Two Russians seek asylum after arriving on a remote Alaskan island

JUNE, Alaska (AP) — Two Russians who said they fled the country to avoid mandatory military service have applied for asylum in the United States after landing on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, the U.S. senator’s office said Thursday. by Alaska Lisa Murkowski.

Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Murkowski, said by email that the office has been in communication with the Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection and that “Russian nationals have reported fleeing one of the coastal communities in the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.”

Spokespeople for the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection referred a reporter’s questions to the US 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 verification process, and then processed in accordance with applicable U.S. immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act. ”.

The agency said the people arrived Tuesday in a small boat. He did not provide details about where the people came from, their journey or the asylum application.

Alaska Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Republicans, said Thursday that the individuals landed on a beach near the town of Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Sullivan said a “senior community leader from the Bering Strait region” alerted him to the matter Tuesday morning.

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

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

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

“This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people do not want to fight 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 underscored “the need for a stronger security posture in the United States’ Arctic.”

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday, as initial details of the situation emerged, said he did not expect a continuous stream or “flotilla” of people traversing the same route. He also warned that travel in the region could be dangerous as a fall storm with high winds was expected.

It is apparently unusual for someone to take this route to try and enter the US.

In August, US authorities detained Russians without legal status who tried to enter the US from Canada 42 times. That was a 15-fold increase in July and a nine-fold increase in August 2021.

Russians most commonly try to enter the US through Mexico, which does not require visas. Russians typically fly from Moscow to Cancun or Mexico City, entering Mexico as tourists before taking a connecting flight to the US border. Earlier this year, US authorities faced a rush of Russians hoping to apply for asylum if they showed up at an inspection booth at an official crossing.

Some attribute the increase to before Russia invaded Ukraine, blaming it on the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year. US authorities on the border with Mexico apprehended Russians 20,608 times between September and August, five times the previous 12-month period.


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

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