2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaskan island

JUNEAU, Alaska — Two Russians who said they fled the country to avoid compulsory military service have sought asylum in the United States after landing on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, the US senator’s office announced Thursday. Lisa Murkowski.

Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Murkowski, said via email that the office was in communication with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection and that “Russian nationals have reported that they fled the ‘one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.’

Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection spokespersons referred a reporter’s questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Public Affairs Office, which provided little information Thursday. The office, in a statement, said the individuals “were transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then processed in accordance with applicable U.S. immigration laws under the Immigration Act. ‘immigration and nationality’.

The agency said the individuals arrived on a small boat on Tuesday. He did not provide details about where the people came from, their backgrounds or the asylum claim.

Alaska senators, Republicans Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, said Thursday the individuals landed on a beach near the town of Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Sullivan said he was alerted to the matter by a “senior Bering Strait area community official” on Tuesday morning.

Gambell is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of the community of Nome, the hub of western Alaska, and about 36 miles (58 kilometers) from the Chukotka Peninsula in Siberia. , according to a community profile on a state website.

A person who responded to an email address listed for Gambell raised questions with federal authorities.

Sullivan, in a statement, said he encouraged federal authorities to put a plan in place in case “more Russians flee to Bering Strait communities in Alaska.”

“This incident clearly shows two things: first, the Russian people do not want to wage Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine“, Sullivan said. “Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in ensuring the national security of the United States.”

Murkowski said the situation underscores “the need for a stronger security posture in the American Arctic.”

On Wednesday, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, as the first details of the situation emerged, said he did not expect a steady stream or “flotilla” of individuals using the same route. He also warned that travel in the area could be dangerous like falling. storm packing strong winds was expected.

It is apparently unusual for someone to take this route in an attempt to enter the United States

In August, US authorities arrested 42 times Russians without legal status trying to enter the United States from Canada. This represented 15 times in July and nine times in August 2021.

Russians most often try to enter the United States through Mexico, which does not require a visa. Russians typically fly from Moscow to Cancun or Mexico City, entering Mexico as tourists before catching a connecting flight to the US border. Earlier this year, US authorities faced a wave of Russians hoping to seek asylum if they reached an inspection booth at an official crossing.

Some trace the spike to before Russia invaded Ukraine, attributing it to the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year. US authorities at the Mexican border arrested Russians 20,608 times from September to August, five times the previous 12-month period.

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Associated Press reporters Manuel Valdes in Seattle and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

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