File No. 763.72114/3091

The Ambassador in Russia ( Francis ) to the Secretary of State


2078. Your 1876, concerning Copenhagen conference for the exchange of prisoners. Military mission has furnished the Embassy a memorandum of an interview of December 7 between Captain Riggs and Mr. Chamansky, head of the chancery of the Russian Red Cross, wherein the latter made the following statements:

The proposition to exchange prisoners across the Danube and by the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, in addition to existing arrangement through Sweden, was proposed by the Austro-Hungarian Government some six months ago. Safety of transport on the Baltic Sea could not be guaranteed by the Germans and the exchange of prisoners by the Danube and the Black Sea was not agreed to by the Russians.
At a Red Cross and Prisoners-of-War Committee conference in Copenhagen which adjourned about ten days ago the question was again brought up and was categorically refused by the Russian Red Cross representative.
About ten days ago Prince Charles of Sweden addressed a letter to Trotsky asking that the question be again raised.
What decision will be taken by Trotsky is not known at this time but the Red Cross will protest against any method of liberating or exchanging prisoners except through Sweden.
The Red Cross cannot guarantee the safety of enemy prisoners of war who leave prison camps except under negotiation auspices.
The officer in charge of war-prisoner section in the General Staff, Colonel Mascaloff, knew nothing of any new arrangement day before yesterday.
It is thought that the Danish Minister may also protest against an exchange of prisoners except through Scandinavia.

Judson 1 adds: “I gather that unofficially many enemy [prisoners], particularly those near the front, have already been informally liberated, perhaps without (authority?) from the central authorities.”

  1. Brig. Gen. W. V. Judson, Military Attaché at Petrograd.