Two Russians apply for asylum after arriving by boat in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska, USA (HPD) — Two Russians who say they fled their country to avoid mandatory military service applied for asylum in the United States after arriving by boat on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, the Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office on Thursday.

Karina Borger, Murkowski’s spokeswoman, said by email that the office has been in contact with the Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and that “Russian citizens have reported escaping from one of Russia’s eastern coastal communities to avoid compulsory military service.”

Coast Guard and CBP spokesmen referred a reporter’s questions about the matter to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not immediately respond to a message sent Thursday. CBP said in a statement that the individuals “were transferred to Anchorage for a review, which includes a screening and vetting process, and were subsequently processed in accordance with applicable United States immigration laws under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Act.” Nationality”.

The agency said the individuals arrived Tuesday in a small boat. It did not provide information on the origin of the individuals, their journey or the asylum application.

Alaska Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Republicans, said Thursday that the individuals washed up on a beach near Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Sullivan said he was alerted to what had happened by a “senior community leader in the Bering Strait region” on Tuesday morning.

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

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

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

“This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russians do not want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state plays a vital role in ensuring the national security of the United States.”

Apparently it is rare for someone to take this route to try to enter the United States.

In August, federal authorities made 42 arrests of Russians trying to enter the country from Canada without authorization, compared to 15 in July and nine in August 2021.

Russians generally try to reach the United States through Mexico, which does not require visas for citizens coming from Russia. Russians typically fly from Moscow to Cancún or Mexico City, entering the country as tourists and then taking a connecting flight to the US border. Earlier this year, US authorities had to deal with the arrival of Russians hoping to apply for asylum at a border crossing.

Some point out that the spike occurred before Russia invaded Ukraine, attributing it to the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year.


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

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