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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In POW search, no good news

The U. S. special envoy on prisoners of war, Ambassador Malcolm Toon, got bad news from Russia's intelligence chief Monday on the fate of the missing veterans, according to a Russian official.


Yevgeny Primakov, the intelligence chief, informed Toon that after a thorough search of former Soviet intelligence archives, no new information had been uncovered concerning missing Americans, according to Tatyana Samoylis, Primakov's spokeswoman.


Vladimir Kozlov, co-chairman of the 3-month-old U. S. -Russian POW commission, said Toon's meeting with Primakov was the first in a series to be held with senior Russian intelligence officials this week. Toon, who was U. S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1976 to 1979, arrived in Moscow on Sunday as the POW commission stepped up its efforts to hunt for missing Americans.


The search has intensified since President Boris Yeltsin's announcement last week that Stalin ordered the imprisonment of 12 American airmen downed in the 1950s and that some might be alive.


President Yeltsin promised over the weekend to aid the delegation and provide full access to files which could assist in the commission's search.


Despite the hopes raised by Yeltsin, it is considered highly unlikely that any missing Americans will be found after so many years.


Members of a search group returned to Moscow empty-handed this weekend from a prison camp in the northern Pechora region. The team scoured Camp No. 5 in hopes of finding a U. S. Air Force pilot who had been reported possibly to be held there, but said upon returning to Moscow that they had found no evidence to support the reports.


The POW commission has a staff of about 40 Russians who have spent the last two months pouring through Soviet archives and following up on tips from Russians who claim to have seen American captives in labor camps.


Itar-Tass reported that police in Tambov, 400 kilometers southeast of


Moscow, had handed over documentation from May 1, 1945 on 2, 500 prisoners of war from France, Luxembourg, Britain and the United States who had been held captive in the region.


Boris Yuzhin, associate director of Ark Project, a private U. S. -Russian organization actively engaged in the search for POWs, said that some of his investigators were combing the Tambov area to see what new information, if any, could be uncovered.


"It is a very interesting place", said Yuzhin, whose organization found an American defector, Victor Hamilton, in a Russian psychiatric hospital three weeks ago. "We hope we can find somebody or at least some documents".


Samoylis, Primakov's spokeswoman, said that Toon did get at least one bit of information during his meeting Monday.


She said Primakov told the ambassador that a high-level KGB officer had gone to Vietnam in 1973 in search of American POWs to recruit them as Soviet intelligence agents. The effort, she said, was unsuccessful.