Russia Cancels Popular FLEX Exchange Program After Gay Student Reportedly Seeks U.S. Asylum

Russia has canceled a popular high school exchange program with the U.S. after a gay Russian student requested asylum based on his sexual orientation.

As The New York Times is reporting, officials announced that Russia would no longer allow students to participate in a year-long U.S. academic program under the annual Future Leaders Exchange (or FLEX), and accused the U.S. of endangering the welfare of a child over the case.

The unnamed student, 16, was reportedly living with an American family in Michigan when he befriended a local gay couple, according to the Washington Post. Russian diplomats said the couple, who are military veterans, told the teen that he should stay in the U.S. and even promised to pay his tuition at Harvard University, according to reports.

U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft said in a statement to the Associated Press that he "deeply regret[s] 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 States."

Russia's controversial "gay propaganda" laws garnered global attention in the weeks leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. A new documentary, "Hunted: The War On Gays In Russia," will premiere on HBO this week.



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