The Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), one which has seen over 8,000 Russian students come to the United States since 1992 in order to experience what life is like in America, has been cancelled by the Kremlin.
United States Ambassador to Russia John F. Tefft said in a memo that he is disappointed with Moscow’s decision to axe the program.
“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 State,” said Ambassador Tefft, who is a career diplomat and has previously served in the same position in Eastern European countries Ukraine, Georgia, and Lithuania.
U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki weighed in on Russia’s decision to end the FLEX cultural exchange program: “The public outcry we’ve seen among Russians who either participated in the program or wanted to participate speaks to the powerful and lasting, positive impact these kinds of exchange can have on peoples’ lives,” she said. “The FLEX program was vital in building those kinds of bonds between young Russians and Americans that we need in order to overcome challenges in our bilateral relations.”
Russia announced Wednesday that the program had been abruptly terminated after one high-school student never made their way back home. The Moscow Times reported that the Kremlin cancelled the program because a Russian teenager had been adopted by a same-sex couple.