WASHINGTON – Russia is still refusing to accept a large number of American Peace Corps workers without any official explanation, despite discussions held Tuesday to end the stalemate.
A U.S. embassy official in Moscow said Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had discussed bringing in a fresh batch of 62 volunteers that were supposed to arrive next month but whose trip was cancelled when Russia refused to issue second-year visas for 30 of the 64 volunteers currently on Russian soil. No resolution was reached.
Since volunteers are enlisted for two years, those affected by the visa decision will return to the United States while their reassignment is undertaken.
Press reports in Russia have indicated the government's dissatisfaction with the "skill level" of the average Peace Corps worker. An official at the Education Ministry said Tuesday he had received several complaints about the Peace Corps program from officials in Russia's regions.
"The authors of the complaints argued that representatives of the Peace Corps who gave English language lessons to secondary school students had no teaching experience and spoke very little Russian or did not speak Russian at all," Nikolai Dmitriyev, head of the ministry's international cooperation department, told the Interfax news agency.
Meanwhile, the daily Izvestia quoted Sergei Sorokin, whom it identified only as a law enforcement officer, as criticizing the Peace Corps for sending "former cooks, cyclists and Mormon priests," as well as "former officers of the American security services" to teach English in Russia.
But the State Department rejects that.
"Our Peace Corps volunteers are very well qualified in the fields to which they're assigned, and they're a resource that has been put to use in many countries," State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said.
Fox News' Teri Schultz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.