Dow Jones International News
Friday, February 11, 2005
US Criticizes Russian Inaction In WWII Prison Camp Probe
WASHINGTON (AP)--The U.S. Defense Department is turning up the heat on the
Russian government for ignoring pleas to cooperate in verifying an expanding
body of anecdotal evidence that U.S. servicemen from World War II and the
Korean War were secretly held in prison camps in Siberia. Russian inaction
has made the effort to confirm information about the presence of Americans
in the gulag -the network of penal camps that stretched across the former
Soviet Union - "a distinctly unilateral U.S. pursuit," Norman Kass, a leader
of the Pentagon project, wrote in the introduction to a new compendium of
reported sightings of Americans in the camps.
The report, released Friday by the Defense POW/MIA Office, includes a
reference to a Polish citizen who grew up in a village near the Russian city
of Bulun, on the Lena River, and who said that her father had known an
American named Stanley Warner while both were imprisoned at Bulun in the
Among the U.S. servicemen listed as missing from World War II is a Stanley
L. Warner, a Navy reservist from Michigan. Kass said this possible
connection is being pursued further.
Kass said efforts to gain wider access for U.S. investigators to former
Soviet security and military intelligence officers with possible knowledge
of foreigners in the gulag have stalled.
That has left the Pentagon about where it was four years ago, when it made
public its first report on this matter, which became known as the Gulag
Study. The Pentagon then proposed a joint U.S.-Russian investigation to
include visits to sites where Americans were said to have been held. The
Russians balked, and the U.S. side is still pressing for a partnership.
Kass said in an interview that he sees no indication that the Russians are
warming to the idea.
"In fact it's fair to say there's been largely a position of non-pursuit" by
the Russians, he said. "We're still waiting for the Russians to define their
position" on whether they even want to continue with the U.S.-Russian Joint
Commission on POW/MIAs, created in 1992. The commission hasn't met in full
session since November 2002, and Kass blamed "disarray" on the Russian side.
In the meantime, Kass' office is pointing to its updated Gulag Study as
evidence that its own researchers, archivists and investigators are still
actively searching for a breakthrough.
"Several points have become clear," the study says. "First, Americans,
including American servicemen, were imprisoned in the former Soviet Union."
It adds, "Despite our extensive efforts we have not yet acquired definitive,
verifiable information" to find the prisoners' fate.
The Russian government has been deeply skeptical of the evidence available
so far - mainly eyewitness and second-hand oral and written accounts with
limited details and little or no documentation.
The Russians have questioned the authenticity and validity of one of the
Pentagon's most compelling sources, a Russian emigre who claims he learned
while in internal Soviet exile that dozens of U.S. servicemen - some
identified by name - were imprisoned in the gulag in the 1950s.