The Eton pupils beat Theresa May and Boris Johnson to a meeting with the Russian president, who reportedly spent two hours with them
Ministers wait hours for an audience with Vladimir Putin, CEOs sit nervously for months hoping for a summons to see him, and even Donald Trump was stood upduring a 2013 visit to Moscow and told Putin was too busy to see him.
There was no such problem for a group of 11 Eton schoolboys, however, who flew to Moscow and were met by the Russian president in the Kremlin last week, stopping to take a group photo inside the seat of Russian power with their best “massive banter” poses.
Putin, who is notoriously difficult to access and is frequently hours late to meetings with other world leaders, apparently devoted two hours of his time to discuss world affairs with the Eton boys, proving that attending the elite boarding school is useful for opening doors not only in Britain.
The schoolboys have beaten both the prime minister, Theresa May, and Eton alumnus Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, to a meeting with Putin. May is expected to meet the Russian president on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China next week.
David Wei, one of those present at the meeting, wrote on Facebook: “It took me a total of 10 months, 1,040 emails, 1,000 text messages, countless sleepless nights, constant paranoia during A2 exam season, declining academic performance … but here we are. Guys, we truly gave Putin a deep impression of us and he responded by showing us his human face.”
A Facebook post from a US scholarship programme identified one of those on the trip as Trenton Bricken, of Duke University’s class of 2020. According to the post, Bricken “took a quick break from his Duke orientation this week to be part of a delegation from his high school to visit Russia. This visit was hosted by the Russian government and included a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin!”
Bricken himself wrote on Facebook that Putin was “small in person but not in presence”.
In a statement, Eton college said: “This was a private visit by a small group of boys organised entirely at their own initiative and independently of the college.” The Kremlin released no information about the meeting, while the Foreign Office declined to comment.
Quite how the meeting came about remains a mystery. It is possible that one of the Eton boys or one of the intermediaries involved in setting it up was the son of one of Putin’s inner circle, who despite loud displays of patriotism are fond of schooling their children abroad. The meeting was apparently facilitated by Father Tikhon Shevkunov, rumoured to be Putin’s personal priest, who reportedly gave a talk at Eton earlier this year.
A video posted on the Kremlin’s English-language channel, Russia Today, included an interview with some of the students in a Moscow restaurant, though it did not allude to the meeting with Putin. The channel’s correspondent played a word association game with them, asking them what words came into their head to describe “Trump” and “Russian-British relations”. When the word was “Putin” the channel asked a girl sitting at the table, who said “leader”. It was unclear who the girl was; she was not present in the photographs of the meeting with Putin, and could not have gone to Eton, an all-boys school.
Source: The Guardian