U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)
Forth Meeting of Principals
The National Hotel, Moscow
November 12, 2001, 10:00 AM - 2:00 P.M.
First Session: Commission Issues Not Related to the Vietnam War Working Group
On November 12, 2001, the U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC) held its Fourth Meeting of Principals in Moscow, Russia. The meeting was co-chaired by Major General Roland Lajoie (USA, Ret); also in attendance from the American side were Mr. Norman Kass, Mr. Russ Thomasson, Major Matt Kristoff, Captain Dave Willis and Master Sergeant Jeff Farnquist. Co-Chairman General-Major Vladimir Zolotarev represented the Russian side and was accompanied by Colonels Konstantin Golumbovskii, Aleksandr Orlov, Nikolai Nikiforov, Vladimir Vinogradov, Sergei Ovchinnikov, Sergei Filippov, Vladimir Fadeyev representing the GRU (military intelligence) and Miss Natalia Levina.
General Lajoie welcomed the Russian side's representatives to the meeting on behalf of the American side and the American government, noting that the meeting should be a useful follow-up to the meeting held in Washington D.C. in the spring of this year.
General Zolotarev welcomed General Lajoie and those accompanying him to Moscow and noted that November 11th marked two months since the attacks on Washington and New York, which he described as tragic events caused by barbaric, terrorist acts. He expressed heartfelt condolences to his U.S. colleagues and to the American people. Commenting that the ties between the Russian and American sides are firm and enduring, he urged that both sides move forward for the benefit of both our peoples. As an indication of the importance that Russia ascribes to maintaining close bilateral relations, he cited President Putin's upcoming visit to the United States. Zolotarev then passed along warm regards and wishes for success from General-Colonel Valentin Sobolev, the Deputy Director of the Russian Security Council. In his final opening remark, Zolotarev informed General Lajoie and the others that the Commission's Joint Report had been passed to President Putin on September 24 and that he had read it carefully.
Colonel Orlov then referred to a list of 23 Soviet pilots killed in action during the Korean War, whose names the Russian side had previously passed to U.S. counterparts. During the meetings and interviews with American veterans held in Washington and Las Vegas this past April, the Russian side was able to clarify the fates of seven of those on its list. Orlov now requested U.S. assistance in clarifying the fates of the remaining sixteen pilots.
As an example of successful resolution of an issue, Orlov noted that, several years ago, the Russian side had asked for American assistance with respect to a MiG-15 engine reportedly captured by American intelligence in 1951. The American side provided the information requested, and Orlov now considers that matter closed.
Other points raised by Orlov included a request that the Russian side be provided copies of American press coverage of the Commission's work and that greater access to American records from the Korean War period be made available to Russian researchers.
General Lajoie then noted that the U.S. side believes that there is need for another trip to the Murmansk and Severomorsk areas in order to pursue certain "fragile" leads in the search for the grave of Major Posa. He advised that the U.S. side is considering the first part of 2002 as an opportune time for such an expedition. In that context, Lajoie noted the importance of the work being conducted by Admiral Novyy. He assured his host that any information the U.S. side gets from the proposed Novyy expedition will be immediately provided to the Russian side.
Regarding the Soviet K-129 submarine that sank in the Pacific Ocean in 1968, Lajoie reminded the Russian side that he had gone to the CIA to get a briefing on the case and was told that all information pertaining to the identification of crewmembers had already been shared. At the request of the Russian side, Senator Smith made another request to the CIA. Mr. Thomasson will report the findings.
On the issue of the "Memoirs," Lajoie noted that he understands the skepticism of the Russian side about the document's validity and motives of its author. Recently the American side was told by a family member that, in pursuing her own research, she had come across the text of the memoirs in a newsletter appearing on the Internet and had spoken with the author. Lajoie provided a copy of the Internet article (with the author's name) in the hope that it would stimulate on the Russian side further efforts to investigate the assertions made in the document.
The Russian Executive Secretary, Colonel Nikolai Nikiforov, then made several comments. He joined with Zolotarev in expressing condolences in connection with the tragic events of September 11th, and agreed with General Lajoie that those events give a new impetus to the work of the Commission. Noting the successful completion of the Kamchatka recovery expedition, he requested an official report on the results of the expedition, something that General Lajoie promised to provide in the future.
Nikiforov stated that, in the mid 1990s, the American side had passed to its Russian counterparts lists of some 450,000 Soviet citizens. The lists were supposedly maintained at the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Vermont. The Russian side requested an electronic version of those lists to aid in accounting for World War II losses. No one on the American side was familiar with the lists or with who provided them. When asked if the listing might in fact have been compiled from documents at the National Archives passed years ago to the late General Volkogonov, the Russian side indicated that it will withdraw its request until it has had a chance to clarify the matter.
Nikiforov added that in the spring of 2001, Tim Nenninger and he had discussed the burial site of Lieutenant Brevek. The lieutenant had died just as his son was born. The Russian side requested any information the American side could provide which might lead to successful results similar to those from the Kamchatka expedition.
General Lajoie then requested that the Russian side do another search for information about the original report of the geologist who found the Navy PV-1 in Kamchatka, as well as the disposition of other artifacts.
Second Session: Vietnam War Working Group Issues
(All attendees as above with the addition of General-Major Nikolai Bezborodov, Russian Co-chairman of the Vietnam War Working Group)
General Lajoie welcomed General Bezborodov to the proceedings.
As a Deputy of the State Duma and as a citizen of Russia, General Bezborodov expressed sincere condolences regarding the tragic events of September 11th, noting their profound effect on international policy. On a positive note, Bezborodov opined that there is now an opportunity to strengthen the cooperation between Russia and the United States, not just wish for it.
General Bezborodov began his remarks by addressing a number of questions prepared by the U.S. side in response to a List of 142 items that Bezborodov first passed to Senator Bob Smith, his U.S. counterpart, during their meeting in April of this year. Specifically, despite what he claimed were repeated searches for documents, he could not provide any additional information relating to questions 3, 4 or 5. In answer to question 2, which seeks to clarify whether certain documents are of Soviet or Vietnamese origin, Bezborodov noted that they were generated by various components of the Soviet Armed Forces.
As to the format of the List of 142, i.e., date, time, incident location, type of aircraft, and results achieved, Bezborodov asserted that all facts about aircraft shoot downs and the capture of American pilots were provided to the U.S. side exactly as they appear in the source documents from which they are derived. In a few cases information was gathered from more than one paragraph of a single document.
Bezborodov also promised that written answers to the Americans' questions would be provided the next day. With respect to the U.S. side's request to view original documents in their entirety, he stated that the General Staff's approval extended only to the excerpts provided, as the source documents themselves remain classified. Bezborodov promised to continue to explore the possibilities for further accommodation on this point.
Lajoie expressed disappointment that the Russian side has not gotten permission for access to original documents. He assured his interlocutors that the sole reason for the U.S. side's existence is to try to clarify the fates of missing Americans. The American side is not interested in Soviet air defense strategy of the 1970s. In response, Bezborodov noted that the Russian side, likewise, was not satisfied with the results of the search to date.
Colonel Ovchinnikov spoke about Russian participation in the Vietnam War and stated that he had heard from many former Soviets who were in Vietnam that the Vietnamese did not allow outsiders to be present during interrogations. He said that a 30-year declassification rule does exist in Russian legislation. However, it does not allow for an automatic or undifferentiated release process as certain unspecified secrets are governed by a separate set of regulations. Having introduced that caveat, Ovchinnikov hastened to reassure everyone that any information relevant to Americans "has a green light."
Mr. Kass suggested two avenues to explore. He recalled a document given by the Russian side to the American side in 1994, a memorandum from the Soviet Embassy in Hanoi to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. The memorandum, written in 1966 or 1967, stated that some 600 pieces of American military equipment had been brought from Vietnam to the Soviet Union and, among other things, cited the importance of the items to the work being done in the Soviet Union, for example, on countermeasures to defeat American systems. Mr. Kass inquired whether Russian research institutes or laboratories engaged in the exploitation of captured American war materiel might not have retained data that could shed light on the acquisition process, perhaps a picture of a crash site. Kass speculated that the equipment did not arrive by itself, but with documentation, and requested whether that documentation could be examined. Kass' second suggestion concerned the many military museums in Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Expanding upon this point, he asked whether the Russians had a central authority which maintains a listing of the various museums and what artifacts they may have acquired from American military operations. The Russians responded that, although captured American military materiel did come to the former Soviet Union from the Vietnam War, they knew of no case in which the name of a deceased American aviator was established from the data plates on that equipment. They then suggested the Bryansk Museum and the Ural Museum of Aviation Engineering Design as two sites which we may want to visit to explore this matter further.
Russian representatives stated that their participation in the Vietnam War was very different from their activities in the Korean Theatre. Soviet forces fought in Korea, but were merely advisors in Vietnam. While it is popular to say that 80 percent of the technology and equipment supplied to North Vietnam was from the Soviet Union and that Soviet political influence was proportional to the amount of military aid provided, this in fact was not the case. The Soviets, according to this line of argument, had virtually no influence at all over their Vietnamese allies.
General Lajoie then proposed that Vietnam War Working Group consider a fresh approach to its research, one that is based on a set number of cases involving servicemen known to have been alive immediately before they went missing in Vietnam. He offered to provide the Russian side with a list of the 47 individuals who have been so identified by the U.S. government, together with a brief summary of their loss circumstances. The Russian side agreed to accept the list and examine the names against the records of various agencies within the Russian government.
Following an exchange of gifts and amenities, the meeting was adjourned, and General Lajoie hosted General Zolotarev and members of both delegations for lunch.
Visit to Military Medical Archives in Saint Petersburg
On Wednesday, November 14, 2001, Messrs. Norman Kass and Russell Thomasson traveled to Saint Petersburg for meetings with Dr. Anatolii Andreyevich Budko, Director of the Military Medical Museum, and his staff. For the past year or so the museum has been engaged in a research program aimed at identifying any data that may relate to the treatment and disposition of French nationals, including a number of French servicemen transferred to Soviet hospitals following their release from German captivity at the end of World War II. To date, some one thousand cards with relevant information have reportedly been located. Budko's archivists claim that, in the course of the work already completed, they have discovered a number of records having to do with American servicemen who received medical attention in Soviet hospitals and possibly were buried on Soviet soil. Budko was receptive to the possibility of entering into a research agreement that would allow the museum's holdings to be carefully checked, but emphasized that this would first require the approval of his superiors in the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. Efforts to obtain that approval are now being pursued through the Russian side of the Commission.
Discussions with French Researcher Denis Sellem of the Association of Edouard Kalifat
On the return leg of the trip Kass stopped in Paris to meet with Mr. Denis Sellem, the architect of the research program noted above. Sellem, who heads an organization called the Association of Edouard Kalifat, has been to Russia and Ukraine on numerous occasions, appearing on local television programs and in print. In a wide-ranging discussion, he shared the results of his public appeals and provided the names of individuals in Russia and Ukraine who have been helpful to his search efforts. He asked that we remain in touch with him and indicated his readiness to cooperate with us on any initiatives we may wish to pursue.
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