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U.S. Diplomats Are Corrupting Russian Students, Education Officials Say

Students in the Tomsk region learn English. "We believe that programs that help Americans and Russians better understand each other should continue," said Anthony Godfrey of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. (file photo)

The U.S. Consulate has organized various cultural and educational events throughout the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, maintaining an active social-media campaign in the process.

But there are signs that local authorities are attempting to circumscribe that outreach work, restricting American diplomats and visitors from access to the city’s schools and universities.

A letter sent to educational institutions in Yekaterinburg and signed by regional education head Yury Biktuganov on May 30, a copy of which was published on June 6 by the news outlet, instructs schools to suspend cooperation with the U.S. Consulate.

"The Consulate General of the United States of America in Yekaterinburg is advancing projects that create a danger of forming a negative image of social-political processes in the Russian Federation," reads the letter, whose authenticity RFE/RL was not able to confirm.

Citing outreach programs like Day Of The Young Diplomat and a course in conversational English for Russians, the ministry says they "have a destructive character for the social-political life of our country."

Participation in them by students and teachers of schools in the region is "undesirable," the letter concludes.

A representative of the regional Education Ministry told on June 6 that while the ministry could not confirm the authenticity of the letter, students and parents had lodged complaints in the past about events organized by the U.S. Consulate.

The quoted comments did not clarify what kind of complaints the ministry had received.

In a statement to Interfax, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Anthony Godfrey, appeared to allude to the atmosphere of the Stalin era.

"This sounds like words that could be written in the 1930s, not in the 21st century," he said of the letter.

"I’d like people to read the letter for themselves and make up their own minds," he said. "I simply cannot understand how an educated person in the 21st century could write that courses in creative writing and conversational English -- and I quote -- 'have a destructive character for the social-political life of our country.'"

Godfrey said the consulate in Yekaterinburg organizes a range of events that are popular among Russians and "give Russian students and anyone else a chance to learn more about the U.S. and perfect their English."

"We believe that programs that help Americans and Russians better understand each other should continue," Godfrey said.

It’s unclear to what extent the ministry’s instruction will affect the consulate’s ability to continue outreach work in regional schools.

On June 7, Paul Carter, the consul-general in Yekaterinburg, denounced the decision and expressed hope that the programs would continue.

"At a time when the leaders of the U.S. and Russia seek ways to improve relations between our countries and areas of mutually beneficial cooperation, this decision is particularly detrimental," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.

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