Two Russian nationals have arrived in the United States, seeking asylum.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed the men arrived via a small boat on Tuesday in St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. The men were met why DHS officials and state police.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said, in a joint statement with Alaska GOP Senator Dan Sullivan, that the Russians landed at a beach near the village of Gambell and were initially taken into custody until the Customs and Border Protection collected them.
“We are actively engaged with federal officials and residents in Gambell to determine who these individuals are, but right now, we already know that the federal response was lacking,” Murkowski said.
The men have been flown to Anchorage for processing.
“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 under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” a DHS spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Thursday.
Though reports say they could not confirm “why” these Russians fled, there is a really high probability it is because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the recent mobilization of hundreds of thousands of troops.
The Russian embassy in the US has also been informed, and according to Nadezhda Shumova, head of the consular department of the Russian Embassy, they are currently having a conversation with federal officials to determine the identity of these Russians. Shumova also said they’re looking to provide additional assistance if Washington would allow the diplomats to have a telephone conversation with the two Russians.
“We are actively engaged with federal officials and residents in Gambell to determine who these individuals are, but right now, we already know that the federal response was lacking,” Murkowski said in the release. “This situation underscores the need for a stronger security posture in America’s Arctic.”
Murkowski added that this raises concerns about the border safety in the Last Frontier and that they plan to coordinate with the Coast Guard in the “event that more Russians flee to the Bering Straight 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. Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
“This is why Sen. Murkowski and I have been pressing officials in Washington, DC, so hard on the need to prioritize capabilities in the Arctic — including infrastructure, Coast Guard assets, ports and strategic defense assets.”
When asked about the possibility of a significant surge of Russians crossing the Strait and asking for asylum, the Republican governor said they’re not expecting a “continual stream of individuals” arriving in Alaska.
“We have no indication that’s going to happen. So this maybe is a one-off,” he said while adding that their arrival was “a surprise.”
“Who knows what going to happen in the future,” he said. “If more individuals … leave Russia through the bering Strait, we’ll have to deal with that.”
For now, there is no clear action plan from the governor and Coast Guard for an effective response when this event happens.