"U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs

Meeting of Co-Chairmen:
Maj Gen Roland Lajoie (USA, Ret) and
Gen-Maj Vladimir A. Zolotarev (ret.)

Marriott Aurora, Moscow, Russia
28 May 2002, 10:00 - 12:00 AM

Representing the U.S. Side:

–  Major General Roland Lajoie (USA, Ret)
–  Mr. Norman Kass
–  LTC John Kane (DAO, USMC)
–  MAJ Gary Espinas (Political Section, USA)
–  SSG James Shonborn

Representing the Russian Side:

–  General-Major Vladimir Antonovich Zolotarev (Ret)
–  COL Konstantin Viktorovich Golumbovskii
–  COL Vladimir Konstantinovich Vinogradov
–  COL (Ret) Aleksandr Semenovich Orlov
–  COL Valerii Alekseevich Filippov
–  LTC Igor' Vladimirovich Pitelin
–  Ms. Natal'ya Mikhailovna Levina
–  Ms. Mariya Ivanovna Lotareva

Translator: Ms. Svetlana Amvrosova


In his opening remarks, General Lajoie expressed his appreciation to General Zolotarev and his colleagues for the invitation to meet and discuss a number of issues relating to the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC). General Lajoie noted that he had attended the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Conference the previous day, where he had had an opportunity to participate in a series of bilateral discussions with specialists of the U.S. and Russian arms control communities dealing with sensitive national security issues. Looking forward to an equally productive session with Gen. Zolotarev, Gen. Lajoie indicated that he had a number of specific points to raise but first wished to offer Gen. Zolotarev the chance to make his preliminary remarks.

Gen. Zolotarev began his comments by welcoming Gen. Lajoie and the U.S. delegation and extending warm greetings from General-Colonel Sobolev, deputy director of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation. Pointing out that the USRJC had just marked its tenth anniversary, Zolotarev underscored the need for clearly defined goals as the commission proceeds with its work. As if anticipating an issue likely to be raised by the U.S. Side, Zolotarev volunteered that he had sent a letter the previous week to the General Staff concerning a review of documents at the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense at Podolsk. [Note: The request for such a review was signed and submitted by both co-chairman to General-Colonel Valerii Leonidovich Manilov, First Deputy Director of the General Staff, in November 1999].

World War II Working Group

Gen. Lajoie then initiated substantive discussion with a review of the World War II Working Group's activities. Specifically, he noted the success of the joint recovery operation last summer involving a "Ventura" bomber that had crashed on the Kamchatka Peninsula in March 1944. He thanked the Russian Side for its assistance, recalling how deftly it had overcome a myriad of technical problems that initially plagued the mission. Lajoie advised that a television program featuring the recovery operation is expected to be aired in Great Britain this year and again next spring in the U.S. All of the families of the crew have been found except for the family of the pilot, Whitman. The one outstanding issue is that of locating the geologist's report that initially documented the aircraft's loss site in the 1960's. It is believed that the report may be able to shed light on any artifacts that were at the crash site at the time the aircraft was located. To date there has been no response from the Russian Side as to any efforts to find the report.

The Russian Side replied that it would be difficult to find the original report, which might reside in the Ministry of Geology, the Territorial Administrative Archives, or possibly the Economic Archives.

Gen Lajoie stated that since the report dealt with the discovery of an American aircraft, he believed that its most likely repository would be among the KGB's holdings.

COL Vinogradov noted that there is no way for the U.S. to know that. What must be done, in his view, is to determine which ministry launched the expedition that located the aircraft. Pursuing that line of approach, he asked that the U.S. Side provide all of the information available so that a request could then be made to the Federal Archive Service for further inquiry.

Action: U.S. Side is to provide the original letter to the U.S. Side identifying the crash site and a copy of the interview with the geologist.

Cold War Working Group

Turning to the Cold War Working Group, Gen. Lajoie observed that the activities of the working group are proceeding routinely and without controversy. Concerning MAJ Eugene Posa, both sides have done quite a lot of work on the case, thanks in large measure to the efforts of RADM (Ret) Boris Gavrilovich Novyy. Lajoie also raised the possibility that Mr. Dennis Clift, U.S. Chairman of the Cold War group, may travel to the Russian Federation to meet with his counterpart, COL Vinogradov, some time this summer to pursue the remaining issues.

The Russian Side noted that RADM Novyy has worked in the Border Guard Archives but has found no substantive information concerning the Posa case. As far as MAJ Posa's remains are concerned, the search for witnesses continues. Documents confirm that the remains were recovered, but the place of burial site is still unknown. Individuals have been interviewed, but there has been no progress in locating new witnesses. While not in the least sanguine about the outcome, Vinogradov left open the possibility that technical personnel familiar with the disposition of Posa's remains may be found. In almost the same breath, however, he noted that many former military members have moved to other locations in Russia or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Additional obstacles cited by the FSB's representative are the absence of a comprehensive database encompassing all of Russia's population; the erratic and inaccurate way in which gravesites were marked, and the fact that those who participated in burial details may not know whom they buried.

At General Lajoie's request, Mr. Kass provided an update on the work being done by the GULAG Study Group. Kass prefaced his comments by noting that the research conducted involved sources and documentary holdings not only in Russia but in the United States as well. To buttress this point, he described the work now under way on the "Wringer Reports," a collection of eyewitness accounts of former Japanese and German POWs held in the GULAG until well into the 1950s. The reports, which are maintained at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, have already generated a number of leads pointing to the presence of U.S. servicemen in the GULAG.

Kass also noted that last November in Moscow the U.S. Side had provided the name of the author of a controversial document known as the "Memoir." He reminded his Russian hosts that much of their skepticism about the document's validity allegedly arose from the fact that the U.S. Side had initially withheld the author's identity for reasons of privacy. Now that the privacy issue has been resolved and the author's name released, Kass asked if the Russian Side had undertaken the review of the document to which it had agreed in November. In particular, he inquired as to whether letters seeking assistance from regional KGB (FSB) and MVD authorities had been sent as the Russian Side had agreed to do.

COL Vinogradov responded that proposing such a letter is very easy; releasing it is an altogether different matter. To the incredulity of the U.S. Side, he went on to say that a check of camp statistics revealed that there had been no Americans detained anywhere in the camp system of the former USSR. Any search for former inmates by citizenship, he opined, would be fruitless since names were not filed with citizenship as a criterion. He reiterated that all of the GULAG's record system has been checked and that no evidence of Americans had been discovered. Vinogradov did acknowledge that information exists about former Axis prisoners of war known to have been held in such areas as Tambov and that a review of records for Americans in those facilities could be undertaken. Albeit reluctantly, he also agreed to examine the contents of the "Memoir" and report his findings at a later date.

Mr. Kass noted that, contrary to Vinogradov's assertions, the research undertaken by the U.S. Side leaves no doubt that Americans were indeed detained in Soviet prison camps and cited the name of John Noble as but one obvious example of why COL Vinogradov's conclusion is erroneous.

Korean War and Vietnam War Working Groups

Gen. Lajoie opened the discussion by noting that the U.S. Side has identified 10,000 to 14,000 Soviet veterans of the war in Korea and thanking the Russian Side for its support of the interview program. In addition, he observed that the work being done in the unclassified archives at Podolsk has helped clarify loss circumstance involving some two hundred aviators missing during Korean War air operations. He then provided a recap of the "Manilov" issue [See Introduction, Paragraph 2, above], noting that the U.S. Side has yet to receive a "serious response" from the Russian Side on this issue.

Gen. Zolotarev pointed out the review of the Podolsk archives sought through the memorandum to Gen. Manilov was entangled in a legal issue involving the juridical standing of the Commission. He asked if Presidents Bush and Putin had discussed the Commission's work during their summit meeting the previous week, suggesting that such high-level attention would be a major factor in facilitating cooperation and eliciting support for the Commission's work. Recounting his own efforts to arrange the meeting with Gen. Manilov at the U.S. Side's request, he reaffirmed his and his deputy's readiness to further the Commission's work despite the problems that might arise. That said, he reiterated his view that Presidential attention to and recognition of the Commission's activity are key to advancing the Commission's objectives, including the review of the archival records at Podolsk. Zolotarev then inquired as whether the U.S. Side had any new information regarding the Soviet K-129 Golf-class submarine lost at sea in 1968.

Gen. Lajoie noted that he was confused about the answer he received concerning the Manilov issue. The linkage between the review directed by Gen. Manilov and the legal status of the Commission did not make sense. In addition, he observed, whenever the issue of archival accesses is asked, the K-129 incident is thrown back at the U.S. Side. Lajoie stated that the United States Government has passed to the Russians every detail of information it has about the crew of the K-129. He personally went to the CIA to assure himself that this is the case.

Regarding discussions at the just completed summit, Gen. Lajoie said he could not confirm that the POW/MIA issue had been raised although he had sent talking points to the National Security Council.

COL Filippov then provided the U.S. Side with a letter from COL Ovchinnikov responding to Congressman Johnson's February letter. Filippov stated that archival review group convened at Manilov's direction continues its work at Podolsk, which is reportedly well along towards completion.

Concerning the review of Vietnam War related holdings, documents being examined include those from the Military Services' Department for International Military Cooperation, General Headquarters, Central Administration, Air Defense Artillery Forces, and the Central Apparatus of the Ministry of Defense. Selected documents from the Headquarters of the Air Defense Forces, Filippov suggested, may possibly have information concerning Americans. The colonel also pointed out that General-Major Bezborodov had answered the questions previously raised by the U.S. Side concerning the "List of 142." Commenting on additional areas to pursue, Filippov noted that hitherto untapped files may be at the Headquarters of the PVO and that a request to access them will soon be made.

Discussion then turned to classified records from the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the prospects of having these materials declassified and released. Here, Filippov advised that all unclassified Korean War documents have been turned over to the U.S. Side. Regarding Vietnam, the issue of document location and release is more complicated, and the Russian Ministry of Defense has no intention of declassifying these records. Gen. Lajoie responded, citing Manilov's assurance that they would be reviewed for declassification. Filippov then remarked that the Russian Side will not declassify entire documents, only relevant portions. Lajoie said that he would like to see the whole document but can accept the Russian approach to the issue. Concerning interrogation protocols of U.S. prisoners, Lajoie expressed his view that the information they contained was undoubtedly provided to the Soviet government and asked that the Russian Side share it with us.

COL Golumbovskii noted that his former commander, General Bashnyak, had been a Soviet advisor in Vietnam and had mentioned to him that the Vietnamese had severely restricted Soviet access to captured American personnel. In response, Lajoie acknowledged that the Soviets were not in a position to dictate to the Vietnamese, but he could not accept the fact that the Vietnamese did not share information with the Soviets.

The sides failed to reach agreement regarding the issue of a comprehensive review of relevant holdings at the Podolsk archives, particularly among still classified records. The differing views were summarized by one Russian participant, who noted that, just as the U.S. Side does not believe that there is no additional information in Russian archives dealing with the interrogations, the Russian Side does not believe that there is no additional information concerning the K-129.

On that note the meeting was adjourned, to be followed by an afternoon session between MG Lajoie and General-Lieutenant Ruslan Sultanovich Auyshev (Summary below)

Meeting between:
Major General Roland Lajoie (USA, Ret) and
General-Lieutenant Ruslan Sultanovich Aushev

Marriott Aurora, Moscow, Russia
28 May 2002, 1:30 - 2:15 PM

Representing the U.S. Side:

–  Major General Roland Lajoie (USA, Ret)
–  LTC John Kane (DAO, USMC)
–  SSG James Shonborn

Representing the Russian Side:

–  General-Lieutenant Ruslan Sultanovich Aushev
–  Mikhail Borisovich Leshchinskii
–  COL Leonid Ignat'evich Biryukov
–  LTC Yurii Nikolaevich Plotnikov
–  LTC Igor' Vladimirovich Petelin
–  Ms. Natal'ya Mikhailovna Levina
–  Colonel Petr Vasil'evich Kerzhimankin (Assistant to Aushev)
–  Mr. Bekkhan Bakharoev (Assistant to Aushev)

Translator: Ms. Svetlana Amvrosova

Gen-Lt. Aushev began by raising the issue of MIAs from Afghanistan who may be living in third countries such as the U.S. and Canada and may fear repression if they were to return to Russia. Aushev then noted that there are 282 MIAs from the war in Afghanistan and that, in 1989, the Supreme Soviet had issued an amnesty exonerating them of any past wrong doing.

Mr. Leshchinskii stated that he and his colleagues have been in contact with U.S. Vietnam War veterans' organizations and mentioned Mr. Thomas Burch, the president of one such group. Leshchinskii urged closer cooperation with American veterans and requested that U.S. veterans' groups be made aware of any assistance which he and his colleagues may be able to provide. He also recommended that the U.S. Side of the Commission update its website, as a step toward facilitating communication [Note: His comment is seen as a very positive sign, and efforts to update the Moscow Office's web page are now under way].

COL Biryukov asked if the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been asked to look for information on Soviet POW/MIA's. MG Lajoie answered that he was not sure but that he would check into it.

Gen-Lt. Aushev clarified that his organization, while non-governmental, reports to the head of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]. While not explicitly requesting American assistance from U.S. forces, Auyshev noted that U.S. military and political officials regularly meet with Afghanistan's leadership. Today's leaders, he observed, are former Mujhadin fighters likely to know where Soviet dead are buried. Auyshev suggested that a request from the United States might encourage them to make such information available.

Aushev then turned to the matter of recovering the remains of Fred Cuny, an effort he claims has been under way since 1996. Noting that he had discussed the issue with former President Clinton, Aushev expressed regrets that the remains previously recovered did not turn out to be those of Mr. Cuny. In a comment eerily familiar to U.S. researchers, Aushev described those claiming to have Cuny's remains as "evil people" whose sole motive is greed.

MG Lajoie stated that since Mr. Cuny was not a serviceman, he does not fall within the purview of the Commission although any information about any missing American is of interest to the Commission. It was agreed that any additional work dealing with Cuny should be coordinated through the U.S. Embassy, Moscow.

Aushev asked once again that the U.S. use all influence that it has in Afghanistan, such as through the interrogation of the Taliban prisoners in custody. He also talked about the revolt of Soviet officer POWs in Pakistan and the fact that they were killed. Aushev stated that a wide united front, on the political, public, individuals, and the press involved was needed to further this issue.

As regards a recently discovered document that General Lajoie conveyed citing a Soviet general lost during the Afghan War, Aushev stated that he knew of the incident and identified the officer as General Vlasov, whose body had been recovered.

Following an exchange of amenities, the meeting was adjourned."

Courtesy DPMO Website - http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/

Department of Defense,
Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing Personnel Office
2400 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-2400