106 Addison to Australian Government

Cablegram D146 LONDON, 22 February 1946, 12.55 p.m.


My predecessor's despatch of 12th March 1945 D. no 38. [1] Repatriation of Soviet Nationals Difficulties have arisen over the questions of 1. Persons to whom the agreement applies.

2. Use of force in repatriation of recalcitrants.

2. We are committed under the Yalta agreement of February 11th 1945 to collect, segregate and hand over to the Soviet Authorities all Soviet citizens liberated by forces operating under British Command. At the time when the agreement was signed we had not expressly granted de jute recognition to the incorporation into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of territories taken over by the Soviet Government after list September 1939. We therefore do not consider persons normally resident in areas annexed by the Soviet Union to come under the Yalta Agreement; and although we never hindered repatriation to the U.S.S.R. of such persons from these areas as were willing to return to their homes we do not consider ourselves as under any obligation to hand them over to the Soviet Repatriation Authorities against their wishes. The Soviet Authorities have always maintained that this attitude on the part of the United Kingdom Authorities regarding persons from annexed territories constitutes a breach of the Yalta Agreement.

This difference of view has led to a protracted dispute which we now wish to bring to an end.

3. The two chief problems which must be dealt with separately are the disposal of persons from (a) Poland East of the new Soviet-Polish frontier and (b) Baltic States.

4. Persons from former Polish territory East of the new Soviet Polish frontier.

The Governments of the Soviet Union and Poland having settled the new frontier by a treaty which has now been ratified by both, our recognition of the frontier cannot in fact be withheld: but we wish to tell the Soviet Government that we can only do so when we have reached agreement with them about the repatriation of persons from territories ceded by Poland to the Soviet Union. Our view is that the Yalta Agreement does not apply to persons originating from this territory and that our obligation in regard to them is to the Polish and not the Soviet Government and must take form of our giving facilities to these persons to go to Poland. This done, our responsibility in respect of these persons will have been discharged. What happens to them when they get to Poland is a matter for the Polish Government to decide and we have no wish to be a party to any discussions [which] the Soviet Government may have with the Polish Government on this question. When dealing with the Polish Government about the repatriation of these persons, we propose to take the line that we are not prepared to repatriate to Poland those who are unwilling to return. This is a matter affecting the United Kingdom and Polish Governments alone and we cannot admit that the Soviet Government has any right to intervene in this question. We do not intend however, to hinder repatriation to the Soviet Union of any persons in our hands from ceded areas of Poland who wish to return to their homes in what is now Soviet territory.

5. Persons from the Baltic States.

As regards the Baltic States, we propose to tell the Soviet Government that we cannot act singly in the matter of recognising their incorporation in the U.S.S.R. Annexation of territory is a serious matter. It was our original intention to deal with this question at the peace settlement. But since it is doubtful whether there will be a single comprehensive settlement and since the question of recognition will have to be tackled before long the United Kingdom, United States, French, Soviet and Chinese Governments might attempt to reach preliminary agreement on this issue. Meanwhile, we do not recognise persons from the Baltic States as being covered by the terms of the Yalta Agreement for the repatriation of Soviet citizens. Even when we do recognise incorporation of these States into the U.S.S.R. this recognition will not impose any obligation upon us to return against their will to the Soviet Government persons under our control originating from the Baltic States.

6. Persons from annexed areas of Finland and Romania.

We have had no trouble over repatriation of persons from these areas and we do not expect any but if cases should occur we would consider that they be treated in accordance with the principles set out above as regards persons from the Baltic States.

7. Use of force.

While we hold ... [2] on the principle that all persons whom we regard as coming under the Yalta Agreement were to be repatriated to the Soviet Union, irrespective of their wishes, the minimum of compulsion being used where this cannot be avoided, we are prepared to consider bringing our policy as regards use of force into line with that adopted by the United States Government last December which was communicated by Mr. Byrnes to M. Molotov at the informal meeting of the last Moscow conference, namely, that force should if necessary be used for repatriation of (a) those captured in German uniforms (b) those who had been members of Soviet armed forces on or after 22nd June 1941 and had not subsequently been discharged therefrom.

(c) Those charged by the Soviet Authorities with having voluntarily rendered aid and comfort to the enemy in cases where the United States Military Authorities were satisfied of the substantiality of the charge. [3]

8. If agreement were reached with the Soviet Government on the above lines we would in return ask the Military authorities to separate all persons in the categories described in paragraphs 4 and 5 who do not wish to return home from all persons claimed by the Soviet Authorities as Soviet citizens and to allow Soviet Repatriation Officers to have free access to camps where these latter are kept. These officers could try and persuade men in these camps to return willingly to the Soviet Union but in that case would want the Soviet Government to agree that those who after this treatment still proved recalcitrant should not be forcibly sent back to the U.S.S.R. unless they fall within any of the categories set out in paragraph 7 above.

9. Having regard to the extent to which the United States Government are involved on account of displaced persons from Eastern Europe in the United States Zone of Germany we have invited their views and have been informed that the State Department agree with the foregoing proposals though they add that for the present they cannot comment on the question of recognition of new western boundaries of the Soviet Union.

10. We should accordingly propose to instruct His Majesty's Charge d'Affaires at Moscow at the beginning of March to approach the Soviet Government on these lines. If the other British Commonwealth Governments have any comments we should be grateful if they could be telegraphed to reach us by the end of February.


1 Transmitting the certified English text of a redciprocal agreement concluded at Yalta on 11 February 1945 between the British Commonwealth and Soviet Union Govts for the care and repatriation of liberated prisoners of war. See also Volume VIII, Document 22.

2 A sign here indicates 'mutilated'.

3 A further cablegram on 7 June reported a decision to inform, the Soviet Union that British policy would be brought into line with U.S. policy as set out in this paragraph.

4 The file copy bears a handwritten annotation: 'Discussed with Secretary who directed no action. PRH [P. R. Heydon] 1/III/46'.

[AA:A1066, E45/33/68]