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US gay couple illegally adopting Russian kid reason for pullout from FLEX — official

October 01, 2014, 17:09 UTC+3 MOSCOW

An American homosexual couple registered adoption rights over a Russian teenager thus violating program’s regulations

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Pavel Astakhov

Pavel Astakhov

© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Mashkov

MOSCOW, October 1. /TASS/.Russia pulled out from US-sponsored student exchange program Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) after an American homosexual couple registered adoption rights over a Russian teenager thus violating program’s regulations, Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said on Wednesday.

“Guardianship has been illegally filed and registered in regard to a teenager, who has mother in Russia, and he was handed over to an American homosexual couple,” Astakhov told TASS.

According to the official, the teenager comes from “a decent family and he is healthy and that is why it is unclear what arguments the United States had in favor [of child’s adoption].”

Earlier in the day Astakhov wrote on his Twitter account that one of the reasons behind Russia’s withdrawal from FLEX “is the US gross breach of obligations concerning an unconditional return of Russian students from their academic year [in the United States].”

US reaction 

News about Russia’s withdrawal for at least one year from the 21-year-old exchange program initially appeared on the website of the US Embassy in Moscow on Tuesday night.

“The US Embassy in Moscow was informed today that the Russian Government has decided to cancel Russian participation in the 2015-2016 Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program, the largest U.S.-Russian educational exchange program,” the embassy said in its statement.

The US diplomatic mission expressed its deep regret in connection with Russia’s decision to suspend the FLEX program.

The FLEX program was initiated by New York Senator Bill Bradley and approved by the US Congress in 1992 under the Freedom Support Act. Within the frames of the program, financed by the US budget, children from sophomore, junior and senior classes from former Soviet Union republics (except for the Baltic states) went to the United States as exchange students for one academic year.

Children studied at high schools and lived in American host families throughout all 50 states of the United States and were also paid a monthly student’s allowance.

Some 8,000 Russian teenagers out of over 23,000 students in total participated in the FLEX program during its 21-year history.

“These young Russians have served as cultural ambassadors, representing the best of Russia, to millions of Americans throughout all 50 states,” the US Embassy to Russia said in its statement.

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