How The Hell Did A Bunch Of British Teenagers Get A Private Meeting With Russian President Vladimir Putin?
A school trip with a twist...
School trips in the UK are notoriously low-key. An afternoon in Swanage. A weekend in the Isle of Wight. Or a short trip to Motney Hill Sewage Works and to a local kiln, which as one Guardian commenter described, “was a bit bleak […] but I recall quite enjoying making my brick.”
This is the reality of British school trips. If anyone who went to school in the UK tries to tell you that their school trips didn’t consist of spending a whole day measuring a local river in the rain, tell them to shut up, because they’re definitely lying.
Unless, of course, they were one of 11 schoolboys from Eton, who didn’t spend an afternoon making bricks, but instead flew over to Russia to spend two hours speaking with the actual President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in the Kremlin (the official residence of Russia’s presidents).
It’s a bizarre story. How did a group of teens manage to land a meeting with the President Putin?
Well, David Wei, one of the lucky lads, 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.”
David wasn’t the only one to post about the meeting. Trenton Bricken, another one of the 11, uploaded a photo to Facebook of himself shaking Putin’s hand with the caption, “Two hour meeting with president Putin”.
“He was small in person but not in presence.”
The 11 have been mocked on social media for their “massive banter” poses (their words) in the photo below, but also applauded for their initiative in gaining the meeting in the first place. And sure, there’s a lot of banter and initiative going on here.
To chase a meeting with Putin like this takes a huge amount of confidence and persistence (1,040 emails to be exact). It’s a special achievement. When this happened, our Prime Minister Theresa May hadn’t even met Putin yet. So why would Putin even agree to a meeting like this?
The Telegraph noted that Bishop Tikhon (“dubbed Putin’s ‘personal confessor’”) was involved in coordinating the meeting - they picked up on a Facebook post from one of the other boys, Marc Woernle, 18, which read: “We are incredibly grateful to Bishop Tikhon and President Putin for inviting us, and for the hospitality going above and beyond what we expected.”
So perhaps there are some ties between Bishop Tikhon and individuals at Eton? Or, as David Turner pointed out in The Guardian: “Perhaps, given that Eton has so far produced 19 prime ministers, he is playing a long game, in the hope that one of them may in 25 years’ time be the 20th.”
It’s possible Putin just recognised a good PR opportunity when he saw one, helped by the fact that he’d actually heard of Eton (thanks to its world-famous name). Or maybe, as The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker tweeted, the reason is:
We don’t know for sure. But this story has brought up some interesting conversations.
Why do you think it was a group of schoolboys from an elite school like Eton that met Putin, and not a group from a state school? Is it because of the gaping difference in funding that state schools get in comparison to Eton? (Remember, parents pay £32,000+ per year to send their children to Eton.)
Or maybe it’s because private schools like Eton, Westminster or Harrow just instil their students with a sense of confidence and aspiration that state schools don’t? Is there some way state school students could also be supported to strut on the world stage at this level?
What do you think? Let us know over on Twitter @MTVUK.
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