Students from Eton College were granted a private audience with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, beating Theresa May to it.
Despite the fact Ms May will not meet the Russian head of state until an international summit next week, the teenage boys enjoyed a handshake and personal meeting with Mr Putin at the Kremlin.
Pictures of the meeting, thought to have been set up by a Russian bishop after he gave a talk at the exclusive Berkshire college in March, were posted on social media.
The boys were photographed sitting around a meeting table with Mr Putin while wearing translation headsets. The pictures show some of the boys wearing official Eton ties.
A source close to the students told The Sun: “They didn’t tell anyone they were going. I would assume it was so the school didn’t find out because I don’t think they would be happy.”
“They went last week, I’m not sure on the details entirely, I don’t know who paid for the flights out there.
“From what I understand, they were talking to him about Eton because he had a keen interest in the college, mainly due to previous politicians in the UK who had attended.
“After they got home, the boys posted the pictures to social media, which I thought was strange because it looked like they had been trying to keep it quiet previously.
“I know the boys through friends, who showed me the pictures on social media.”
One of the boys, Marc Woernle, posted on Facebook: “We had an incredible time, and thank you very much to the people who made this trip happen, Natalya, Evgeny Markin and Evgeny Zhadkevich, Nikolai, Bishop Tikhon, our many tour guides, and drivers, and organisers, and everyone who worked behind the scenes to help us.
“We are incredibly grateful to Bishop Tikhon and President Putin for inviting us, and for the hospitality going above and beyond what we expected.”
An Eton College spokesperson said: “This was a private visit by a small group of boys organised entirely at their own initiative and independently of the college.”
Mr Putin will meet Ms May for the first time next week for a face-to-face talks at the G20 summit in China.
The Russian president has previously said he is ready to initiate “constructive dialogue” with the UKs new Prime Minister.
“Vladimir Putin confirmed his willingness to have a constructive dialogue and to collaborate with the British prime minister about current issues concerning bilateral relations and the international agenda”, the Kremlin said in a statement shortly after Ms May assumed office.