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Alaskan asylum seekers Native Siberians from Russia

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s senior U.S. senator said two Russian Native Siberians were so afraid of being forced into the war in Ukraine that they left everything to chance to cross the perilous Bering Sea in a small boat to reach American soil. told. two.

Two people, identified as men by a citizen, were approached earlier this month near Gambell in St. They landed on Lawrence Island and sought asylum.

“They feared for their lives because Russia, targeting the minority population, entered mandatory military service in Ukraine,” Republican US Senator Lisa Murkowski told a candidate forum at the Alaska Native American conference in Anchorage on Saturday.

Answering a question about Arctic policy, Murkowski said, “It’s clear to me that these people are in fear, that they are so afraid of their own government, that they are risking their lives and crossing these open waters in a 15-metre boat.”

“It is clear that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is focused on a military conquest at the expense of his own people,” Murkowski said. “One hand is in Ukraine and the other is in the Arctic, so we must keep our eyes wide open in the Arctic.”

Murkowski said he met with the two Siberians recently, but did not give further details about exactly when or where the meeting took place or where the asylum processes were. He was not available for follow-up questions after the forum.

Murkowski’s office on October 6 announced asylum requests, saying the men had fled from one of the coastal communities on Russia’s east coast.

Bruce Boolowon, 87, a village elder in Gambell, is believed to be the last surviving member of the Alaskan National Guard who helped rescue 11 US Navy soldiers aboard a plane shot down by Russian MIGs over the Bering Sea in 1955. Plane, St. Made a crash landing on Lawrence Island.

Gambell, an Alaska Native community of about 600, is located about 36 miles (58 kilometers) from Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula in Siberia.

Two Russian-born women were brought in for translation from Gambell, although one of the Russians spoke English quite well. Boolowon, a Siberian Yupik, said both women married local men and became US citizens.

Boolowon said it was commonplace for Russians to land in Gambell during the Cold War, but the visits were not despicable. st. Lawrence Island was so close to Russia, people routinely traveled back and forth to visit relatives.

However, these two asylum seekers were unknown to the people of Gambell.

“They were foreigners and they didn’t have passports, so they put them in jail,” he told The Associated Press last week.

The two men spent the night in prison, but the townspeople in Gambell brought them both Alaska Native food and produce purchased from a grocery store.

“They were pretty full; they ate a lot,” Boolowon said.

“The next day, a Coast Guard C-130 came along with some officials and took them,” he said, adding that it was the last thing he heard about the Russians.

Since then, the authorities have been tight-lipped.

“Individuals were transported to Anchorage for review, which included a screening and review process, and then processed under applicable U.S. immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said in an email. when asked for an update last week on the asylum process and where the men are being held and held.

Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney in Anchorage, said it is unlikely that any information about the Russians will be released.

“The US government is supposed to keep all this secret, so I don’t know why they would tell someone anything,” he told the AP.

Instead, it’s up to the two Russians to publicize their situation in Russia, which could put their families at risk. “I don’t know why they want to do this,” Stock said.

Thousands of Russian men left the country after Putin announced mobilization in September to call in about 300,000 soldiers with past military experience to support forces in Ukraine.

There was no response to messages sent to the Russian consulate in San Francisco last week and Saturday.