WASHINGTON -- A high-ranking Russian official says that thousands of U.S. prisoners of war captured by the Germans had been transferred to the Soviet Union after World War II and that some were still living in Russia.
The official, Dmitri Volkogonov, a military adviser to President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia, told a U.S. Senate committee yesterday that more than 22,000 U.S. soldiers had been taken to the Soviet Union from German prisoner-of-war camps.
The Russian official said most of the U.S. servicemen were returned to the United States shortly after the war, but that 119 U.S. citizens with Russian, Ukranian or Jewish names were kept behind.
Mr. Volkogonov said that of that group, most were subsequently returned to the United States after U.S. protests, but that 18 had died while in Soviet custody and that some who had been forced to renounce their citizenship remained in Soviet prison camps "for a long time."
"Some of them still reside on the territory of the former Soviet Union," Mr. Volkogonov said, reading from a letter from Mr. Yeltsin dated Nov. 5. "Their names and addresses have been identified and communicated to the U.S. side."
Mr. Volkogonov did not say how many U.S. soldiers were still living in Russia, but said that his government would make them available to U.S. officials and journalists.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, said committee staff members would soon contact those Americans to ask if they would like to return to the United States.
Mr. Volkogonov gave what was perhaps the most complete accounting by a ranking Russian official of U.S. prisoners held in the former Soviet Union.
In addition to those soldiers from World War II, Mr. Volkogonov said that 730 U.S. aviators, forced down over Soviet and Soviet-bloc territory during the Cold War, had been interned in Russian prison camps. Those men were also sent back to the United States.