Two Russians fleeing military service seek U.S. asylum in Alaska

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WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Two Russians fleeing military service have claimed asylum in the United States after arriving by boat in Alaska, authorities said on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month announced a partial military mobilization for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Tens of thousands of men have fled abroad to avoid being signed up.

The office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, who represents Alaska, said the two Russians claimed to be seeking asylum to avoid compulsory military service. They were found near an Alaskan city about 40 miles (64 km) from the Russian coast.

Putin’s mobilization drive has proved one of Moscow’s most unpopular moves, triggering protests in cities and regions across the country. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started on Feb. 24 has begun to unravel after a Ukrainian counteroffensive regained thousands of square miles (km) of territory in the past month.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said the two individuals came 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,” 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.

Senator Dan Sullivan, 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 individuals 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 U.S. immigration laws,” a department spokesperson said.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler

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