Two Russian nationals landed by boat on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea on Thursday and are seeking asylum. The Russians were fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s call-up of the military reservist program.
This incident highlights to what extreme some Russians have gone to avoid a mobilization of up to 300,000 as Putin’s military, having suffered heavy losses in Ukraine. The Russian army has recently made multiple retreats due to an aggressive offensive push by Ukrainian forces. It’s been estimated that 200,000 Russians have fled since the call-up.
The two arrived this week at a beach near Gambell on the northwest tip of St. Lawrence Island, about 40 miles from mainland Russia.
Two Russian nationals sought asylum in Alaska on Tuesday when they landed by boat on St. Lawrence Island, leaving lawmakers from the state asking the federal government for extra support in case more Russians flee to Alaska amid Putin's military call-up. https://t.co/hmnveM5q21
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 7, 2022
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and fellow Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said the incident had exposed a need for greater security in the Arctic, where Russian military ships and aircraft have increasingly shown their presence.
“We are actively engaged with federal officials and residents in Gambell to determine who these individuals are, but right now, we already know that the federal response was lacking,” Murkowski said. “Only local officials and state law enforcement had the capability to immediately respond to the asylum seekers, while Customs and Border Protection had to dispatch a Coast Guard aircraft from over 750 miles away to get on scene.”
Two Russians traveled from Russia to a small island in Alaska to avoid President Vladimir Putin’s draft to fight in Ukraine, two senators said on Thursday. They landed on a beach on St. Lawrence Island and requested asylum in the U.S., the senators said. https://t.co/8LpuBAaoGF pic.twitter.com/aWWx8lqZ5P
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 6, 2022
The Coast Guard referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security, which said the Russians were transported to Anchorage for processing.
Sullivan said in a statement that the incident made clear that “the Russian people don’t want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”