Russian embassy says US denied visit to Soviet graves in Alaska

A group of Russian diplomats prevented from visiting the graves of Soviet soldiers who died in World War II, state media report.

Russia’s embassy in Washington, DC says a group of Russian diplomats visiting Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, has been prevented by US authorities from visiting the graves of Soviet soldiers who died during World War II, according to Russian state media.

“Unfortunately, the local American authorities, without explanation, did not allow embassy diplomats to visit the Fort Richardson National Cemetery and kneel before the graves of Soviet pilots and sailors who died in Alaska in 1942-1945,” TASS news agency cited Russian diplomat Nadezhda Shumova as saying on Saturday.

“Attempts to obtain access to the memorials through the State Department were unsuccessful, the diplomatic note of the [Russian] embassy in this regard was ignored.”

A permit is required to access the cemetery on the Fort Richardson US army installation, according to the cemetery’s website.

Russian diplomats have visited the cemetery in the past, the embassy wrote on Twitter.

Nine Soviet pilots and two other military personnel are buried at the cemetery, TASS reported.

They died while flying planes from the United States to the Soviet Union as part of the World War II Lend-Lease programme. Lend-Lease was an effort, begun before the US joined the war, to supply allies with material deemed vital to the defence of the US.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and the US have been increasingly strained since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The Kremlin welcomed the results of the US midterm elections, where neither the Democrats nor the Republicans emerged as clear winners but said the result would not “change anything essential.”

“Relations still are, and will remain, bad,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at the time.

Washington and Moscow recently engaged in a rare instance of cooperation when they negotiated the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was serving 10 months in a Russian prison, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The two countries also traded prisoners in April when Russia released former US Marine Trevor Reed and the US released Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

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