The lawyer for the Russian gay teenager at the center of Russia's decision to end its student exchange program with the U.S. says her client is seeking political asylum in America due to fears of Russia's crackdown on its LGBT community, Radio Free Europe reports:
“Our client is afraid of returning to Russia because Russia persecutes gay people. That’s what this is about,” Susan Reed, an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, told RFE/RL on October 7.
The boy lived with an American family and attended a U.S. high school in 2012-13 as part of the decades-old Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX).
But he did not return to his home country at the conclusion of the exchange as required by the program. His decision to remain in the United States emerged last week when Russia cited the case in its decision to suspend its participation in FLEX.
Announcing the end of the country’s participation in FLEX, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov [pictured right] said the student was "seduced" to stay in the U.S. by a Michigan gay couple.
Reed told RFE/RL that the statements and reports from Russian officials seem to suggest “that there’s some person or some people whose sexual orientation is relevant. And that’s just not the case.”
“There’s no adoption, there’s no untoward behavior,” she said. “He met many caring adults, both gay and straight in the U.S., and he decided to stay here because he was afraid to go home.”