Russia Declines to Renew Visas for 30 U.S. Peace Corps Workers

MOSCOW, Aug. 13 – Russia has refused to reissue visas for 30 Peace Corps volunteers, most of whom were working as English teachers in regional Russian schools, and Russian educators said today that they were disappointed by the decision.

It was the second time Russia had forced American volunteers to leave in the middle of their two-year teaching commitments. Last year, 10 volunteers were refused visa renewals.

The rejections, made public on Monday, reduced the group of American volunteers working in Russia by half. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell “brought up the issue of visas,” with the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said an American Embassy spokeswoman in Moscow.

Late in the day today, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted an unidentified Russian analyst as saying that the reason for the action was that “the need for assistance has diminished,” since 1992, when the Peace Corps began bringing volunteers to Russia.

An official from Russia’s Ministry of Education said the volunteers, most without formal teaching educations, are ill prepared for their positions. Ten percent of the 64 volunteers in Russia teach business, a subject many here say should be taught by professionals only.

“Most of them want to see the world, but teaching should come first,” said Nikolai M. Dmitriyev, chief of the International Education and Cooperation Department at the ministry. “I doubt American schools would accept someone without a teaching permit just because he is a native speaker of a language.”

But a number of Russian educators, in interviews today, disagreed.

Staff members at a school in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk were furious. Gymnasium No. 6 lost a volunteer, Anne Wake, who had taught English and run an English-language club, and an Internet program.

“It’s a tragedy that she won’t be here,” said Olga A. Vins, the school’s principal. “There must have been some mistake. We can’t afford to go abroad to learn English from native speakers, and classes are expensive. Unfortunately, no one asked our opinion.”

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