The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) offers Russian students a year-long placement in America as part of their academic development. The program has existed for 21 years.
The currently unnamed student, 16, was living with an American host family in Michigan when he claimed asylum. It is believed that during the placement he befriended a local gay couple who supported him and encouraged his decision to remain in the US.
Russia is reported to have cancelled the program in protest of the United State’s involvement in the incident. Russia accuses the US of endangering the welfare of the child in allowing the student to claim asylum in America.
America however expressed their upser at the termination of the program. US Ambassador John Tefft told press that he ‘deeply regrets’ Russia’s decision to end the program which has helped build links between Russia and America for over 20 years.
The decision to cancel the program is seen as another homophobic act by some involved, who view Russia as taking unnecessary steps to uphold their anti-gay stance. The news has also been seen as a further breakdown in cooperation between Russia and America following recent sanctions placed on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.