Moscow university students protest World Cup fan zone petition against the Fan Zone Image copyright CHANGE.ORG
Image caption An online petition against the fan zone has pulled in over 11,000 signatures

Students at Russia's most prestigious university are claiming partial victory over plans to force them off campus during this year's Fifa World Cup.

They are furious that a World Cup "fan zone", an area for football fans to watch matches on big screens, is set to be built right outside their dormitory windows at the Moscow State University.

Some students may be forced out of their rooms to house National Guard servicemen, who will ensure order during the event, which starts in June and runs for a month.

Many are also angry at plans to move their exams forward to May, with some undergraduates having to pass six exams in less than two weeks, a post by the university initiative group on VKontakte social media platform says.

An online petition addressed to Vladimir Putin and Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin demanding the fan zone be moved elsewhere has raised more than 11,500 signatures, while a pen-and-paper one attracted some 4,224.

Russia's Education Ministry announced in November that university campuses would be used for fan zones, and assured students that their "rights would be observed", Kommersant newspaper reported.

Image copyright MSU Initiative Group
Image caption "Move it to the VDNKh!" - students want the fan zone moved to a large park on the outskirts of Moscow

Initial resistance, partial victory

The petitions were initially met with resistance at the university.

A students' VKontakte group says that an attempt to deliver the physical petition to university dean Viktor Sadovnichy on 21 February was met by elevators leading to the dean's office being switched off, and access blocked by security guards.

The university leadership had similarly urged students via Facebook not to participate in the action, calling it "blocking of administrative premises and violating the internal regulations of the university".

But on the same day, two documents were issued, one promising students whose windows face the fan zone that they would be temporarily relocated; and another signed by the university rector saying that exams would be returned to their original dates.

Despite these concessions, the student group has talks scheduled with Mr Sadovnichy next week, but say they remain sceptical as their key demand - that the fan zone be moved away from campus - remains unfulfilled.

Image copyright AFP/Joel Saget
Image caption Moscow State University's main building is set in extensive grounds

Reporting by Maria Kiseleva, Alistair Coleman

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