Ian Payne 4am - 7am
Russian men sail 300 miles to remote island in Alaska to escape Putin's draft
7 October 2022, 14:05
Two Russian men have sailed 300 miles through rough waters on a small boat to escape Putin's war draft and claim asylum in Alaska.
Listen to this article
The pair immediately applied for refuge in 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 of the men have fled over land to neighbouring countries including Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland. However the arrival of the two men in Alaska is an unusual first.
Republican senator Ms Murkowski said then men had landed at a beach near the town of Gambell - an isolated community on St Lawrence Island home to just 600 people. Alaska's other senator, Dan Sullivan, said he was alerted to the matter by a "senior community leader from the Bering Strait region" on the morning of Tuesday 4 October.
Gambell is roughly 200 miles southwest of the western Alaska hub community of Nome, and about 36 miles from the Chukotaka Peninsula, Siberia - according to a community profile on a state website.
Mr Sullivan has encouraged federal authorities to have a plan in place in a statement, 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."
The state's Governor, Mike Dunleavy, said he did not expect a continual stream or "floatilla" of individuals traversing the same route, also warning of a fall storm packing strong winds that could make travel in the region dangerous.
The route the men have taken to get to the US appears to be unusual, with most Russians more commonly attempting to enter the US through Mexico.
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.