "politics" and dismissed simply because it is hard. We know that there are conflicts in the world about which our community is divided. Does it mean we should not pass moral judgement when it is obvious? Russia has annexed a part of an independent European country, something not seen since the first half of the previous century. Why is this ambiguous? Why not care about numerous other human rights violations Russia is committing, such as suppression of free speech, political assassinations, persecution of LGBTQ community? Does the IMU want us to be aloof machines that produce theorems?

Historically, it is not unprecedented for the IMU to take political events into account. In April 1982 the Executive Committee of the IMU decided to cancel the ICM in Warsaw due to the introduction of martial law and a brutal crackdown on the Solidarity Movement. Today’s IMU likes to pretend that the Congress has to do only with mathematics, yet since around 2002 it has been quite willing to provide PR opportunities for political leaders of the host countries. Many of those leaders consequently faced serious accusations of corruption, some are serving a term in prison. But never until 2022 has IMU been so willing to shake hands dripping with fresh blood. If Putin wanted to award Fields Medals personally, would IMU have the nerve to say no? We don’t think so. They didn’t even demand the Russian government release our unjustly imprisoned colleague Azat Miftakhov.

What about Russian mathematicians? We value and respect our colleagues from Russia. A number of them have shown courage in resisting Putin’s regime. However, hosting an ICM in your country is not a basic human right. Not being killed by Russian mortars is.

In writing this we feel a bit like David standing up against Goliath. We do not have the resources of an oil-rich country to give out. We stand for what we believe is right. The moral indifference of the IMU needs to end, and we invite those who agree with us to join the boycott of ICM 2022.


Signatories

Alexandra Antoniouk, Doctor of Sciences, Leading researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Taras Banakh, Professor, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine

Viktor Bekkert, Professor, The Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

Oksana Bezushchak, Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

Roman Cherniha, Doctor of Sciences, Professor, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Alexei Daletskii, Reader, University of York, UK

Volodymyr Derkach, Professor, Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University, Vinnytsia, Ukraine

Yuriy Drozd, President of the Ukrainian Mathematical Society, Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Artem Dudko, Professor, Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Dmitri Finkelshtein, Associate Professor, Swansea University, UK

Andrey Gogolev, Associate Professor, The Ohio State University, USA

Rostyslav Hryniv, Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine

Anatoli F. Ivanov, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Serhiy Ivashkovych, Professor, Université de Lille, France

Volodymyr Kadets, Professor, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine

Yuri Karlovich, Professor, Autonomous University of the State Morelos, Mexico

Yuri Kondratiev, Professor, National Dragomanov Pedagogical University, Kyiv, Ukraine

Volodymyr Koshmanenko, Professor, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Alexander Kosyak, Doctor of Sciences, Institute of Mathematics, Kyiv, Ukraine

Sergii Kuzhel, professor AGH, AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland

Viktor Levandovsky, Visiting Professor at Kassel University, Germany

Volodymyr Lyubashenko, Doctor of Sciences, Institute of Mathematics, Kyiv, Ukraine

Taras Mel'nyk, Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

Yuliya Mishura, Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

Yaroslav Mykytyuk, Associate Professor, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine

Andriy Olenko, Associate Professor, La Trobe University, Australia

Vasyl Ostrovskyi, Professor, Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Mykhailo Osypchuk, Doctor of Sciences, Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine

Anatolij Plichko, Professor, Volodymyr Vynnychenko Central Ukrainian State Pedagogical University, Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine

Roman Popovych, Professor, Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Eugene Polulyakh, Doctor of Sciences, Institute of Mathematics, Kyiv, Ukraine

Danylo Proskurin, Professor, Faculty of Computer Sciences and Cybernetics, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University

Artem Pulemotov, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland, Australia

Pavlo Pylyavskyy, Professor, University of Minnesota, USA

Vyacheslav Rabanovich, Senior scientific researcher, Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, secretary of the Ukrainian Mathematical Society

Ihor Samoilenko, Associate Professor, Faculty of Computer Sciences and Cybernetics, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University

Dmytro Savchuk, Associate Professor, University of South Florida

Sergii Sharyn, Professor, Prorector of Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine

Nikolay Shcherbina, Professor, Bergische Universitaet Wuppertal, Germany

Dmitry Shepelsky, Doctor of Sciences, B. Verkin Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Igor Shevchuk, Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

Ilya Spitkovsky, Professor, New York University Abu Dhabi

Anatoliy Swishchuk, Professor, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Viktor Tkachenko, Professor, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Sergiy Torba, Professor, Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico

Gregory Torbin, Professor, National Dragomanov Pedagogical University, Kyiv, Ukraine

Lyudmila Turowska, Professor, Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Sergei Trofimchuk, Professor, University of Talca, Chile

Leonid Vainerman, Professor Emeritus of the University of Caen Normandy, France

Olena Vaneeva, Vice head of the Institute of Mathematics of NAS of Ukraine

Nikolai Vasilevski, Professor, Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico

Masha Vlasenko, Professor, Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Roman Yakymiv, Associate Professor, Faculty of Computer Sciences and Cybernetics, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University

Irina Yehorchenko, Senior Researcher, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Professor, Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine