US uses Russian children for creating support pool: Diplomat

Monitoring Desk

MOSCOW: The United States inconspicuously went ahead with the officially aborted programs for bringing Russian children to the US for educational purposes with an eye to creating a pool of supporters in Russia, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department Crisis Management Center Mikhail Petrakov said at a joint meeting of the Federation Council’s international affairs and defense and security committees on Wednesday.

He said the question of bringing back home tens of Russian children, unofficially taken to the United States by American partners for schooling, who have suddenly found themselves stranded amid the coronavirus pandemic, “affects the security of Russians abroad and the sphere of bilateral relations.”

“As follows from messages dispatched by the Russian embassy in Washington, after the termination of the US Department of State-supervised program for school exchanges (FLEX) the Americans went ahead with their activities via various foundations in Russia in bypass of the official authorities to somehow make arrangements locally to bring Russian children to the US and have them accommodated by American families.”

“When the Department of State was asked this question, it was not very cooperative,” Petrakov commented. “We heard various excuses like ‘we do not know anything’, or ‘there are private funds involved, but in reality, everything is OK’. But in reality, according to some indirect evidence, the Department of State is well aware of the situation. I regard such exchange projects for children as an attempt by our US partners to create a pool of people they might use someday.”

Petrakov stressed that this issue required close scrutiny by Russia.

“These agreements were carried out somehow and children taken out of the country,” he added. “Also, this is a question of guarantees [from the American side], because in some cases the host families, after losing jobs and sources of income, began to literally force children to leave.”

Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) is an exchange program launched by the US Department of State. Teenage students (aged 15-17) from the former Soviet Republics were given a chance to spend a whole year in the Untied States free of charge with US families and go to an American school. The program was entirely financed by the US government, including transport, scholarship, pocket money and medical insurance. Since the moment the program was launched more than 23,000 high school students from 12 countries, including 8,000 from Russia participated in it. The Russian government canceled the participation of Russian school students in the program FLEX in October 2014. (TASS)