AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --
A group of Russian students and journalists visited Maine's capitol Wednesday as part of an exchange program with Maine's sister city in Russia.
The Open World program sends people from Maine to Archangel, Russia and vice versa. It was established in 1988 by a former Westbrook mayor Phil Spiller who signed the Treaty of Friendly Ties to make Archangel and the greater Portland area sister cities.
The group toured the state house, met with Governor LePage to learn about American politics and the process.
"It's always interesting to learn and see firsthand," said Ilya Leonyuk, a journalist who writes for a number of Russian magazines.
Leonyuk said some of the concepts of the American political system surprised him.
"Besides Clinton and Trump you have other candidates on the ballot, and there's a line -- an empty line -- where you can where you can write in other candidates who didn't get into primaries," said Leonyuk.
Phil Spiller Jr., the son of the mayor who established the sister cities, said he was happy to see the program continue.
"It is like the a part of my father is still around. The value and the meaning becomes even deeper during times when our governments don't see eye to eye," said Spiller Jr. "Those are the kinds of bonds of friendship that you develop between citizens in these special sister city relationships."
The journalists responded to how Russia is handling the frequent discussion of how the U.S. will handle its relationship with Russia.
"In general, they follow the election when Trump says that he is a friend of Russia and he would like to establish better relationships with Russia -- of course they pay attention to that," said Artyom Zavarzin, a television journalist in Archangel. "You will make this choice. We can only watch and see what happens."
The group also visited the Samantha Smith statue. Samantha Smith was a young girl in the 1980s who wrote a letter to Soviet Union leader Yuri Andropov asking if Russia and the United States would go to war. She received a letter back, and an invitation to Russia.
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