Two Russian nationals sailed to Alaska in a small boat to escape the country’s military draft — and they’re now seeking asylum in the US after being detained by federal officials, authorities said Thursday.
The men made the treacherous, 300-mile journey from Egvekinot, Russia to the sleepy Alaskan island of St. Lawrence to avoid fighting in the nation’s brutal war against Ukraine, the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, according to the UK Guardian.
“They fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service,” said Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Murkowski.
The asylum-seekers voyaged across a frigid strip of the Bering Sea and arrived in the tiny town of Gambell on Tuesday, according to Alaska NewsSource. They were then promptly detained by Customs and Border Protection officials in Anchorage.
The federal agency is working with the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether the men will be allowed into the US amid tensions with Russia, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said in a statement.
But their dramatic trek comes just a week after the White House said Russian men fleeing the country to avoid being drafted into the Ukraine war should seek asylum in the US.
It also comes as flights out of Russia become increasingly expensive and difficult to find.
On Wednesday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he doesn’t anticipate Alaska being flooded by asylum-seekers.
“We don’t anticipate a continual stream of individuals or a flotilla of individuals. We have no indication that’s going to happen, so this may be a one-off,” Dunleavy said at a press conference.