The two Russians crossed the Bering Strait and landed in St. Petersburg, western Alaska. Lawrence Island had been seeking asylum earlier this week to avoid Russia’s enlistment in the ongoing war against Ukraine.
“Russian nationals reported fleeing a coastal community on Russia’s east coast to avoid compulsory military service,” said Republican Senator Karina Borg. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told CNN the individuals were transported to Anchorage for screening, including screening and vetting, before being processed under U.S. immigration law.
Russia’s embassy in Washington said its diplomats would have “telephone conversations” with two male citizens, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
The pair’s arrival in Gamber, Alaska, comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month called for a “partial mobilization” of the country’s population, prompting Russian men to flee the country and cars lined up across the border into neighboring Finland, Georgia and Mongolia.
Protests against conscription erupted in minority areas, and some army recruitment offices were set on fire. The mobilization announcement also sparked anti-war protests across Russia.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is faltering, with Kyiv’s military fighting back aggressively, including in areas the Kremlin claims to have annexed in violation of international law. Experts have previously warned that some troops serving in the Russian war were already battling low morale and equipment issues – with newly mobilized soldiers likely to rush to the front lines with insufficient training.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at a news conference Wednesday night that the arrival of the people was a surprise and that officials “do not expect a steady influx of people.”
“We have no indication that this is going to happen, so it could be a one-off,” the Republican governor said, warning that the storm will hit northwest Alaska, adding that “any type of crossing of the Bering Strait over the next few days is possible. very dangerous.”
At its narrowest point, the distance between mainland Russia and Alaska is 55 miles, according to the Alaska Public Land Information Center.
CNN has reached out to the Alaska governor’s office.
Murkowski and Alaska Republican Senators. Dan Sullivan called for stronger border security in the state.
“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 ensuring U.S. national security,” Shah said. Levin said.
“That’s why Senator Murkowski and I have been pressuring officials in Washington, D.C. to prioritize Arctic capabilities — including infrastructure, Coast Guard assets, ports and strategic defense assets.”