Stalin advised allies to keep U.S. captives

September 25, 1992|By Celestine Bohlen | Celestine Bohlen,New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- Stalin advised Communist leaders in China and Korea to hold back 20 percent of U.S. pilots captured during the Korean War and use them as bargaining chips with the United States, according to documents drawn from Soviet archives officially delivered to the U.S. government yesterday.

Accounts of these conversations were included in a thick file handed over to former U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon, here in Moscow on his third trip as co-chairman of a joint commission investigating the fate of POW's and other Americans held in the Soviet Union after World War II.

The file also contains documents from the interrogation, conducted in the presence of Soviet security forces, of 54 U.S. pilots held in Korea and China, said Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, a military historian who is Mr. Toon's counterpart on the commission.

The documents offer new evidence of the Kremlin's involvement in the fate of U.S. POW's, and how it sought to use them as a pressure point on U.S. policies. Information on the fate of the 54 pilots, or on the outcome of Stalin's proposal, was not made available.

At a joint news conference, Mr. Toon said the investigation, begun officially in June after President Boris N. Yeltsin's state visit to Washington, still "has a long way to go."

He said he had voiced "a mild complaint" about the sluggish cooperation of Russian security services in the search when he met Wednesday with Mr. Yeltsin.

General Volkogonov also acknowledged difficulties in obtaining information from the KGB and the GRU, the Soviet military

intelligence agency. However, he said after the meeting with Mr. Yeltsin that he had "an intuition" that more information would be forthcoming by the end of this month.

"We have a complex mosaic here, and our task on our side, and on the American side, is to construct a general picture," said General Volkogonov, a military historian who has written a biography of Stalin. "This picture is determined by the contradictions between our two countries, by a cruel struggle during which we were looking at each other through the barrel of a gun."

Another set of documents, delivered to the U.S. delegation this week, had to do with violations of Soviet airspace by U.S. planes, a fact that General Volkogonov said testified to the tense U.S.-Soviet relationship. "We don't justify the use of cruel methods," he said. "But the fact that we are opening our archives says something."

After the news conference, Mr. Toon said there had been 60 cases of U.S. planes shot down over Soviet territory during the Cold War. A Pentagon representative on the U.S. delegation said these shoot-downs involved 135 people, the fate of some of whom is already known.

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