It is not known whether our president or the American on June 16 at the summit in Geneva will remember this reference area of cooperation between the two countries. But this example would be indicative from the point of view of the ability of our states to work effectively together when it meets mutual interests.
Here are the latest examples of the work of the joint Russian-American Commission. In Afghanistan , Soviet pilot Alexander Mironov, who was captured by the Afghans more than 30 years ago, was found alive and well. He was shot down by militants back in 1980, and all this time he was listed as missing. Relatives buried him long ago...
"The data on Mironov's whereabouts were given to us by our American colleagues", - said the co-chairman of the Russian-American Commission on Prisoners of War and Missing Persons, leader of the All-Russian Union of Public Associations of Airborne Troops Veterans "Union of Russian Paratroopers" Colonel-General of the Reserve Valery Vostrotin.
By the way, before that, the Ukrainian Igor Belokurov, captured in Kandahar in 1988, was considered the last of the missing in Afghanistan. It was discovered by geophysicists working in those parts. After accepting Islam, Igor took the name Amreddin. Today the former Soviet soldier does not speak Russian. He remembers one and only word - Volyn, the name of his native region.
The Russians did not remain in debt. In turn, the United States received information from Russian search engines about the fate of two pilots shot down during the Korean War (1950-1953).
Why enthusiasm has dried up
Both ours and the Americans admit that at first the dialogue went on with a creak. It was necessary to overcome the inertia of prejudice and mutual alienation. With each new discovery - archives, names, destinies - a fragile and therefore especially valuable trust was formed. To restore the biographies of those who are no longer among the living is a noble ascetic labor. It is no accident that letters and inquiries from Japanese, Germans, Italians, Koreans, representatives of various states have been sent to the Commission in recent years.
“In the spring of 1992, the presidents of Russia and the United States agreed to create a Commission on Prisoners of War and Missing Persons,” said military writer, historian Major General of the Reserve Vladimir Zolotarev to Novye Izvestia. - Such a high status allowed solving many tangled problems. The first co-chairman from our side was the presidential adviser Colonel-General Dmitry Volkogonov. After his death in January 1996, I was appointed co-chairman of the commission. It still works in four areas today: Cold War, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War.
Of course, there are concrete results of joint searches. Russia handed over tens of thousands of pages of documents to the American side. As a result, it was possible to trace the fate of 23 thousand Americans repatriated after the Second World War from the Soviet zones of occupation. The circumstances of death have been clarified - documented and through interviews of hundreds of witnesses - nearly 80 American servicemen who died during the Korean War. More than 200 places of their burial, previously listed as missing US citizens, have been identified.
In Russia, the remains of the American pilot Donnem were exhumed and transferred to America, found on the island of Yuri, which is part of the Kuril Islands.
Relatively recently, the burial place of the American pilot Eugene Poes, who was shot down over the Barents Sea on July 1, 1960, was discovered.
But the members of the joint Commission can no longer work with the same enthusiasm. Especially after the United States imposed sanctions on a number of Russian politicians, businessmen and companies after Crimea joined the Russian Federation in March 2014 following a referendum. In addition, the United States suspended a number of joint projects with Russia within the framework of the bilateral presidential commission, and decided to send funds for their implementation to support Ukraine.
“We have never had any political problems at work. This speaks of serious prospects for the future, ”said Vostrotin, who became co-chairman of the Commission in July 2014. On the American side, it is headed by Retired General Robert Foglesong, the former commander-in-chief of the US Air Force in Europe.
According to the Russian general, "the historical fact that we were allies in World War II also helps." But the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War now, on the contrary, creates "some difficulties" associated, in particular, with the need to declassify archival documents.
Despite everything, the deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow did not interfere with the work of the Commission, which today still includes State Duma deputies, American senators and congressmen.
Leafing through archival materials
On Saturday, April 8, 1950, at about 4:10 pm, 40 kilometers from the Latvian city of Liepaja, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territorial waters. According to the then version of the KGB, the Privatir plane was the first to open fire on Soviet fighters. According to the American version, it was a private passenger plane bound for Sweden.
From the official reports of Soviet intelligence it follows that in April 1950, the entire American crew of the "Privatir", which consisted of 10 people, was killed. But relatives to this day cherish the hope that some of the pilots managed to escape, survive in the Stalinist Gulag. - in any case, all the past years speculation on this topic has regularly appeared in the American press.
Only half a century later, Russian and American experts searched for the remains in the city of Baltiysk. An unexpected witness came into their field of vision: Alexander Bondarenko, a military sailor from Liepaja. Allegedly, in 1977, he saw with his own eyes a grave in Baltiysk with the inscription: "Here are buried pilots from the United States".
All in all, during the period of a short "thaw" in relations between Moscow and Washington, Pentagon representatives made about 25 trips to Russia and Latvia to investigate this "incident with "Privatir", the first of its kind between the United States and the USSR.
A re-inspection of three former cemeteries on the territory of Baltiysk, where a naval base was once located, that took place in May 2000, also did not lead to anything: the grave could not be found, and the witness died.
The American relatives of the missing pilots were not satisfied with this result, saying that they would not rest until Bondarenko's information was "either confirmed or refuted".
You can understand them. Indeed, according to the US National Security Agency, 153 crew members of American reconnaissance aircraft died or went missing during the Cold War. There were, of course, losses among Soviet servicemen.
The remains were found on the island of Yuri
On November 6, 1951, "vigilant" Russian fighters shot down an American reconnaissance aircraft from the 6th Air Wing of the US Navy's base aviation over the Sea of Japan, permanently stationed in Atsugi (Japan). On board the aircraft, according to the documents, there were 10 crew members. American rescue services searched for almost a week, but no remains of crew members or aircraft wreckage were found.
From the Russian archival documents presented to the search group, it followed that the cameras installed on Soviet planes filmed the attack on the American "hawk", but neither the pilots who shot down the plane, nor the films themselves have yet been found.
In 1995, a former Soviet soldier told search engines that during treatment at a hospital in the Far Eastern town of Novosysoevka in 1951, he allegedly saw four wounded American pilots. In addition, he was shown the place where the fifth American pilot was buried. Representatives of the US Central Forensic Laboratory traveled to this place, but, alas, they did not find any remains of an American soldier.
On June 13, 1952, during a reconnaissance flight over the Sea of Japan, an RB-29 aircraft from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at the Yokota airbase (Japan) was shot down. On board there were 12 crew members. During a search and rescue operation American planes spotted one or two empty life rafts, but no crew remains or aircraft wreckage could be found.
On November 14, 1955, the US Air Force command issued a statement that all the missing crew members were officially declared dead.
According to documents from the Russian archives, which were made available to the working group, the Soviet search units also failed to save the surviving crew members or find the bodies of the pilots or the wreckage of the aircraft. And this battle was filmed by Soviet pilots, but they could not find it.
On October 7, 1952, Soviet fighters north of the island of Hokkaido shot down an RB-29 aircraft from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at the Yokota airbase (Japan). There were 8 crew members on board. Japanese fishermen saw the plane crash. The US search and rescue services continued their search for almost a week, but no remains of the crew members or aircraft wreckage were found.
As a result of the efforts undertaken in 1993 by the working group of the Commission on Missing Persons, a document was received from the Russian side, which stated that as a result of search work at the site of the plane's crash into the sea, the body of an American pilot was found.
In December 1993, a former sailor of the KGB border troops Vasily Saiko responded to the Commission's call and told representatives of the working group that it was he who discovered the lifeless body of an American pilot and removed the ring from his hand. He said that when the KGB units were looking at the crash site, the plane itself had already gone under water, and the bodies of other pilots were not found. Saiko handed over his ring to the representatives of the Joint Commission. The ring was engraved with a 1950 US Naval Academy graduate John Robertson Dunham, one of the RB-29 crew members.
Later, a document was found in the Russian archives, from which it followed that the body of the pilot Dunham was buried on the island of Yuri. During the second expedition of the commission in September 1994, the remains of an American pilot were discovered and exhumed on the island.
Examination by the US Central Forensic Laboratory found the remains to be Captain Dunham's. In August 1995, the remains of an American officer were buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. In the presence of relatives and families of the RB-29 crew, an obelisk in honor of the aircraft crew was unveiled.
Officers disappeared in Ethiopia
Speaking about the Commission as a whole, the results of its almost 30 years of activity are quite impressive. It was possible to establish the fate of at least 450 thousand Soviet citizens who were previously considered missing on the fronts of World War II, to find information about 32 Soviet pilots and 22 anti-aircraft gunners who died during the Cold War, from 350 to 287 reduce the list of Soviet citizens considered missing in Afghanistan and establish the graves of 57 Soviet soldiers buried in Korea.
The Americans handed over to Moscow video footage of the Tu-16 crash in the North Sea during a fly-over of the American aircraft carrier Essex in 1964. The information that the Americans gave about the burial of 9 Soviet servicemen who died during World War II in Alaska turned out to be important.
Thanks to the documents that were passed by American researchers, and they are about 6,000 pages together with interviews of more than 400 witnesses.
The Americans also clarified the circumstances of the deaths of six Soviet officers who went missing in Ethiopia in 1982.
The fate of all these people is called upon to find out the Russian-American Commission on prisoners of war and missing citizens of the USSR (Russia) and the United States in the years World War II and in subsequent conflicts and incidents. A new impetus to its activities was given in 1994 by the exchange of notes between the presidents of Russia and the United States. At that time, Moscow and Washington took the well-known thesis extremely seriously: "The war is not over until the last soldier who died on it is buried".
The Joint Russian-American Commission on Prisoners of War and Missing Persons announces the search for 10 missing American aircraft and 89 crew members, whose fate is still unknown:
• PB4Y2 Privateer aircraft, shot down on 8 April 1950 over the Baltic Sea; 10 crew members are missing;
• P2V Neptune aircraft shot down on November 6, 1951 over the Sea of Japan; 10 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-29, shot down on June 13, 1952 over the Sea of Japan; 12 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-29, shot down on October 7, 1952 over the Sea of Japan; 7 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-50, shot down on July 29, 1953 over the Sea of Japan; 14 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-47, shot down on April 17, 1955 over the Bering Sea; 3 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-50, which disappeared on September 10, 1956 over the Sea of Japan; 16 crew members are missing;
• Airplane C-130, shot down on September 2, 1958 over Armenia, USSR; 12 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-47, shot down on July 1, 1960 over the Barents Sea; 3 crew members are missing;
• Aircraft RB-57, missing on December 14, 1965 over the Black Sea; 2 crew members are missing.