'Alaska Is Ours!' Billboards Appear in Russia After Threat to Reclaim State

Russia Alaska is Ours Billboards Reclaim Threat
Billboards reading "Alaska Is Ours!" were spotted in Russia after a top government official claimed that Russia could reclaim the state. Above, an undated file photo of a Russian flag is pictured on the left, while an image of a "Welcome to Alaska" sign taken near the Canadian border is on the right. Left: Trots1905, Right: Ingo Dörenberg/Getty

Billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" have been spotted in Russia one day after a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the country could reclaim the territory that was sold to the U.S. in 1867.

Multiple billboards bearing the slogan surprised residents in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk after being spotted on Thursday, according to Krasnoyarsk news agency NGS24. One day earlier, Putin ally and State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin suggested that Russia could "take back" Alaska in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

While the billboards appeared just after an official suggested an invasion of the U.S. state, they do not appear to have been placed by the Russian government. Krasnoyarsk restaurateur Vladimir Vladimirov told NGS24 that there were "several of them in different parts of the city" but he assumed that the billboards had been ordered by "some patriot."

A spokesperson for a Krasnoyarsk company named "Alaska," which reportedly manufactures trailers, soon claimed responsibility for the billboards in comments to NGS24. The spokesperson explained that the company's director was "very patriotic" and had "decided to show that we are for patriotism" by placing the billboards around the city.

Russian media watcher Dr. Ian Garner also shared an image of the billboard on Twitter, while commenting, "they've gone totally mad."

On Wednesday, Volodin and another top Russian official reportedly warned that sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and other Western countries over the Ukraine war could lead to direct military conflicts including a potential invasion of Alaska.

"Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Volodin said during a State Duma session, according to The Moscow Times. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back."

Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the State Duma, also reportedly proposed that "referendum" be held for Alaskan residents to vote on joining Russia.

While Alaskan support for joining Russia is far from widespread, WhiteHouse.Gov petitions titled "Alaska Back to Russia" gained tens of thousands of signatures in 2014 and 2015.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy pointed Newsweek to a tweet made in response to the Russia threat to "take back" the state on Thursday.

"To the Russian politicians who believe they can take back Alaska: Good luck," the Republican governor tweeted.

The U.S. purchased the territory of Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million. Although the purchase soon proved to be an exceptional value, the deal was criticized at the time as "Seward's folly," referring to then-Secretary of State William Seward, who had engineered the purchase. Alaska officially became a U.S. state on January 3, 1959.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian government for comment.