Physics Two years of war

Political particle accelerator. A neutral flag is being sewn for Russian physicists at CERN

After the offi­cial state­ment of the European Organization for Nuclear Researchth (CERN) about the ter­mi­na­tion of coop­er­a­tion with Russia rep­utable sci­en­tists around the world are look­ing for a solu­tion with which Russian physi­cists could con­tin­ue work­ing at the Large Hadron Collider. The first of the pro­posed solu­tions is to orga­nize “per­for­mances under a neu­tral flag” - to cre­ate an inter­na­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ry, the affil­i­a­tion of which will be avail­able to sci­en­tists from Russia. However,most of the offi­cials and admin­is­tra­tors who make deci­sions on the fate of sci­en­tif­ic coop­er­a­tion are ready to com­plete­ly end the more than 70-year his­to­ry of joint work between domes­tic physi­cists and European Organization for Nuclear Research

T-invari­ant the reac­tion of offi­cials of the Ministry of Education and Science and mem­bers of the CERN-Russia Committee in response to the final deci­sion of the Council of the European Organization for Nuclear Research has become knownth (CERN) of December 15, 2023 on the “Russian” issue. On that day, the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries of the world’s largest sci­en­tif­ic project final­ly vot­ed to exclude Russia from the list of CERN part­ners and to end work at the Large Hadron Collider by sci­en­tists with affil­i­a­tions in Russian research insti­tutes and uni­ver­si­ties. Three days lat­er, the Russians received a let­ter (a copy of it is at T-invariant’s dis­pos­al), which said, in part:

At its 214th ses­sion, held on December 15, the CERN Council decid­ed to ter­mi­nate CERN’s inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion agree­ments with the Russian Federation upon expi­ra­tion in November 2024 of the year. We under­stand that the impact of this deci­sion on some of you as employ­ees and mem­bers of your fam­i­lies may be sig­nif­i­cant. User Office is still avail­able to you for sup­port. <…> We would like to inform you of the admin­is­tra­tive con­se­quences of this deci­sion: if your coop­er­a­tion agree­ment with CERN expires after November 30, 2024, it will auto­mat­i­cal­ly ter­mi­nate on that date.

This deci­sion threat­ened not only the fate of spe­cif­ic peo­ple whose lives and work were con­nect­ed with CERN, but also the devel­op­ment of all high-ener­gy physics in Russia. And if adult employ­ees urgent­ly change affil­i­a­tions and look for new jobs, then for stu­dents from Russia who also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the exper­i­ments, the road to CERN is now closed. “If we talk about high-ener­gy physics, then sub­jec­tive­ly it seems that a third of young peo­ple have left,” not­ed on this occa­sion, a mem­ber of the LHCb col­lab­o­ra­tion at the Large Hadron Collider, Fedor Ratnikov. 

“The reac­tion of the major­i­ty of Russian lead­ers at var­i­ous lev­els, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ministry of Education and Science, is quite ade­quate. They don’t slam doors and try to min­i­mize the neg­a­tive impact of such a deci­sion on the sci­ence we do,” Anatoly Romanyuk, head of one of the sci­en­tif­ic groups at the ATLAS par­ti­cle detec­tor (part of the LHC), who has been reg­u­lar­ly work­ing at CERN for more than 30 years and is famil­iar with details of the lat­est meet­ings of domes­tic mem­bers of the CERN-Russia Committee. 

The com­mit­tee itself is in a bilat­er­al for­mat was offi­cial­ly assem­bled last time back in 2021, that is, before the full-scale inva­sion of Russia to Ukraine. 

“To com­plete this year’s activ­i­ties, Russia has allo­cat­ed only a quar­ter of the usu­al amount of fund­ing for our work at CERN, and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, even here there are prob­lems trans­fer­ring mon­ey to CERN relat­ed to sanc­tions ”, notes Anatoly Romanyuk. 

Anatoly Romanyuk. Photo: Physics of Elementary Particles. Department No. 40

The cura­tors of work on the Russian side at CERN are now dis­cussing two options for react­ing to CERN’s final decision. 

“Some (and the major­i­ty) believe that con­tin­u­ing work with CERN has no fore­see­able future and it is nec­es­sary to end the rela­tion­ship and switch to oth­er major projects both with­in the coun­try and, for exam­ple, for the CEPC project in China (com­peti­tor FCC in Europe) or project ILC plus also col­lid­er KEKB in Japan. But there are also those who urge us to find a way to con­tin­ue the work of Russian physi­cists at CERN, for exam­ple, under the affil­i­a­tion of a neu­tral orga­ni­za­tion,” says Anatoly Romanyuk.

Suchneu­tral struc­ture can be “Internationalayalab­o­ra­to­ry of ele­men­tary par­ti­cle physics.” The con­cept under dis­cus­sion is avail­able to the edi­to­r­i­al staff of T-invariant. 

“Collaboration between sci­en­tists with­in CERN has devel­oped suc­cess­ful­ly in the past, even dur­ing the most tense moments of the Cold War. Considering that the future belongs to the younger gen­er­a­tions, every effort must be made to give them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to estab­lish and main­tain open con­tacts and direct cul­tur­al ties with the glob­al sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty,in par­tic­u­lar , using CERN as an inter­na­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ry unit­ing sci­en­tists from almost 100 coun­tries regard­less of their polit­i­cal, reli­gious and cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences,” the con­cept says. 

The ini­tia­tors pro­pose to the CERN Council “to main­tain coop­er­a­tion in CERN projects at least at the lev­el of indi­vid­u­als and groups.” 

“It is assumed that rep­re­sen­ta­tive offices of the lab­o­ra­to­ry can be opened in sev­er­al juris­dic­tions of friend­ly coun­tries, such as Armenia, UAE, Turkey, South Africa, etc., on the basis of uni­ver­si­ties that are not lim­it­ed in rela­tions with CERN and oth­er par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tutes. One of the options could also be the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna,” the authors of the con­cept believe. 

A num­ber of large inter­na­tion­al pub­lic orga­ni­za­tions unit­ing physi­cists, as well as a num­ber of cur­rent and for­mer top man­agers of CERN, are going to peti­tion the CERN coun­cil for the idea of a neu­tral lab­o­ra­to­ry, with the help of which Russian physi­cists could con­tin­ue to work at CERN. 

There are physi­cists who believe that JINR should become such an orga­ni­za­tion “under a neu­tral flag”. “The idea of such a neu­tral inter­na­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ry has indeed been dis­cussed for a long time. But, in my opin­ion, there is no point in cre­at­ing a proxy orga­ni­za­tion from scratch, it is bet­ter to nego­ti­ate so that JINR becomes such a solu­tion,” says physi­cist Andrei Rostovtsev, a mem­ber of the Science4Peace asso­ci­a­tion of sci­en­tists, which is now active­ly search­ing for a solu­tion for the fur­ther par­tic­i­pa­tion of Russian physi­cists at CERN (more on this later).

More details on the posi­tion of physi­cist Andrei Rostovtsev and his col­league in the Dissernet com­mu­ni­ty Andrei Zayakin on the “Russian” prob­lem at CERN lis­ten to the lat­est pod­cast “Invasion”, which was released in all accounts T-invariant. 


The LHC has four main detec­tors - ATLAS, CMS, ALICE and LHCb.

Collaboration with CERN began back in the 1950s. The first agree­ment was signed in 1967. After the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, coop­er­a­tion between Russia and CERN was reg­u­lat­ed by bilat­er­al agree­ment signed on October 30, 1993, as well as pro­to­cols there­to. Russian sci­en­tists and engi­neers made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the design and con­struc­tion of the Large Hadron Collider.

Russia had observ­er sta­tus at CERN. This meant that the Russian Federation did not pay con­tri­bu­tions to the organization’s bud­get, could not vote on the CERN coun­cil, but could par­tic­i­pate in direct sci­en­tif­ic work on the detec­tors with mon­ey and equip­ment. In 2012, the Russian side applied for asso­ciate mem­ber­ship - this sta­tus gave the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attend Council meet­ings with­out the right to a cast­ing vote, the right to par­tic­i­pate in ten­ders for the sup­ply of equip­ment, but it was nec­es­sary to pay fees - about ten mil­lion euros per year. In March 2018, this appli­ca­tion was with­drawn, and the issue of full mem­ber­ship of the Russian Federation in the orga­ni­za­tion was also dis­cussed. In 2019 to Geneva for the col­lid­er Dmitry Medvedev (then Prime Minister of the Russian Federation) came. The cost of the issue was men­tioned - $ 115 mil­lion . But the deci­sion was nev­er made. In 2019, they signed an updat­ed agree­ment for a peri­od of 5 years, which they are not plan­ning to renew right now. Now about 1000 Russian stu­dents, grad­u­ate stu­dents, sci­en­tists and pro­gram­mers come to CERN through­out the year and about 200 peo­ple work permanently.

The coop­er­a­tion between CERN and Belarus will end a lit­tle ear­li­er - from June 27, 2024.

Dmitry Medvedev and Director General of the European Center for Nuclear Research Fabiola Gianotti (Photo: Dmitry Astakhov /​ TASS)

When the guns talk, the collider is not silent

The deci­sion to com­plete­ly exclude Russia from CERN is not unex­pect­ed. The orga­ni­za­tion quick­ly respond­ed to the big war unleashed by the Kremlin. Already at the begin­ning of March 2022, it became known that the CERN Council sharply con­demned the actions of Russian troops on the ter­ri­to­ry of Ukraine, decid­ed to freeze Russia’s sta­tus in the orga­ni­za­tion indef­i­nite­ly and pro­hib­it­ed the start of any new projects with the Russian gov­ern­ment and Russian institutions. 

At the same time, hun­dreds of Russian physi­cists work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tions with CERN signed open let­ter. In the let­ter, they protest­ed against the actions of the Russian lead­er­ship and stood in sol­i­dar­i­ty with a large open let­ter from sci­en­tists against the war (more than 8500 sig­na­tures).

The CERN Council in its March res­o­lu­tion promised to pro­mote ini­tia­tives aimed at sup­port­ing Ukrainian researchers and Ukrainian projects in the field of high ener­gy physics and to com­ply with the regime of inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions imposed on Russia. At the same time, the organization’s lead­er­ship expressed sup­port for rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Russian sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty who protest­ed against the war. 

Then events devel­oped even more rapid­ly. Two weeks lat­er, at the end of March, CERN released a new state­ment, in which it fur­ther tight­ened the rules for work­ing with Russia and Belarus. He also announced a com­plete ces­sa­tion of coop­er­a­tion with Dubna. CERN sci­en­tists were pro­hib­it­ed from join­ing all sci­en­tif­ic coun­cils and com­mit­tees of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) and vice ver­sa; All con­fer­ences and sem­i­nars orga­nized by JINR and CERN were can­celled. In addi­tion, JINR lost its observ­er sta­tus at CERN, and the orga­ni­za­tion can­celed its observ­er sta­tus at JINR. 


JINR is an inter­na­tion­al inter­gov­ern­men­tal research orga­ni­za­tion, the founders of which are 13 JINR Member States.

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. Photo: offi­cial website

CERN final­ly announced a change in sta­tus from “freeze” to a com­plete stop of coop­er­a­tion with Russia in June 2022.

“Despite the March and June state­ments of the lead­er­ship, not every­one at CERN was unequiv­o­cal­ly against the com­plete ces­sa­tion of rela­tions with Russian sci­en­tists. I spoke with peo­ple from the CERN Council, with Italian and French lead­ing physi­cists, they were against such a tough polit­i­cal deci­sion. I still remem­ber the times when CERN was guid­ed by the log­ic of sci­ence, not pol­i­tics. Everything changed when rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries began to be includ­ed in the CERN coun­cil. Now the final deci­sions were made by politi­cians, for exam­ple, they took it very seri­ous­ly let­ter roRussian rec­tors in sup­port of the spe­cial oper­a­tion. Although it is clear how these sig­na­tures were col­lect­ed and what they are worth,” says Anatoly Romanyuk. 

There was no unan­i­mous deci­sion on the Russian issue through­out the two war years. “Even at the final vote on December 15, 2023, two-thirds of the Council mem­bers vot­ed for ter­mi­na­tion of coop­er­a­tion with Russia,” assures Anatoly Romanyuk. 

By data from the pub­li­ca­tion THE GENEVA Observer, at least rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Hungary, Israel, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland abstained.

At the same time, anoth­er T-invari­ant source claims that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of sev­er­al coun­tries that are per­ma­nent par­tic­i­pants of CERN said that they would leave the orga­ni­za­tion if CERN agreed to any coop­er­a­tion with Russia or its insti­tu­tions, includ­ing JINR. 

Today, there appears to be a broad con­sen­sus emerg­ing in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty that the Council deci­sion of 15 December may have marked the end of the CERN era and made inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tif­ic coop­er­a­tion on large-scale projects in the field much more dif­fi­cult. par­ti­cle physics. “CERN was cre­at­ed as a force for peace. It was thrown away. Peaceful sci­en­tif­ic col­lab­o­ra­tion may now be end­ed for polit­i­cal rea­sons,” John Ellis, a lead­ing par­ti­cle physi­cist and pro­fes­sor at King’s College London who has worked at CERN for 38 years, told THE GENEVA Observer.

“The deci­sion is polit­i­cal, it vio­lates the gen­er­al fab­ric of sci­ence, which is inter­na­tion­al in the mod­ern world. Everything has changed a lot since the 1950s, when CERN emerged after the great war. I know that the debate was very heat­ed, the deci­sion was made by a small mar­gin. Among the physi­cists them­selves work­ing at CERN, in this large com­pa­ny of sci­en­tists from all over the world, there is a desire to mit­i­gate this sit­u­a­tion. A com­mu­ni­ty has emerged Science4Peace, where I am also includ­ed, we are car­ry­ing out this work now,” says Andrey Rostovtsev in the “Invasion” pod­cast T-invariant. 

Andrey Rostovtsev. Photo: Pravmir

“War is a dis­as­ter, but boy­cotts and sanc­tions, sci­en­tif­ic or oth­er­wise, do not work.” Has main­tained this posi­tion since the begin­ning of this sto­ry. Science4Peace is an ini­tia­tive cre­at­ed by sci­en­tists in response to restric­tions on sci­en­tif­ic coop­er­a­tion imposed due to the war in Ukraine. On May 1, 2022, Science4Peace pub­lished a peti­tion which states that “the sanc­tions imposed against sci­en­tists are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, they do not put pres­sure on the Russian gov­ern­ment, but they make it dif­fi­cult and in some cas­es make com­mu­ni­ca­tion between sci­en­tists impossible.” 

“These sanc­tions will not help achieve a cease­fire or resolve the con­flict. On the con­trary, these mea­sures iso­late Russian and Belarusian sci­en­tists and exclude them from inter­na­tion­al dis­cus­sions both in sci­ence and in oth­er areas,” the peti­tion says.

In his lat­est at the moment state­ment dat­ed February 4, 2024 Science4Peace ini­tia­tive names the con­se­quences of the deci­sion CERN is “epoch-mak­ing”. “The deci­sion of the CERN Council to cease fur­ther coop­er­a­tion marks anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant fail­ure of diplo­ma­cy - now sci­ence diplo­ma­cy,” the authors write.

It was not pos­si­ble to obtain offi­cial com­ments from the Russian part of the CERN-Russia Committee. 


, ,