Two Russian Draft-Dodgers Sail Small Boat To Remote Alaskan Island
Two Russians fleeing conscription for service in the Ukraine war have landed a small boat on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea and requested asylum.
A spokesperson for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski told the Associated Press that “the Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.”
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the two “were transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then subsequently processed in accordance with applicable U.S. immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
On Monday, the hardy, draft-dodging duo landed on a St. Lawrence Island beach, near the small community of Gambell — population 681. Gambell is just 36 miles from Siberia’s Chukotka Peninsula, placing it far closer to Russia than mainland Alaska.
In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial mobilization” of the country’s military, pressing into service some 300,000 Russians with previous military training. On Tuesday, Russia’s defense minister said 200,000 people have been drafted so far. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Russians have reportedly fled the country.
Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan urged federal authorities to prepare for a situation where “more Russians flee to Bering Strait communities in Alaska”:
“This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people don’t want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security.”
Murkowski said the incident highlights “the need for a stronger security posture in America’s Arctic.”
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy struck a less opportunistic tone: “We don’t anticipate a continual stream of individuals or a flotilla of individuals. We have no indication that’s going to happen.”
Rather than making a risky journey in the unforgiving Bering Sea, most Russians seeking asylum do it like nearly everyone else: through Mexico. To consider one slice of time, 8,600 Russians sought asylum via Mexico between August 2021 and January 2022 — with 90% doing so via San Diego.
Putin’s mobilization is going well. The first Russian forces have reached the US! https://t.co/TZKE7Nsx9p
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) October 6, 2022
Fri, 10/07/2022 – 13:05