On Wednesday, October 13, investigators asked a Russian court to jail Sergey Zuyev, the rector of the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences (“Shaninka”), as a suspect in the large-scale fraud case against former deputy education minister Marina Rakova and her associates.
Rakova herself has already been jailed for two months, pending trial (as have four other suspects in the case, including her common-law husband). According to investigators, while serving as deputy education minister in 2019, Rakova embezzled 50 million rubles (nearly $700,000 by today’s exchange rate) in state funds.
Now, a source close to the investigation tells Meduza that the fraud case against Rakova was based on an examination of state contracts carried out by the Russian Academy of Education. “The examination is a kind of 30-page report about the fact that works were performed poorly,” Meduza’s source said.
The Russian Academy of Education (RAO) is headed by Olga Vasilieva — Russia’s former education minister and Marina Rakova’s former boss. According to a Meduza source close to the Education Ministry, there was a sharp conflict between Vasilieva and Rakova when they worked together. The source did not, however, disclose the reasons for the dispute.
RAO’s press service was unable to give a prompt response to inquiries from Meduza.
Olga Vasilieva served as Russia’s Education and Science Minister from 2016 to 2018 and, after the ministry was split into two parts, she served as Education Minister from 2018 to 2020. She resigned in January 2020 along with Dmitry Medvedev’s entire government and did not become part of the new cabinet under his successor, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
In March 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Vasilieva to a five-year term as chairman of the board of trustees of the Russian Academy of Education. Vasilieva became the academy’s president in June 2021. As reported by Novaya Gazeta, many members of the RAO opposed Vasilieva’s appointment. But during the election to the post of president of the academy she ran unopposed and managed to obtain the required number of votes.
After Vasilieva left the Education Ministry, Marina Rakova kept her post under the new Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov. She resigned in March 2020 and went to work at Sberbank. There, she occupied the post of vice president and headed up the bank’s Digital Education Platforms Division. Sberbank announced that Rakova no longer works for the company shortly after the authorities opened the fraud case against her.
Rakova stands accused of fraud on an especially large scale. According to investigators, while working as deputy education minister in 2019, Rakova lobbied for the allocation of state funds to the the Education Ministry’s Foundation for New Forms of Education Development. In turn, the foundation hired the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences as a subcontractor. Allegedly, the two contracts were paid for but not completed.
Shaninka rector Sergey Zuyev was arrested as a suspect in the fraud case on October 12. He stands accused of embezzling more than 21 million rubles (nearly $292,000 by today’s exchange rate) from the Foundation for New Forms of Education Development. Zuyev maintains his innocence. Shaninka claims that the university fulfilled its obligations under its contract with the foundation.
Update. Later in the day on Wednesday, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court placed Sergey Zuyev under house arrest pending trial. Ahead of the hearing, around a hundred people gathered outside of the courthouse to show their support for Zuyev. Among them were a number of instructors and students from Shaninka. Sergey Zuyev’s deputy Evgeny Mikhailov told Meduza that the university will appoint an acting rector in the coming days.
Translation by Eilish Hart