Russians claim asylum in Alaska after fleeing military conscription for Ukraine war

Two men reached remote US state by boat to avoid compulsory military service

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Two Russians fleeing military service in Ukraine have claimed asylum in the US after crossing the Bering Sea to reach a remote island in Alaska, authorities said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month announced a partial military mobilisation for the war in Ukraine. Western officials say about 250,000 men have already fled abroad to escape conscription.

The office of Lisa Murkowski, a senator representing Alaska, said on Thursday that the Russian men claimed to be seeking asylum to avoid compulsory military service. They were found on St Lawrence Island, about 60 kilometres from the Russian coast.

Mr Putin's mobilisation drive has proved to be one of Moscow's most unpopular moves, triggering protests in cities and regions across the country.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine that started on February 24 has begun to unravel after a Ukrainian counter-offensive regained thousands of square kilometres in the past month.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said the two men had come over from Russia in a boat and were being questioned.

“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,” Mr Dunleavy said in a statement.

The Russian embassy in Washington is aware of the case and plans to have a phone conversation with the two citizens soon, a spokeswoman at the mission was quoted as saying by Tass news agency.

Dan Sullivan, a senator who also represents Alaska, said Customs and Border Protection officials were assessing the case, which showed that “the Russian people don't want to fight Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine”.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed the two men arrived on Tuesday.

“The individuals were transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then subsequently processed in accordance with applicable US immigration laws,” a department representative said.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 5:56 PM
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