Russia halts participation in US student exchange program

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The Russian government has decided to pull out of a major student exchange program with the US. The American side apparently violated the terms and conditions, with a Russian schoolboy not returning home, having been adopted by a gay couple.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a note to the US Embassy in Moscow, saying that the country is canceling the largest US-Russian educational exchange program, FLEX 2015-2016. Within its framework, high school students from former USSR countries go to US for one academic year to live in an ‘ordinary’ middle-class American host family and to study in a high school.

“An unacceptable situation emerged as a result, when our [Russian] school students were in fact subjected to the legislature of American states, where minors were able to choose on their own and without their parents’ permission their place for living or being adopted,” the ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights Konstantin Dolgov said.

Russian Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov points out that it is not clear if a Russian pupil who went to America would return to his mother back in Russia, as he had been ‘adopted’ by a gay couple.

Astakhov notes that what happened conflicts with the standards of the program. There were no legal grounds for the adoption.

US Ambassador John F. Tefft responded in a statement via the Moscow embassy’s website that “We deeply regret this decision by the Russian government to end a program that for 21 years has built deep and strong connections between the people of Russia and the United States.”

More than 8,000 Russian teenagers have participated in the ‘Future Leaders Exchange’ program (FLEX) since its launch in 1992. Now it is being halted for two years.

Meanwhile, the process of preparation for the preliminary tests that started on September 10 and was scheduled to end in the middle of October was underway all over Russia. Over 70,000 people from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and seven other countries of the former USSR participated in the competitive examination to enter FLEX. Financed by the US budget, the program was destined to introduce younger generations to American culture and values.

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