The two Russians landed on a beach near Gambell on St Lawrence Island
The two Russians landed on a beach near Gambell on St Lawrence Island (Picture: Wolfgang Kaehler/Alamy Stock Photo).
Russia

Two Russians seek asylum on remote Alaskan island to avoid compulsory military service

The two Russians landed on a beach near Gambell on St Lawrence Island
The two Russians landed on a beach near Gambell on St Lawrence Island (Picture: Wolfgang Kaehler/Alamy Stock Photo).

Two Russians who fled their country to avoid compulsory military service are believed to have requested asylum after landing on a remote Alaskan island.

The US Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday that the pair have been "transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then subsequently processed in accordance with applicable US immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act".

Alaska's Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan said the Russians landed earlier this week at a beach near Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St Lawrence Island.

Hamilton-class high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman anchors off Gambell, Alaska, in June 2017
Hamilton-class high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman anchors off Gambell, Alaska, in June 2017 (Picture: US Coast Guard).

Mr Sullivan said: "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."

Gambell is about 200 miles southwest of the western Alaska hub community of Nome and about 36 miles from the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia's Siberia. 

But, despite the small distance, it is an unusual route for Russians to take into the US.

According to an AP report, US authorities in August stopped Russians without legal status 42 times as they tried to enter the US from Canada - up from 15 times in July and nine times in August 2021.

It is even more common for Russians to try to enter through Mexico, which does not require them to have a visa.

Alaska's Governor Mike Dunleavy said that he did not expect a surge in Russians arriving, adding a warning that travel via the same route could become dangerous in the coming months as winter weather sets in.