Two Russians sail 300 miles to Alaska to avoid military draft

As many as 700,000 men may have left Russia since September this year
As many as 700,000 men may have left Russia since September this year

Two Russians attempting to avoid being drafted to military duty in Ukraine sailed 300 miles through rough waters on a small boat to claim asylum in Alaska.

The pair immediately applied for refuge from the US state upon landing on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea.

A spokesperson for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's office said: "The Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service."

Citing a Kremlin source, a Forbes Russia report this week claimed as many as 700,000 men may have left the country since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial troop mobilisation on September 21.

Most have fled over land to neighbouring Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland, however, the unusual arrivals in Alaska mark a first.

Republican senator Ms Murkowski said the men landed at a beach near the town of Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s other senator, said he was alerted to the matter by a "senior community leader from the Bering Strait region" on Tuesday morning.

Gambell is about 200 miles southwest of the western Alaska hub community of Nome and about 36 miles from the Chukotka Peninsula, Siberia, according to a community profile on a state website.

The two Russians turned up on a remote island in Alaska - AP
The two Russians turned up on a remote island in Alaska - AP

Mr Sullivan in a statement said he has encouraged federal authorities to have a plan in place in case "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," Mr Sullivan said.

"Second, given Alaska's proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America's national security."

Ms Murkowski said the situation underscored "the need for a stronger security posture in America's Arctic."

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said he did not expect a continual stream or "flotilla" of individuals traversing the same route. He also warned that travel in the region could be dangerous as a fall storm packing strong winds was expected.

It is seemingly unusual for someone to take this route to try to get into the US.

US authorities in August stopped Russians without legal status 42 times who tried to enter the US from Canada. That was up from 15 times in July and nine times in August 2021.

Russians more commonly try to enter the US through Mexico, which does not require visas. Russians typically fly from Moscow to Cancun or Mexico City, entering Mexico as tourists before getting a connecting flight to the US border.

Earlier this year, US authorities contended with a spate of Russians who hoped to claim asylum if they reached an inspection booth at an official crossing.