AN academic centre at Edinburgh University received over 90 per cent of its external funding from a Russian cultural unit set up by Vladimir Putin.

Of the £273,466 received by the Princess Dashkova Russian Centre since 2010, £253,939 came from the Kremlin-backed Russkiy Mir Foundation (RMF). There are concerns that RMF, led by a former KGB man, is a Russian propaganda body.

It has also emerged that the university, which no longer has a financial relationship with the RMF, examined the contributions from the foundation but found they were “ethically acceptable”.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Edinburgh University are right to be careful about taking money from Putin's soft power project. Russia has been implicated in a chemical attack on British soil and has been testing the boundaries of industries and institutions across the UK."

The Russian state is widely believed to have created a range of media and cultural institutions as a way of promoting Putin’s worldview.

Broadcaster RT and internet-based station Sputnik, which is based in Edinburgh, are funded by the Russian Government and are known for peddling state propaganda and conspiracy theories.

The RMF, which Putin set up by decree in 2007, is aimed at promoting the “Russian language, which is Russia's national heritage”.

In 2009, Edinburgh University signed an ‘agreement on co-operation’ with the RMF and the foundation subsequently ploughed funding into the Princess Dashkova Russian Centre.

The centre is part of the University’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and has a mission of advancing “knowledge in the field of Russian language studies” and fostering a “broader understanding of Russia”.

The income provided by the RSF has already been established, but the large proportion of the centre's external funds provided by the foundation has not previously been revealed.

Between 2010 and late 2017, the Centre received £273,466 from all outside sources, of which £253,939 came from Russkiy Mir.

This included £68,291 in 2010/11, £41,750 12 months later, followed by payments of £75,064, £18,050, £28,346, £10,438 and £12,000.

The second biggest funder was the Calvert 22 Foundation - a not-for-profit organisation that supports the “culture and creativity of the New East” - which gave £12,800 over two years.

Two trusts, as well as the British Council and small individual donations, also made a small contribution to the overall total.

According to the university, the Russkiy Mir funding was used for furniture, equipment, stationery and for an international conference in December 2014. It also paid for the annual salary for one member of staff.

The university also stated that the foundation did not contribute to the salaries of the centre’s director and deputy director. No funding has been received from the RMF since December.

In correspondence, the university added that its Ethical Fundraising Advisory Group had retrospectively considered the RMF funding in June 2016.

In 2010, Putin ally Vyacheslav Nikonov, at that point executive director of RMF, opened the centre. Two years later he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university and is now chairman of the board of directors of the RMF.

In a recent BBC documentary on the problems facing the political opposition in Russia, Nikonov offered a staunch pro-Kremlin viewpoint: "Russia is less of a police state than any Western country.”

He added: “As far as freedom of expression is concerned, I think Russia is more forward than the UK.”

Scottish Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “The fact the university is no longer taking money from this source shows it’s clearly uncomfortable with the link. It should think carefully about future investments and whether or not to accept them, particularly from that part of the world.”

A university spokesperson said: “The University of Edinburgh received £253,939 from the Russkiy Mir Foundation for the Princess Dashkova Russian Centre between 2010 and 2017. This was used towards the cost of staff salaries and building refurbishment. The centre retains freedom of action in all aspects of its activities. We currently have no active agreements with the foundation and do not expect that situation to change.”