A SCOTTISH musician, composer and former postdoctoral fellow at Edinburgh University has hit out at suggestions that the Scottish capital was the target of a secret propaganda assault by Russia.

The claim was made by Dominic Kennedy, investigations editor at The Times, who partly based his claim on the fact that the news agency Sputnik was “spreading disinformation” from its Edinburgh HQ.

He also claimed that the Russkiy Mir [Russian World] Foundation gave Edinburgh University £221,000 to host Britain’s first Moscow- sponsored language and cultural centre. However, Dr James Clapperton, said the claims were “a devastating and entirely unfounded attack … on Scottish/Russian cultural cooperation” and could force the closure of the Princess Dashkova Centre.

Clapperton told The National: “The article attempted to damage the integrity of the University of Edinburgh and the Princess Dashkova Centre. The outcome is that it may be forced to close.

“The journalist created an entirely false web of associations between the centre and a propaganda war supposedly launched directly from the Kremlin ... even suggesting a connection between the University of Edinburgh and the KGB.”

Clapperton added that the centre does receive funding from Russkiy Mir, a Russian governmental organ-isation, but said all its events demonstrate “complete independence”.

He said the problem was that the newspaper could strike at the heart of excellent research and teaching at Edinburgh, and current and potential Scottish/Russian cultural cooperation, and simply ignore any reaction. Clapperton went on: “If the Princess Dashkova Centre is not given an avenue towards a public response it may very well disappear. This article … is also, I firmly believe, only the beginning of a long-term campaign by forces in London to undermine the campaign for independence.

“Scotland’s relationship with Russia is going to become an increasingly hot topic.”

“Unless organisations like this retain the right to exist then cultural cooperation between Russia and Scotland may well flounder.

“Scots who love Russian music and admire Russian novelists and poets will lose access to a vital resource. In addition, such an attack on this ancient and world-renowned university itself is profoundly damaging, misleading and unjust.”

The centre is named after Princess Ekaterina Dashkova, one of the leading figures of the Russian enlightenment. She lived at the Palace of Holyroodhouse from 1776 to 1782, while her son attended Edinburgh University, and was friendly with several of Scotland’s brightest thinkers including William Robertson, Adam Smith, Hugh Blair and Adam Fergusson.

The centre’s academic director, Dr Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, was dismissive of the article.

“Dominic Kennedy has never before written about Russia, he is not a Russian specialist and that shows,” she said. “He doesn’t understand the progression of events in Russia and how it emerged, and he mixes up the Russkiy Mir Foundation organised in 2007 and the philosophy of Russkiy Mir, which has nothing to do with the foundation.

“I think he has read to many John le Carre spy stories.”

A university spokesman said: “The Russkiy Mir Foundation is only one of our multiple sponsors. The Princess Dashkova Centre should be judged by its academic and cultural activity, which demonstrates its progressive vision, academic rigour and an evidence-based critique of the current regime in Russia. It will never compromise its academic freedom.”

The Times did not respond to a request for comment.