FACT CHECK: No, Vladimir Putin Did Not Declare Alaska Sale Illegal

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A post shared on X, formerly Twitter, claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the 1867 sale of Alaska to the United States illegal.

Verdict: False

The letter does not state anything about Alaska.

Fact Check:

Social media users have been sharing claims that Putin declared the 1867 sale of Alaska illegal, with one user writing, “In an official letter Putin declares Alaska as Russian soil, labels the 19th century sale of Alaska as ‘illegal sale’.”

There is no evidence that Putin said that the sale was illegal. The Institute for the Study of War stated in its Jan. 19 report on the Russian invasion of Ukraine that “Putin signed a decree allocating funds for the search, registration, and legal protection of Russian property abroad, which includes property in former territories of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union.”

The ISW also noted that “the decree directs the Russian Presidential Administration’s Foreign Property Management Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) with power and funds to search for, register, and legally protect ‘property,’ though the exact parameters of what constitutes current or historical Russian property are unclear.”

“The Kremlin may use the “protection” of its claimed property in countries outside of its internationally recognized borders to forward soft power mechanisms in post-Soviet and neighboring states ultimately aimed at internal destabilization.[58] A prominent milblogger responded to the decree by implausibly calling for Russia to start enacting the law in “Alaska” and throughout a significant portion of eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia,” the ISW report reads.

Putin said in 2014 that people should “not get worked up about” the sale of Alaska.

“We can calculate the equivalent amount, but it was definitely inexpensive. Russia is a northern country with 70 percent of its territory located in the north and the far north. Alaska is not located in the southern hemisphere, either, is it? It’s cold out there as well. Let’s not get worked up about it, all right?” he said.

BBC editor Olga Robinson debunked the claim in a Jan. 22 tweet.

“No, Putin hasn’t declared Alaska as ‘Russian soil’. The viral decree allocates funds for the search, registration and legal protection of Russia’s property abroad, including that of the USSR and the Russian Empire. It makes no mention of Alaska or any other place/asset,” Robinson said.

The State Department directed Check Your Fact to remarks made by State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel when he was asked a question about the alleged declaration.

“Well, I think I can – I speak for all of us in the U.S. Government to say that certainly he is not getting it back,” Patel said. The State Department did not respond to a follow-up inquiry of whether or not it has seen evidence that Putin has declared Alaska “Russian soil.”

Former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev responded to Patel’s remarks on X, joking that “war is unavoidable.” (RELATED: Has Nikki Haley Been Disqualified For The Presidency?)

According to a State Department representative, Russia is not getting back Alaska, which was sold to the U.S. in the 19th century. This is it, then. And we’ve been waiting for it to be returned any day. Now war is unavoidable 😂,” Medvedev tweeted.

Alaska was sold by Russia to the U.S. in 1867 for $7.2 million, according to the State Department. Snopes also debunked this claim.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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