Russians flee to Alaskan island and apply for asylum in US

Anchorage, Alaska - Two Russian nationals arrived by boat on an Alaskan island and have applied for asylum in the US.

After more than 250 nautical miles, the two Russians arrived in Alaska on Thursday (stock image).
After more than 250 nautical miles, the two Russians arrived in Alaska on Thursday (stock image).  © 123RF/ruramos

US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska announced the news on Thursday.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the two Russian citizens have already been flown out of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea and taken to Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, Governor Mike Dunleavy said. They were reportedly trying to avoid Russia's compulsory military service.

"This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people don’t want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine," Sullivan said in a statement. "Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security."

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The two Republicans criticized a lack of presence of federal forces such as the Coast Guard in Alaska and called for more support from the US government in securing the state border.

Murkowski claimed the incident demonstrates "the need for a stronger security posture in America’s Arctic."

Alaska shares a land border with Canada, but its many islands border Russian maritime territory. St. Lawrence Island is closer to the coast of the eastern Russian region of Chukotka than to the Alaskan mainland.

The two men told residents of St. Lawrence Island that they had set out from the eastern Russian town of Egvekinot, Alaska's News Source reported. That means they covered more than 250 nautical miles in the Bering Sea.

While the US government claims Alaska is a state, Indigenous Alaskans have contested the legitimacy of the 1958 statehood referendum and continue to demand their freedom from US occupation.

Cover photo: 123RF/ruramos

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