Russia cancels participation in U.S. education program after Russian student stayed in U.S. – children’s rights commissioner

FLEX Student Exchange Program Logo

(Interfax – October 1, 2014) Russia has withdrawn from the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) education program with the U.S. as the latter has violated its obligations on returning Russian schoolchildren home after they studied there, says Russian presidential commissioner on children’s rights Pavel Astakhov.

“One of the reasons is the gross violation by the host party (the U.S.) of its obligations on unconditionally returning schoolchildren coming there to study from Russia,” Astakhov said on Twitter.

A U.S. family took one of the Russian teenagers into legal custody while he was studying in the U.S. under the said program, Astakhov said. “As a result of actions going against the agreement and the program rules, the Russian teenager stayed in the U.S.,” he said.

“There is nothing bad in international programs of exchange of schoolchildren, [university] students and specialists as long as the rules are not violated,” he said. Oliver Stone on why Russia is a natural ally of the U.S.

The FLEX program was “implemented by American Councils for International Education in Russia and was addressed directly to its citizens,” Astakhov said.

It was reported earlier that the U.S. embassy in Moscow had been informed of the Russian government’s decision to cancel participation of Russian schoolchildren in FLEX for 2015-2016, described as “the largest U.S.-Russian educational exchange program.”

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft expressed his regret at this decision, saying in a statement that, over the past two decades, “the FLEX program has brought more than 8,000 Russian high school students to the United States to live with American host families, attend high school and experience community life for an academic year.”

“The United States remains committed to exchanges and programs that promote cultural ties and mutual understanding between the Russian and American people,” Tefft said.