HC Deb 26 March 1919 vol 114 cc392-3

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the members of the British Mission to the Caucasus, under Major Goldsmith, were put under arrest by the Bolshevist Government of Russia in October last at Vladikavkas, where they were kept in custody until November last, when they were removed in custody to Astrakhan, a distance of 150 miles, in springless carts and motor lorries, and kept there in custody until January last, when they were removed in custody to Moscow, since which date they have been kept in solitary confinement is the Butiska Prison in small, damp, and insanitary cells, and with insufficient food; whether he is aware that the reason for the said arrest and retention in custody is alleged by the Bolshevist Government of Russia to be that they require the members of the British. Mission as hostages; whether he is taking any steps to obtain the release of the men concerned; and whether he can state when he expects such release may be obtained?


The answer to the first portion of the hon. Member's question is in the affirmative, with the exception that it is understood that the prisoners to whom reference is made are not kept in solitary confinement, and are being allowed a certain amount of exercise. They are now reported to be in receipt of extra food and comforts, which have been sent out by His Majesty's Government through representatives of the British, International, and Danish Red Cross Societies.

I understand that the Russian Bolshevik Government have stated in a wireless communiqué that the treatment of the Caucasus Military Mission will depend on the treatment given to those Russian Bolshevik officials who are prisoners in our hands, but I am not aware of the statement to which reference is made in the second portion of the hon. Member's question.

Negotiations are at present in progress for the exchange of all British civilian, naval, and military prisoners in the hands of the Russian Bolshevist Government, but I regret that it is not possible to state when this exchange will be effected.

The leaders of the Bolshevist movement in Russia have been informed in a wireless telegram that they will be held personally responsible for the maltreatment of any British prisoners in their hands.


Is the report true in the papers to-day that the British Government is sending a Mission to Bolshevist Russia?


That does not arise out of the question on the Paper.