(NEW YORK) — A pair of Russian nationals have requested asylum in the U.S. after arriving on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island earlier this week, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan said in a press release on Thursday.
The Department of Homeland Security said the two people arrived on a small boat on Tuesday and were met by DHS officials and state police.
“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 under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” a DHS spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Thursday.
While it’s unclear why the two Russians fled the country, Sullivan said he believes it’s because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people don’t want to fight [President Vladimir] Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” he said in the press release. “Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security.”
The Russian Embassy in D.C. is aware that the two nationals are with authorities in Alaska, according to Nadezhda Shumova, head of the consular department of the Russian Embassy.
“The diplomats plan to hold a telephone conversation with them and provide the necessary assistance,” Shumova told ABC News.
“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.”
Lead State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week that it’s important for the U.S. to have an open-door policy to Russians who can come into the country, especially during the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We think it’s important for our part, to continue to have our doors open to Russians who are in a position to come to this country, and we have seen over the course of this war, potentially hundreds of thousands of Russians quite literally vote with their feet,” he told ABC News at the time.
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