While Theresa May is expected to meet Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in China next week, a group of Eton schoolboys managed to beat the British prime minister and bag an audience with the Russian president.

The 11 students – some of whom were wearing official Eton school ties – were pictured shaking hands with Putin and sitting around a table with him in Moscow last week. The trip is thought to have been set up by a Russian bishop who reportedly gave a talk at the £37,000-a-year private school in Berkshire.

The boys spent an hour with Putin in the same room which has previously hosted the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State John Kerry. They later jokingly posed for pictures in the Kremlin.

David Wei, who attended the meeting with Putin, posted 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."

Another student, Marc Woernle, extended his gratitude to those who helped set up the meeting. "We had an incredible time, and thank you so much to the people who made this happen, Natalya, Evgeny Markin, and Evgeny Zhadkevich, Nikolai, Bishop Tikhon, our many tour guides, and drivers, and organizers, and everyone who worked behind the scenes to help us," he wrote on the social media site.

"We are incredibly grateful to Bishop Tikhon and President Putin for inviting us, and for the hospitality going above and beyond what we expected."

A spokesperson for the elite educational institution said it was a private visit which was "organised entirely at their own initiative."

A source close to the pupils 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," they added. "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."

The boardroom.

Posted by Charlie Brown on Thursday, 25 August 2016