HC Deb 06 July 1920 vol 131 cc1201-3
6. Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British subjects, approximately, remain in Russia as prisoners; how many of these are in prison for offences against common law; how many were captured on the various fighting fronts; and what progress has been made in the negotiations for their exchange or release?


I am, I regret, unable to say how many prisoners still remain in Russia, as His Majesty's Government have been unable to obtain any definite information on this subject from the Soviet Government. The large majority of British subjects in Russia have now been repatriated, and it is possible that some of those now remaining there do not desire to return to the United Kingdom. According to my most recent information there are still 12 British subjects in prison at Moscow, Petrograd and Vologda: and besides these there are certain civilians who are reported to be in arrest at Baku. His Majesty's Government have been unable to procure any information from the Soviet Government as to the reason for the imprisonment of these persons, and there is reason to suppose that it is not due to any offence against common law. As regards the third part of the question, 11 officers and 7 other ranks are prisoners in Siberia, having been captured in December and January last; the majority of these were members of the British Railway Mission; the prisoners taken at Baku cannot be considered as having been captured on a fighting front. Two officers were captured in South Russia in December, but His Majesty's Government have not hitherto been able to obtain any information concerning them. There are also others who have at various times been reported missing but who are not known to have been prisoners. As regards the fourth part of the question, the House has already been informed that it has been made clear to the Soviet Trade Delegation that until the release of all British prisoners in Russia takes place, no trade will be permitted between Russia and the United Kingdom. His Majesty's Government are still awaiting the reply of the Soviet Government.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. May I ask him if it is not the fact that the Soviet Government have agreed on principle to the release of these prisoners?


I would rather not make any reference to the negotiations which are going on.

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

Can the hon. Gentleman state the exact position of the 11 officers captured in Siberia?


I understand that these officers desire to be repatriated by way of Vladivostock, and decline to go through Moscow.

Lieut.-Colonel WARD

I should think so.

Commander Viscount CURZON

Has the Government any later information with regard to the naval prisoners at Baku?


Yes, we understand that they have been removed to a villa outside Baku. I have no further information.

Viscount CURZON

Is it not a fact that they are on a rocky island in the Caspian?


That is not my information.


Are the Government prepared to lay down a time limit for the release of the prisoners, and to announce that, unless they are released within that time, there will be an entire breakdown to the negotiations.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Why cannot the hon. Gentleman, in order to relieve the anxiety of the relatives of these people, admit that the Soviet Government have agreed in principle to release the whole of the prisoners?


That is precisely one of the points of negotiation between His Majesty's Government and the Soviet Government.

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