Medvedev Appoints Russian Cochairman to Joint POW/MIA Commission

VFW thanked for its critical support

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is extremely pleased that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed Yekaterina Priezzheva as the new cochairman of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs.  The Friday announcement came less than three weeks after the VFW and six other veteran and POW/MIA family organizations wrote to ask for his personal support of the Joint Commission. 


The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission was created in 1992 by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin to help determine the fates of missing American and Russian soldiers.  In 2004, however, the Russian government eliminated their cochairman's position, which effectively shut down the Joint Commission, to include America's access to Russia's central military archives — a potential treasure trove of information regarding missing Americans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. 


"Much has been accomplished since you and President Obama exchanged diplomatic notes in July 2009 to revitalize the Joint Commission," wrote the executive directors of the VFW, American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, National League of POW/MIA Families, The American Legion, and Vietnam Veterans of America. 


"General Major Aleksandr Kirilin was appointed as acting cochairman; U.S. researchers were allowed back into the Central Military Archives as well as continued to have access to potential eyewitnesses; and American forces continue to provide Russian loss coordinates when discovered in Afghanistan.  What is missing is a full-time Russian cochairman to help lead your presidential commission." 


As head of the Russian defense ministry's education department, Priezzheva's appointment, along with more than 30 other Russian commissioners, is being viewed positively by the U.S. side of the Joint Commission because it signals the future viability of a presidential organization whose only purpose is to return fallen soldiers to their families. 


In a letter of appreciation sent today, the American cochairman, retired Air Force Gen.  Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong, thanked the seven organizations for the important role they played to restore Russian cooperation, as well as to help ensure the U.S. side of the Joint Commission was adequately resourced and empowered to move forward. 


"We simply could not have prevailed without your critical support," he wrote. 


"I am extremely proud of the VFW for the leadership role it played to help bring the Russians back to the table," said VFW National Commander Richard L. Eubank, who last fall became the seventh consecutive VFW national commander to travel to Russia to meet with their veterans, politicians and government officials to urge their support of the Joint Commission. 


"As we wrote to President Medvedev, recovering our fallen is a humanitarian gesture that honors a soldier's promise on the battlefield," said Eubank.  "I thank the Russian president for his support of military families everywhere." 


Read President Medvedev's Decree No. 815.